Cannabis vs. Hemp: Decoding the Key Differences and Similarities
Cannabis, hemp, marijuana — the plant with the Latin name cannabis sativa and its derivatives have so many names that confusion almost seems bound to arise. Luckily, Jorge Olson, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of two publicly traded companies, Hempacco (HPCO) and Green Globe International (GGII), helps decode what’s what when it comes to this pointed leaf.
“Cannabis is the same as marijuana, but that term has a discriminatory history,” Olson explains. “Cannabis is wonderful. Hemp, however, is the most wonderful plant in the world.”
The amount of THC makes all the difference
Cannabis and hemp are both essentially the same plant. One major difference divides the two: the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is more than 0.3 percent in cannabis, whereas hemp has equal to or less than that amount.
Since THC is psychoactive, cannabis delivers that famous “high.” Most products derived from hemp do not, although there are some exceptions. For instance, high concentrations of Delta-8, a cannabinoid extracted from hemp, can. Unlike cannabis, however, Delta-8 is legal nationwide in the US.
“Delta-8 is also cheaper than cannabis,” Olson asserts. “You pay a quarter of the price and get the same effect, although Delta-8 is a nicer high, in my opinion. There’s no paranoia or fear, it can help you doze off and get rest, and is widely available — you can buy it at a liquor store.”
Hemp and its derivatives — such as CBD and, yes, Delta-8 — are legal nationwide in the US. THC, on the other hand, is illegal on the federal level, but some states have legalized it for medical and/or recreational use.
The way hemp is taxed is also different from cannabis. Customers are only responsible for normal sales taxes on hemp products, while cannabis is often subject to higher taxes, like alcohol or cigarettes.
“The special tax on cannabis skyrockets all the way up to 40 percent in some states,” Olson explains. For this reason, hemp products tend to be much less expensive.
Controlling the amount of THC
Since the amount of THC is what distinguishes hemp from cannabis, producers and distributors of hemp products must carefully test every batch to ensure it doesn’t have too much of this cannabinoid. Olson and his team not only have farmers test every harvest they send to their facilities, but also do their own testing to double-check each shipment. While they can comply with the law by diluting hemp that comes in a little too hot, they return harvests that are too high.
“It’s a persistent problem for the whole industry,” he says. “If your products have too much THC, the FBI can raid your facility, and the FDA can remove your products from store shelves.”
According to Olson, scientists are currently mapping the genome for hemp, looking for ways to control the amount of THC in hemp and produce it more reliably, as well as unleash its massive therapeutic potential.
“We hardly know anything about hemp yet,” he says. “So far, about 140 cannabinoids have been identified. But we are still in our infancy of studying their possible purposes.”
Hemp: The most wonderful plant in the world
Despite the newness of this field, studies have already hinted at hemp’s incredible potential. “We know that CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory,” Olson says. “Numerous clinical studies have suggested it can relieve pain. Some people just roll CBD on their joints, and that’s enough to ease their arthritis. CBD can also restore movement in hands for people who want to continue playing musical instruments as they age. One of CBD’s largest impacts is stopping seizures in children.”
Indeed, researchers from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine recently explained that CBD blocks an overactive molecule in the brain that can trigger seizures. In this way, CBD helps treat epilepsy in children when other methods fail.
Another cannabinoid called cannabigerol shows great promise in reducing depression and anxiety, ameliorating chronic pain, and even breast cancer. This compound is found in greater concentrations in young plants than in mature ones.
The most precious plant on the planet
In the end, cannabis is just one use of the hemp plant, and THC is just one cannabinoid out of more than 140. Cannabis sativa presents a treasure chest of untapped potential.
“Hemp is a spectacular plant we’re just starting to discover,” Olson says. “Imagine the benefits all these compounds can provide.”
The hemp plant grows so profusely, cannabis has often been called “weed.” But given all its therapeutic applications, this “weed” may actually be the most precious plant on the planet.