What is the difference between Hemp and Marijuana? The Head of DelVal’s Cannabis Studies program explains:

Li Williams / Full360 Staff Writer

Sometimes hemp and marijuana are confused, so we set out to explain the difference with the help of Dr. Carla Garzon, who coordinates the Cannabis Studies program at Delaware Valley University.

What is Hemp?

Hemp, formerly known as industrial hemp, is classified, and described by the US Congress as any part of the cannabis plant that has less than 0.3% of the dry weight of Delta 9 THC, and it is legal to do commerce at the federal level.

What can Hemp be used for?

Hemp has many different applications and uses. The fibers can be used for industrial reasons such as making textiles and bioplastics.

It can also be used to make panels, seats, and boards for the inside of cars. A lot of European brands use fiber from hemp. You can use hemp to make construction material called hempcrete. It is mixed with lime and some additives.

The dry fiber can be chopped into mulch, which is used for animal bedding. Hemp fiber can be ground into a powder and mixed with polymers from corn to make a biodegradable bioplastic.

Hemp fiber-derived textiles have many beneficial properties. They are antimicrobial and they can be used to make sports clothing.  

Hemp can be used in salads and desserts

Grain seed from hemp is extremely nutritious and is like olive oil. It is like soybeans, for example, which are extraordinarily rich in nutrients (fiber, protein, Omega 3, and Omega 6 oils). About 30% of the grain is oil and can be used to make salad dressings.

You can use the hemp hearts for many things. You can put them on salads, and bake them into cakes and chocolates. They have a nutty flavor and are extremely nutritious. For people who have nut allergies, this is a good option.

The grain can also be fed to animals.

In Pennsylvania, there was research done that found that eggs from chickens fed with the spent grain had extremely high nutrient content. However, it is not yet allowed to feed any other animals except chickens. Even though there are products derived from hemp in pet stores, at the federal and state level, it is officially not legal.

What is considered marijuana?

Any part of the plant that has more than 0.3% of Delta 9 THC is considered marijuana and it is illegal in the US. This is something that students need to know because even if it comes from hemp plants, if once it is processed the content of Delta 9 THC is more than 0.3%, for the authorities, that’s marijuana, and it is illegal, and they could get in trouble.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Both hemp and marijuana are plants of the species Cannabis sativa. The main difference between them is that at the federal level in the US, plants that have less than 0.3% of Delta 9 THC are considered hemp, and if they have more than that they are considered marijuana. Delta 8 THC is technically legal because it naturally occurs in small amounts in hemp plants, it is less psychoactive than delta 9 THC and it was not mentioned in the official definition of hemp. Delta 9 THC is not legal, as previously mentioned, and delta 10 THC is also illegal because it is synthetic. In other words, any molecule that naturally occurs in hemp is ok for now, as long  as the plant materials they came from have less than 0.3% of delta 9 THC. Here in Pennsylvania, Delta 8 is legal while in other states it is already being regulated.

The reason they put so much attention on delta 9 THC is because it is the main cannabis component that causes psychotropic effects in consumers. By itself, it has stimulatory effects and stimulates the nervous system like nicotine or caffeine does.

At low doses, it has beneficial effects. Such as anti-inflammatory, prevents nausea and can treat certain conditions. But at high doses, it can cause paranoia, hallucinations, and even seizures, so it can be dangerous. That is why the target of regulation is around THC.

In hemp, because the plants have only residual amounts of Delta 9 THC that is not a concern. For all production, plants must be tested before harvest. If the lab work demonstrates that they are within the legal range, they can be harvested. If the results are more than 0.3% growers must destroy them.

Even hemp flowers contain THC in minimal amounts in capitate trichomes, which are little hairs shaped like a nail, with a little head. These hairs are like little factories of chemicals, and inside of the trichomes they produce cannabinoids of various kinds and other chemicals, like terpenoids.

What are cannabinoids, and why are they important?

Cannabinoids are molecules that have a lot of beneficial effects. The most important one in hemp is CBD. It is the main molecule that is being used for therapeutic uses because many scientific studies have demonstrated that it can be useful to reduce inflammation and pain, with equivalent effects to those of Ibuprofen or Tylenol.

Another important property that CBD has is that it allows the body to reduce the nervous system’s stimulation. It has been proven to be good at managing certain types of epilepsy, which is the main reason it was approved for medicinal use. CBD is used to treat childhood epilepsy, particularly those that have extremely aggressive forms. CBD slows down nerve transmission and reduces or eliminates some patients’ seizures. Some plant breeders developed strains that do not have THC precisely to provide for these children.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are molecules that are present in all plants, and they provide plants with smells and flavors, and they also have medicinal properties. The best understood terpenes that are present in hemp and other plants include myrcene, linalool and limonene.

Myrcene is a terpene present in Mango and provides the smell and flavor of mango and other fruits, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is also soothing for anxiety. There are comparable properties in Linalool which is the terpene most wanted in lavender. Limonene is a terpene that has uplifting effects, it helps with depression and is present in citrus plants like lemons, oranges, and tangerines. Hemp has many terpenes but those are some of the most important ones.

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