The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana


It is common to support the marijuana business model, however this discussion is split, there is medical marijuana that is legal in 23 states plus D.C. and there is the legalization of recreational marijuana which is legal in four states.

Sanjay Gupta M.D. for CNN hosted, Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution, it was reiterated by President Obama that he believes that prescribing medical marijuana could be appropriate if the science, not the ideology is followed. Business-wise, Willie Nelson has announced his plans to sell his own brand of homegrown marijuana, Willie’s Reserve, in Colorado and Washington State. The states where recreational marijuana use is legal.

In December 2013, CNBC aired, Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom, which was hosted by Harry Smith. This documentary gave its audience a look at the six-year-old, family run, Medicine Man, Denver’s largest marijuana dispensary.

Marijuana, however has a nutritious cousin, hemp, which should be a mainstream crop in the United States. 22 states have legalized industrial hemp farming, under Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, and the Industrial Hemp Farming Act which was introduced in the House and the Senate in January 2015, hoping to allow more farmers to grow this sustainable crop. It puts nutrients back into the soil through phytoremediation and does not require chemical pesticides or herbicides. George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp.

On NBC’s TODAY Show, hemp was dubbed a hot food trend of 2007. Our ancestors used it in rope, canvas, fabric, paper, and personal care products, most recently it has been used to make automotive parts and construction materials. Its most important use is to make more nutritious foods. The seeds are a good source of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, plus other polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has a little less protein than soybeans and a lot of Vitamin E, plus many other minerals and it greatly benefits the circulatory system.

Foods containing hemp are predominantly imported from Canada, where it is legal to grow the crop industrially. So foods, such as, milk, yogurt, milk, granola, snack bars, pancakes, waffles protein powder, oil, oatmeal, and the actual seeds to sprinkle on food and shakes are all imported. The Hemp Industry Association estimated that in 2014, body care and food products earned $620 million with an increase of over 21 percent from 2013.

Marijuana and hemp both come from the Cannabis sativa L. plant. The difference is that hemp has less than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinoids or THC. Marijuana’s THC content is five to ten percent or higher. Hemp History week is June 1-7. There will be over 1,000 events all over the country to help legislators and shoppers understand the importance and nutritional value of this heavily needed crop.

Hemp is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and has many substantial health benefits, as well as a huge benefit to our environment. It  was not a controversial crop in the United States until the 1920’s and 30’s, when production was restricted by the 1937 “Marijuana Tax Act,” that claimed it was also a narcotic drug. Only farmers with federal permits were allowed to grow the crop. Even after Popular Mechanics called hemp “the new billion dollar crop” in 1938. The article said it could be used to produce over 25,000 products from dynamite to cellophane. It did not change the government’s view.

World War II needed all the might of the hemp industry, so restrictions were lifted for the war. Productions’ highest peak was reached in 1943. American farmers grew 150 million pounds of hemp to make shoes, rope, parachute webbing and fire hoses for soldiers that year. Production dropped drastically after 1943 and the anti-narcotic regime returned.

Europe and Asia continues to grow the crop. If it was substituted for industrial materials generally used, the environmental benefits would be astounding. Four benefits that have been established firmly, through government and academic research are, forest cover and biodiversity, pesticides and herbicides are not necessary, it has lower carbon emissions and it protects the soil.

Over 95 percent of paper is made using wood pulp, hemp can be used to make paper as well. It can be recycled twice as many times as wood pulp. It can produce three to four times the fiber per hectare as a typical forest and twice as much pine plantation. Dr. Ernest Small is the Principal Research Scientist at the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada, believes that being more reliant on this industrial crop, would reduce the dependence on forests. Old growth forests have the world’s greatest concentrations of biodiversity and absorb carbon dioxide. Forests cannot keep up with the speed of deforestation, however, hemp could keep up with our insatiable need for paper products.

Hemp does not have the need of pesticides or herbicides. The USDA reported in 2007, 877 million pounds of pesticides were used on U.S. crops and the cost was $7.9 billion. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research team, has deemed, glyphosate, the most popular weed killer, as a probable carcinogen. Roundup and other weed killers, account for over $6 billion in sales annually and they are not healthy. Also genetically modified crops (GMOs) require pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, hemp does not. It can grow organically anywhere. If it is substituted for GMOs there will be a reduction in health damage and the ecosystems people need.

Hemp can help cut carbon emissions. A square meter of a timber-framed, hemp-line wall will store 35.5kg of carbon dioxide and the gas will not be released unless the hemp is used for compost or burned. Hempcrete can be used as a concrete alternative and plastics that replace fiberglass and more. It can also be a biofuel. It converts to biodiesel with a 97 percent efficiency rate. It also burns at a lower temperature than any other biodiesel fuel.

It also has positive impacts on the soil by decreasing the nematodes and fungi. It has a high concealment capacity that represses weed growth. A hemp rotation can increase wheat yields 10 to 20 percent. It can also grow quite literally, anywhere. Bad soil, polluted soil, unfriendly environments can be changed by planting this plant. These are just some of the differences between weed and hemp.

By Jeanette Smith




Taos News

Photo courtesy of UK College of Agriculture – Flickr License

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