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Hemp vs Marijuana vs Cannabis: What’s the Difference?

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This article serves as the cannacurious' one-stop resource for information on hemp, cannabis, marijuana, and everything in between. Learn the distinction between hemp and cannabis and get the facts about what you're putting in your body. The fact that they are the same plant species yet have varied THC levels may surprise you. While marijuana is often reserved for strains with a higher THC content, hemp is defined as Cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, making it lawful. With the Endocannabinoid System, learn about the advantages of THC and CBD and explore the world of endocannabinoids (ECS). Learn more about how THC and CBD interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptor cells in our body.

For those who are cannacurious about hemp, cannabis, marijuana, and everything in between, this is a great place to start. Educating yourself about what you are putting into your body is extremely important, especially when it comes to cannabis. Now I know you might be thinking, “Wait, but aren’t hemp and cannabis the same? That’s what it’s seemed like all my life.” Well, guess what – you’re right!  But there are subtle distinctions between the two. 

You’ve likely heard the term marijuana when people refer to cannabis, along with other buzzwords like weed, bud, or even ganja. Most of these terms are referring to Cannabis sativa, Cannabis ruderalis, or Cannabis indica which contain high levels of THC. What distinguishes hemp from cannabis, then? Technically, very little, given that they both belong to the Cannabis sativa plant species. Hemp is classified as Cannabis with a THC level of less than 0.3% by dry weight (9 mg THC per gram of dried flower), which is basically just a legal term. Although hemp may continue to produce large amounts of CBD, it will inevitably contain very little THC. Although the word "Cannabis" is frequently used interchangeably with the term "marijuana," the term "marijuana" is typically reserved for higher-THC Cannabis.

The 2018 Farm Bill

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In 2018, the Farm Bill (H.R.2) brought us the legalization of hemp! As stated by the bill, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC; if hemp has more than 0.3% THC, then it is considered “marijuana.”

Hemp vs. “Marijuana”: A Breakdown

Historically, hemp is one of the first plants humans ever harvested – pretty cool, huh? Nowadays, we see hemp when we’re out and about more than we might realize. You can find hemp in any grocery store and even some of your favorite clothing items. It’s regularly used to make oil, milk, cheese substitutes, and protein powder, and well-known clothing brands like Patagonia are creating whole clothing lines made of hemp.

Differences between hemp and marijuana plants have been developed over many generations of selective breeding. High-THC cannabis usually has more bulbous and resinous blooms because it was developed for maximum cannabinoid output. Hemp is typically more fibrous and has stronger stalks because it was developed to produce industrial fiber.

Throughout human history, hemp fiber has been widely utilized for making ropes, clothes, fiber, and sail canvases (the name "canvas" is really derived from the word "cannabis").

Now, for a science lesson. Hemp and cannabis are two separate breeds of the same species; Cannabis Sativa. [check this – I am not sure they are both Cannabis Sativa but they may be]. Cannabis plants that are deemed “marijuana” plants are usually short and fat, used for the buds, while hemp plants are tall and skinny so their stalks and seeds can be harvested and used for rope or fiber (as previously stated). They may look similar, but since hemp may only contain less than 0.3% of THC, it does not provide the “high” or intoxicating effects that many can experience when consuming “marijuana.” To get the full scope of how hemp and cannabis differ, we need to explain the ways they work in our bodies.

To fully understand how THC and CBD work in our bodies, the Endocannabinoid System is an important place to start.

Meet the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Allow me to introduce you to the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The first known endocannabinoid in the human brain was discovered on March 24, 1992, by  Lumír Hanuš, a Czech analytical chemist working in Israel with American pharmacologist William Devane.

They gave it the name anandamide, which is the Sanskrit word for bliss or joy. It's a regulatory system that regulates our appetite, metabolism, immune response, memory, and proper sleep. It has only been researched for a short period of time, but thanks to molecular biologist Lisa Matsuda and her fellow researchers, we have identified receptor cells called CB1 and CB2, which are the cells THC and CBD interact with to work their plant magic.

Following Matsuda’s discovery, researchers identified two endocannabinoids – which are cannabinoids produced by our bodies. These endocannabinoids, anandamide, and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, are very similar to those found in the cannabis plant, and these findings have led many scientists to believe this is the reason cannabis allows us to regulate bodily functions like inflammation, sensations of pain, metabolism, and much more.

Gaining this monumental insight into the ways our bodies react to cannabis and hemp has proved extremely beneficial for the cannabis community. Matsuda’s research has opened many doors in introducing the ways THC and CBD can help our minds and bodies feel better, and we are grateful for the ongoing research that continues to be done.

The Benefits of THC & CBD

As we know, certain species of cannabis are high in THC (pun intended) and have been bred over time for the size and quality of their flowers so they can be consumed for recreational and medicinal purposes. Even though THC feels like the main player due to its psychoactive effects, we can’t discount the vast benefits of CBD.

CBD aka cannabidiol is the major cannabinoid in the hemp plant., It has become widely popular for its medicinal uses. As we’ve seen here at SummaForte, CBD provides myriad benefits for our minds and bodies. Our SummaMix, SummaTape, and SummaRest all contain CBD to enhance our performance and recovery in various ways. Each product yields the benefits of hemp CBD to speed up recovery, ease stress and exercise-induced inflammation, aid in better sleep, improve athletic recovery, and maintain a sense of calm balance and overall wellness - all in a safe, natural, healthy way. While we have no hard feelings about THC, we do not use THC in any of our products due to its intoxicating effects.

We hope this cleared up any confusion about the differences between hemp, marijuana, cannabis, THC, and CBD, and even taught you something about your body you didn’t know! As always, we love talking to our customers about the benefits of CBD, so reach out if you have questions about any of our SummaForte products.