Is Hemp a Drug? What You Need to Know
The cannabis plant has long been known to be a drug. It’s the most commonly used illegal drug in the US, with about 48.2 million Americans (about 18%) reporting to have used it at least once in 2019. The plant’s significance to avid tokers is because it contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known to deliver the “high” associated with the plant.
There’s a variety of cannabis, and one is hemp. People often confuse hemp and marijuana, which is listed as a Schedule I substance under federal law. It’s only the state laws that fuel the expanding legalization of cannabis products in the US. But is hemp a drug? Is it legal? We’ll find out right here, in this article.
One common misconception is that hemp and marijuana are two different plant species. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They are, in fact, the same plant, just two different names for cannabis. From a scientific perspective, hemp and marijuana are the same, but legally, they are not. The law differentiates the two based on their (THC) levels.
THC is the most common and widely studied cannabinoid known to cause the psychoactive effects that users experience.
Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
Hemp is a stand-alone strain of the Cannabis sativa plant that contains 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight. So, why 0.3%? In his 1979 book: “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics,” Ernest Small highlights that it’s difficult to distinguish hemp and marijuana because no taxonomical differences actually exist between them.
According to Small, the only logical way to differentiate them is the “0.3 percent” rule, which he acknowledged to be an arbitrary figure.
What is Marijuana?
The first thing that pops into mind at mentioning marijuana is cannabis, which can get you “high.” The term is used interchangeably with other monikers, such as “weed,” “pot,” and the list goes on.
However, the law defines “marijuana” as cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC content by dry weight. THC levels in the cannabis plant can vary based on the cannabis variety. Today, cannabis seed suppliers, such as Hemponix, leverage selective breeding, and genetic engineering to create cannabis strains with higher THC content, improved stability, and high yields.
Is Hemp a Drug?
Due to the low THC content, hemp doesn’t get you high, and it’s important to note that it’s not used as a recreational drug. Compared to hemp’s 0.3% THC level, marijuana plants used for recreational purposes generally contain about 15% THC. However, some strains have up to 25% THC content.
There’s more to the cannabis plant than just drug use. Hemp can be grown for its fibers in the stalk to promote diversity in the textile industry or to maximize seed production. Hemp also produces a cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD), which is reported to have therapeutic benefits. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp that counteracts the “high” typically associated with marijuana.
The cultivation and sale of hemp products are very restricted in the United States, despite experts citing its potential economic and environmental benefits. If the government lifted those restrictions, hemp would introduce a new crop for farmers, thus creating thousands of jobs. Other supporting industries related to the processing, transportation, and retailing of hemp products would grow.
Besides, hemp is also a natural source of fiber that could be used to create new sustainable alternatives to plastics and paper. Things are looking up; in 2014, President Obama assented to the US Farm Bill (2014 Agricultural Act) that included provisions to lift restrictions and barriers to hemp production and clearly define the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) noted that federal law allows tertiary academic institutions and state departments to cultivate industrial hemp under certain conditions. The Farm Bill has undergone changes severally with the latest update known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill).
This law authorized the production of hemp products and removed hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) list of Controlled Substances. The NCSL also indicated that at least 38 states considered industrial-hemp-related legislation in 2018. These bills addressed wide-ranging policies, from clarifying existing laws to establishing research programs and creating new licensing requirements.
The Benefits of Hemp
Hemp’s significantly low THC levels (and psychoactive effects) make it useful in various industries, from diet and nutrition to healthcare and textile.
As aforementioned, the hemp plant produces CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that might revolutionize how we treat health conditions and traumatic injuries.
CBD is gaining popularity as a promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, seizures, inflammation, and anxiety without adverse effects or potential abuse. Anecdotal evidence from animal tests shows that CBD produces pain-relieving effects through its interaction with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body.
Unfortunately, studies on humans on the effectiveness of CBD in relieving pain are yet to be conducted. However, many manufacturers of CBD products advertise the incredible benefits of CBD and present it as an all-purpose treatment for wide-ranging health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety, etc.
Until now, the FDA has only approved one pharmaceutical CBD as an adjunct therapy for treating a unique and rare form of epilepsy. CBD alone is not approved for use in chronic pain management in the US, although a combination medication – containing CBD and THC in a 1:1 ratio – was approved by Health Canada as a prescription medicine to treat specific types of pain, particularly central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis and opioid-resistant cancer pain.
Other medical conditions and symptoms that CBD may treat or reduce include:
- Symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Digestion issues
Diet and Nutrition
Hemp also has nutritional and dietary benefits as it is used to create a wide range of food products, such as:
- Hemp oil
- Hemp protein powder; and
- Hemp milk
The seeds are the primary edible part of the hemp plant. While people can use the leaves to prepare tea, most nutrients come from the seeds. In fact, 30% of the hemp seed is fats and essential fatty acids.
As you might have guessed, hemp seeds are seeds from the hemp plant. They are high in soluble fats and insoluble fiber.
Additionally, hemp seeds are rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid used to produce hemp oil, also referred to as hemp seed oil. Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds only, unlike CBD oil, which is extracted from the plant and then infused into a base oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil.
Hemp oil is recommended for food preparation due to its nutritional benefits. It contains healthy nutrients, including:
- Essential fatty acids, which are crucial for good health
- Mineral salts like calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc.
- Antioxidants like vitamin E
Hemp can also be used to produce a wide range of industrial products. The plant grows relatively quickly and can reach a height of up to 16 feet (5 meters). The fibers in the stalk contain a high amount of cellulose and thus have high tensile strength and versatility. Hemp textile can make great strings, threads, and rope, as well as fiberglass-like material, to offer a safer, stronger, and lightweight alternative to ordinary fiberglass.
Additionally, fabrics made from hemp fibers are stronger and water-absorbent while evaporating quickly. That makes them ideal for the manufacture of a wide selection of products:
- Animal bedding
- Petroleum clean-up products
- Automotive parts
- Building materials
- Ballistics materials
Essentially, any product that consumes petroleum can be created from hemp and is renewable.
Hemp is a valuable variety of cannabis with many benefits. Its low THC content means its consumption doesn’t cause psychoactive or adverse effects, which means it’s not a drug. The plant also produces CBD – a non-psychoactive cannabinoid reported having clinical significance, especially in treating chronic pain, eczema, PMS symptoms, and digestive problems.
Besides, hemp has economic value as it produces strong fabric used to make ropes, insulation materials, car parts, and eco-friendly packaging materials. In sum, it’s a cannabis plant with economic and health benefits. Hemponix Seed is your trusted cannabis and hemp seed supplier, bringing you authentic farm-to-table cannabis products.
Every seed is thoroughly tested and methodically selected to ensure growers and consumers get high-quality, stable seeds and products that satisfy their cultivation and wellness needs. Our hemp-derived CBD products are well-formulated and science-backed to guarantee safety and the desired health outcomes. Visit us online to shop our hemp products today.