Marijuana and hemp often share the same negative connotation in society. After all, they were both illegal to grow in the United States for decades, and they both are of the same plant genus, Cannabis, and the same species, Cannabis Sativa. Even being so closely related their uses are worlds apart.
Cultivated throughout history
Cannabis has been cultivated throughout history. People have grown vast varieties of the plant for both medical and industrial uses. Hemp originated in Central Asia and the cultivation of hemp fiber has been recorded in China as early as 2800 BC. Tall, sturdy hemp plants provided these early civilizations with a variety of food, oils, rope, and other fabrics. Civilizations continued to grow and breed these types of plants to specifically carry characteristics useful for everyday life.
Other cannabis plants showed characteristics of being psychoactive, thus they were separately bred for medical and religious purposes. These varieties of cannabis are what most of us today are growing in our closets or backyards, and also making use of for everyday life. That is the variety known as marijuana.
Core agricultural differences
It's said that the core agricultural differences between hemp and medical marijuana are their genetic makeup and cultivation environment. Scientists believe that the early separation of the cannabis gene pool created 2 specific types of cannabis species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.
The variant in the genetic makeup that is probably the most important and relevant are the cannabinoids in cannabis. I'm specifically talking about the THC cannabinoid, the one that we stoners are so fond of. Marijuana growers aim to produce plants with a high THC percentage, averaging around 10%-20%. On the other hand, hemp doesn't contain more than 0.3%. That is a mega difference in genetic makeup. The reason for the low percentage of THC in hemp is that most THC is formed in the resin glands on the buds and flowers of the female cannabis plant. Since industrial hemp is not grown to produce buds, it doesn't have the primary component that creates the marijuana high.
The other difference in genetic makeup is the CBD percentage. CBD is another cannabinoid with a multitude of health benefits. Hemp plants create more CBD than THC, adversely, marijuana creates more THC than CBD. Furthermore, CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. So, not only does hemp have a meager amount of THC compared to marijuana, the CBD in the hemp would count against the psychoactive effects of the tiny bit of THC contained in the hemp plant.
Hemp is grown in over 30 countries around the world. The largest producers are China, Romania, Hungary, India, other European countries, and Canada. In the United States it was illegal to grow hemp but not import hemp products. For years, the United States imported $500 million worth of hemp products. After a century of prohibition, hemp is finally making a comeback on American soil. The 2014 federal farm bill was passed and farmers in states with industrial hemp legislation are authorized to harvest hemp with the affiliation with their state department of agriculture for research.
Hemp is not just useful when it comes to making new products, but it improves already existing products. Hemp grows extremely quickly so it is perfect for producing paper. Trees can take between 20 and 50 years to be ready to harvest. However, hemp can be harvested the same year it is grown to produce paper. Save the trees! Grow hemp! Even the original Declaration of Independence in America is written on hemp paper. Hemp can also be recycled up to 7 times while wood pulp paper can only be recycled up to 3 times. It is obviously the better alternative.
I'm sure you've seen some hemp clothing in the hippy shops. Hippies may be starting the trend but it's a trend everyone should be picking up. Because growing hemp doesn't require the use of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, or pesticides to grow well, it's not harmful to your skin when it's used for blankets or clothing. It's durable, and 4 times warmer than cotton. Not to mention it's naturally flame retardant for when you get too high and accidentally drop your joint on your lap.
The benefits of hemp
The benefits of hemp continue with the production of building materials. Hempcrete, fiberboard, plastic, cement blocks, insulation, carpet, and stucco are just a few things that can be made of hemp. With the use of hemp building materials, fewer chemicals need to be used and they are biodegradable and again, fire-resistant.
Hemp seeds are considered a superfood. They are a healthy addition to any recipe. They are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Get your dose of vitamins E, A, C, and your calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus from this wonder plant. Hemp seeds even have your essential fats covered.
With so many impressive attributes, it's hard to imagine that hemp isn't used more often. With the ever-increasing new technology, sometimes the most basic and natural resources are still the best.