What is the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?
Hemp and Marijuana are often thought of as the same plant. Although they are both varieties of the Cannabis Sativa L plant, they have vastly different uses, and growing patterns.
The term ‘marijuana’ refers to the medicinal, recreational or spiritual use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. In contrast, Hemp typically refers to the fiber of the cannabis plant, extracted from the stem and used to make fabric, rope, fiberboard, and paper. Marijuana fiber has a low tensile strength and will break or shred easily, making it a poor fibrous plant when compared to industrial hemp.
This difference arises because hemp plants are typically male, meaning that they will not produce the buds or flowers that marijuana plants produce. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinoids, is the component that makes people “high”, and is mostly found in the buds. Hemp plants contain only about 0.3% – 1.5% THC, while marijuana contains a minimum of 5% to 10% THC, and often more.
Since hemp is grown for its fibers primarily, it is grown significantly taller than marijuana plants. Hemp plants will typically be harvested around 10-15 feet in height, while marijuana plants will be harvested around 5 feet. Marijuana plants are encouraged to grow outwards, to increase the bud production whereas hemp is encouraged to grow directly upwards to create a better, longer fibre. In this way, hemp has been compared to bamboo in the way that it grows, with a long thin stem, whereas marijuana is grown more like a bush.
Why hemp is used
Hemp has many benefits, and has been used increasingly in the textile industry to provide a environmentally friendly alternative to cotton. Here are just a few of the reasons hemp is increasingly used:
- Environmentally friendly (it’s even carbon negative)
- Strongest natural fibre
- Fast growing
- Pesticide free
- Requires low amounts of water (about half as much as cotton)
- Enriches the soil it is grown in (so can be used year after year without rotation)
- UV and mold resistant
Regulations in Canada
In a recent news article by CTV News, Garry Meier, president of Hemp Production Services, said that hemp farmers are hopeful that with the legalization of Marijuana they will now be able to “harvest components that would contain CBD, such as the chaff and leaf materials”, maximizing their profit off of each plant.
CBD, also known as Cannabidiol, is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. Current regulations in Canada regarding CBD are confusing, with certain producers and amounts of THC to be legal, while others are not. These hemp farmers hope that with the legalization of marijuana in Canada the regulations for CBD production will also be changed.
Unfortunately, the legalization of marijuana therefore likely will not increase hemp production as they are such vastly different plants. Marijuana plants will not be able to be used in the same way that industrial hemp is used, as the focus of marijuana farmers will not be on the production and quality of the fibre, as it is in hemp farmers, but instead will be placed upon the production of the buds, and the high levels of THC.