– Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis.
– Cannabis has three species; Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis.
– Hemp contains less than 0.2% THC and won’t make you feel ‘high’.
– Marijuana contains more than 0.2% THC. Concentrations above 5% could make the user feel ‘high’.
– CBD oil is extracted from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant and therefore contains very little THC.
Due to the popularity increase of cannabidiol (CBD) over the last year, it has become increasingly important to define industry terms, and educate people around cannabis. People often ask questions such as ‘will CBD make me feel high?’ or ‘is CBD illegal?’. These questions are very common on Google Trends and show people are interested in this ‘novel’ substance, and are interested to learn more. I have written ‘novel’ as I have because we have been using cannabis as a material for millennia, but due to legislation have only just started researching why it has the benefits it does.
There are three species of cannabis. Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruduralis. There are different species because the plants were historically grown in different climates.
Figure 1 shows the three cannabis species, Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. Sativa plants have long, thin leaves and the plants grow tall, whereas Indica have short, fat leaves and do not grow as tall [Source].
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is cannabis.
The word marijuana (sometimes spelt marihuana) has a few stories of origin. Some say that it comes from the Mexican migrants which fled to America between 1910 and 1920 during the Mexican revolution. The word cannabis was almost exclusively used in the 19th century, however, during 1910 and 1920 marijuana became the go-to word for mexican cannabis, in a successful attempt to attach stigma to cannabis. If you would like to read more about the racial undertones of marijuana click here.
These days marijuana is used to describe high THC containing cannabis. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of the most abundant substances in marijuana (greater than 0.2% by weight), and is responsible for the euphoric feeling (‘high’) you get after smoking a joint. The illicit market is responsible for the cultivation of very high concentrations of THC (greater than 20% by weight). With this increase in THC however, the average concentration of CBD is around 0.15%.
However it is not all doom and gloom for marijuana. It is an umbrella term for all cannabis which contains higher concentrations of THC, which can have some significant health benefits. Research is still very much in its infancy considering it has been illegal to research for the past 70 years, but there is huge promise for marijuana.
Marijuana can be Cannabis Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis or a hybrid.
Marijuana is illegal in the UK, but some patients can gain access to medical cannabis (higher THC containing cannabis) if their doctor prescribes it to them. However, some patients have to pay around £4,000 a month just to receive medicine which can totally change their life. Crazy.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is cannabis.
There are different definitions for hemp in different countries. Again, it is solely based on the concentration of THC within the plant. In the UK, we define hemp as less than 0.2% THC by weight. This is set by the Home Office and you can see the factsheet here. Due to the low concentrations of THC, extract oils from the hemp plant won’t make you feel ‘high’ at all. The CBD content in hemp is around 12-18% by weight.
Hemp (also known as industrial hemp) can be grown for industrial materials, CBD oil, hemp seed or hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil contains a huge range of wonderful chemicals which are vital for us to remain healthy. Hemp seeds contain up to 60% protein, and so are a great alternative to whey protein, or even meat! Hemp stems are made from lignocellulosic fibres and have been used throughout history for rope, sails and clothes. New research is being conducted to make bioplastics from hemp, and BMW uses a hemp composite in their car doors due to its light-but-strong properties. Read this article if you would like to learn more about the History of Bioplastics in the Automotive Industry.
Industrial hemp is Cannabis Sativa. It is grown as it is taller than Indica and therefore the fibres can be used for industrial materials.
Figure 2 shows the regulatory difference between hemp and marijuana.
Where does CBD come from?
CBD oils are extracted from hemp. It is typically extracted from the trim (cut leaves during harvesting) and the flowers as these parts of the plant contain the most cannabinoids. These oils are stored on the plants as trichomes.
Figure 3 shows a simple schematic of a cannabis plant.
Trichomes are little crystal-like glands on the surface all over the plant, but are most abundant in the leaves and flowers. The plant historically manufactured these trichomes to protect itself against harsh climates as cannabis would grow in many different geographies; from hot tropical to cold, mountainous environments. It is hypothesised that these plants grow trichomes to help protect themselves against UV light, defend against frost, insect herbivores and more reasons. Read this article if you would like to know more about trichomes.
As the hemp plant is being used for the extraction, there is very little THC in the oil. Therefore, CBD oil from the hemp plant will not get you ‘high’.
Hemp plants are defined by regulations. If the plant contains less than 0.2% THC then it is labelled as industrial hemp. It is legal to grow hemp as long as you have a license, issued by the home office to do so. If it contains more than 0.2% THC then it cannot be classed as hemp and can be ceased by the home office. CBD oil is usually extracted from hemp flowers and leaves to make sure the THC levels are low. If the product contains more than 1mg of THC per bottle, it can be ceased. That is why it is important that each and every brand we stock is vetted thoroughly, and each product comes with a 3rd-party test certificate.