The rise of the cannabis industry over the past years has enabled the discussion regarding its varieties, including hemp. In fact, anything related to the cannabis plant has garnered much attention in recent years, resulting in numerous signs of progress and enlightenment over facts related to the plant. For this crop, one of the most significant developments is the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill 2018.
Since then, more conversations have opened regarding the ways it can help farmers, the economy, the industry, and other aspects of the society. The fact is the developments in the plant has taken the cannabis and cannabinoids discussion to a whole new level. To know more about the crop and how it contributes to the industry, keep on reading.
Hemp vs Marijuana vs Cannabis
To the general public, the difference between hemp, marijuana, and cannabis remains muddled, despite experts and cannabis researchers’ understanding of how the term ‘hemp’ is used in light of discussions about ‘marijuana’ and ‘cannabis. Because of this, it is necessary to differentiate these three terms starting with cannabis.
The first thing you need to know is the three does not refer to the same thing. Cannabis is a genus of plants under the Cannabaceae family. Under Cannabis, there are several subspecies which is Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. All three are types of cannabis.
While Cannabis is used to refer to a classification of plants, the term hemp and marijuana are used to refer to a type of cannabis plants. The most basic difference between the two is their cannabinoid contents. On one hand, hemp, also referred to as Cannabis sativa L., is known to have higher cannabidiol (CBD) content. CBD is the chemical compound found the cropthat has the most medicinal attributes. It can also be used as a lifestyle aid because it does not have psychoactive effects.
On the other hand, marijuana is known to have higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC, which is the main component that provides the plant’s psychoactive effects, is often associated with the experience of getting high. This is not to say that THC does not have any medicinal value. In fact, it is used by physicians to help treat pain, glaucoma, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, muscle spasticity, and low appetite.
Usually, the subspecies of cannabis that is rich in THC is indica. Needless to say, indica still contains some percentage of CBD, while sativa still have a small amount of THC. Ruderalis, on the other hand, is known to have lower THC levels, but it is often used to create new hybrid strain because of its adaptability to various environments.
Aside from the chemical components contained by hemp and marijuana, another main difference between marijuana and hemp is its fiber content. Hemp is substantially more fibrous than marijuana. In fact, ancient civilizations had used this cannabis variant to make textiles, papers, ropes, sails, and many other industrial items.
So, to sum it up, cannabis is basically the umbrella term that covers hemp and marijuana. Then, the former is a high-CBD, low-THC and highly fibrous type, while the latter is the low-CBD, high-THC and minimally fibrous variety.
Tracing Hemp Throughout History
Given that ancient peoples had used this crop for industrial purposes, it is definitely considered an industrial crop. As mentioned, it is valued for its fiber and applications in various industries including the textile, sailing, paper, and other sectors. This crop is so significant as an industrial crop that it even has a prominent product named after it.
According to Etymonline, the word ‘canvas’ which refers to a “sturdy cloth made from hemp or flax” came from various names for cannabis in different languages including Anglo-French (canevaz), Old North French (canevach), Vulgar Latin (cannapaceous), and Greek (kannabis).
If you are wondering what kind of fabric this plant creates, just think of the texture and appearance of linen cloths. It is a sturdy fiber, which makes it an ideal material for ropes. In fact, Benjamin Franklin who is famous for many things including his kite experiment with lightning and electricity used hempen string to launch the kite. Other industry items made using this plant include shoes, clothes, and jewelry.
Aside from industrial products, this plant was also used to make food. This is because aside from being high in fiber, this plant is also high in protein and iron. Back their, early peoples used its seeds for nutritional purposes. It offers a nutty taste that makes it delicious and nutritious.
Its seeds contain a whole lot of vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium magnesium, iron, and zinc. Moreover, it contains proteins to promote growth and good fatty acids that can help in heart health.
Lastly, this plant is valued by ancient cultures for its medicinal attributes. Cultures in India, China, and many others used it to treat various illnesses and medical conditions such as indigestion, pain, cough, and many more. One surprising theory is that the anointing oil made from keneh-bosem used by the historical figure Jesus to cure ailments is made from cannabis.
Other applications of the plant include roles in spiritual activities, ancient rituals, and recreation. These and all those mentioned above are still being practiced today, although at a more advanced yet limited level because of legal restrictions.
Current Hemp Legislations
Hemp and marijuana are heavily regulated plants today. However, it is important to mention that this has not always been the case. In the United States, this crop eas legal in the 18th and 119th centuries. It was only in the 20th century that the ban on the plant was imposed with President Nixon’s war on drugs and the implementation of the Controlled Substances Act.
The said act includes cannabis as a Schedule I drug without considering the differences between marijuana and hemp. Unfortunately, the plant remains to be listed as a Schedule I drug regardless of the progress that various states have been making over the past years.
Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to mention that the federal government and state governments have been making serious developments with laws, which lightened the public view on this crop, if only a bit. It painted a more positive picture of cannabis, as a viable medical treatment aid. Today, 15 states have fully legalized and regulated the plant including Washington, DC, while more than 30 have medical marijuana programs in place.
On the federal level, marijuana remains illegal, but the federal government has made great leaps with regards to the crop. In 2014, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has launched the 2014 Farm Bill, which helped create pilot programs for various states. This granted researchers the ability to cultivate and study the plant with the help of government funding.
While some of these pilot programs are still in effect, the federal government recently passed the 2018 Farm Bill. Back in December 2018, the US government officially removed the plant and its seeds from the Controlled Substances scheduling. Moreover, this allowed farmers top cultivate and harvest help as a crop. Another great effect of this federal bill is it mandated the Department of Agriculture to create regulations and guidelines to create a consistent framework for production of this crop.
Some law experts say that the 2018 Farm Bill has technically made hemp-derived cannabidiol products legal. The same cannot be said of THC as it is specified in the Scheduling as a controlled substance.
The Different Potentials of Hemp
Given the new legislation surrounding the crop, more and more industries can benefit from what this crop has to offer. Looking back on how ancient cultures used this crop, current technologies can enhance the application of hemp fibers. While in the past, this fiber is used in construction in the form of canvases and ropes, technology today has made it possible to create fiber boards, acoustic and thermal insulations, and concrete blocks based on the plant.
When processed, fiber produced by this crop can aid in the creation of bioplastics. In fact, many carmakers have been incorporating this technology into their vehicles.
The boom in the industrial application of hemp has not only posed a great economic opportunity for processors but most especially to farmers. In fact, many are looking at this plant to being the next cash crop. This is because it is easy to plant, cultivate, and harvest as it is incredibly resistant to pests. It can also tolerate various climates and soil quality. Plus, it has a wide variety of uses, from industry to food and nutrition.
Another important factor in the potentials of hemp as an economic opportunity is the timeliness of its legalization. It was legalized at a time when the demand for marijuana and cannabinoids is at an all-time high. More and more individuals are taking on a more positive view of the plant, leading them to consume infused products, or at least try them.
One of the most popular products is CBD. Different CBD-infused products are in-demand right now, especially in light of the pandemic, when people look for ways to lighten up their lives. CBD, is known to high a brain high, offers stimulation of the mind, creativity, mood enhancement, and other benefits.
Of course, it does help that more and more states are reforming their laws, especially those concerning marijuana and THC. As more people have access to and are interested to try out CBD-infused topicals, edibles, skincare, cosmetics, and drinks, this crop will only continue to be useful over the next years.
Last but not the least, the plant is being researched for its potential to become an energy crop. With oil reserves across the world dwindling, combined with the need for a more sustainable source, those in the energy sector are looking for ways to develop biofuel, and this plant mp is a great candidate as an energy crop.
Studies have shown that fermenting the plant can create biodiesel. When we say fermenting the plant, we mean that every part of the plant can be a source of such sustainable fuels. This includes seeds, stalks, stems, and leaves. The biofuel extracted from the fermented plant can be used to power different machines such as diesel engines, oil lamps, and other similar mechanisms.
What’s In Store for Hemp?
With the various needs for CBD and all the products mentioned above, it is possible that this crop will remain valuable for a very long time, especially with the use of the plant’s parts as an energy source. Again, this is because of the need for more sustainable sources of fuel, combined with the fact that this crop is easy to cultiavte.
In terms of being a fiber source, the fact remains that the world is always on the lookout for more sustainable sources of everything, what with climate change still an imminent issue. More products that require fiber can be made from this plant.
With regards to nutrition and wellness, it is essential to note the world is still in the middle of a pandemic, which means that people will be looking for ways to make themselves healthier in addition to traditional medical sources. CBD could remain to be in-demand, seeing that these products are still in-demand. In fact, sales of CBD-infused items have spiked even in with the pandemic.
The movement toward healthy eating has also influenced the cannabis boom, which in turn positively affected the hemp industry. With all sorts of healthy superfoods being in-demand, the introduction and availability of hemp seeds can be a great step toward it being recognized as one of the healthiest nourishment options out there.
The Bottom Line
Historically, this crop has always been a valuable crop for various cultures. With the acceptance of the plant in the United States, the country’s economy can take advantage of what it has to offer, while also providing more economic opportunities for workers in various sectors including agriculture, energy, industry, and many more. The demand for marijuana has also boosted hemp and vice versa, feeding the overall cannabis industry and providing livelihood and medical options for many people.