What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
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- What is hemp?
- Hemp vs. marijuana: Does hemp also have THC?
- Can you smoke hemp?
- How are hemp varieties chosen?
- What is hemp used for?
- How is hemp used as a food product?
- How is hemp processed?
- How is hemp cultivated differently than marijuana?
- Is hemp cultivation legal in the U.S.?
- World history of hemp
- Frequently asked questions
Although hemp and marijuana are both classified biologically as cannabis, there are a number of important differences between them. Here we’ll break down the anatomy, history, use, and legality of the hemp plant to get to the heart of not only what distinguishes hemp from marijuana, but also what makes it such a viable, versatile commodity.
What is hemp?
A variety of Cannabis sativa L, hemp is a dioecious plant, which means it can be separated into male and female plants. These plants have served a wide variety of purposes for more than 10,000 years. We get fiber from the plant’s stems, protein from the seeds, oils from the leaves, and oils from the smokable flowers. Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, textiles, rope — even building materials.
Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, textiles, rope — even building materials. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The whole hemp plant, from stalk to seed, can also be used to make fuel and feedstock. For more specific applications, hemp can be divided into four categories:
- Bast fibers
- Hurds, or shives
- Leaves and flowers
Hemp vs. marijuana: Does hemp also have THC?
Hemp produces a broad range of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana. However, hemp does not produce enough THC to create intoxicating effects.
Although hemp doesn’t produce a significant amount of THC, it is capable of producing the non-intoxicating cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) in high concentrations. In fact, hemp-derived CBD is rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of the cannabinoid on the market today.
Many countries differentiate hemp from marijuana by the amount of THC produced by the plant. In the US, industrial hemp is defined as Cannabis sativa L. that does not contain more than 0.3% THC. The European Union has set the limit at 0.2%, while in the UK the limit is zero, unless growers have a cultivation license to grow industrial hemp with no more than 0.2% THC.
In the US, industrial hemp is defined as Cannabis sativa L. that does not contain more than 0.3% THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Can you smoke hemp?
The short answer is yes. Though be aware that while hemp does have trace amounts of intoxicating compounds, that doesn’t mean it will get you high. Hemp plants don’t produce enough THC to have an intoxicating effect. CBD, though technically psychoactive, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and won’t produce any form of a euphoric high on its own.
But if the goal isn’t to get an intoxicating high, smoking organic hemp can be an enjoyable and efficient way to experience other cannabinoids like CBD. It’s also never been easier to experiment now that you can find organic hemp flower and pre-rolls online. And while hemp-derived CBD gummies and CBD oil might be all the rage, smoking hemp allows you to self-titrate in real-time — no waiting around for any subtle effects to kick in.
There’s the added bonus of increased bioavailability. Through the act of inhalation, your bloodstream absorbs CBD much faster than it would after eating an edible or using a tincture under your tongue. Your body will also have access to a lot more of the CBD in the smoke or vapor when it’s inhaled. When consumed, a CBD edible goes through the digestive tract, and some of the potency is lost in the process.
For a cleaner burn, consider lighting your hemp flower with hemp wick. Raw hemp wick coated in beeswax offers a slow burn from all-natural materials, which many users say produces a cleaner cannabis flavor than a lighter or match. The more you know.
For a cleaner burn, consider lighting your hemp flower with hemp wick. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
How are hemp varieties chosen?
Depending on the desired final product, hemp cultivars are chosen based on several factors, including:
- Stem quality
- Cannabinoid content
- Resistance to disease
- Time to harvest
- Hemp oil content
- Seed production per acre
CBD production, in particular, has become a major factor in recent years. As the CBD market continues to grow, more and more cultivars are also being chosen based on their CBD production and unique aromatic, or terpene, profiles.
Hemp-derived CBD oil has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
What is hemp used for?
CBD oil is extracted from hemp leaves and flowers. More and more people are experimenting with CBD oil extracted from hemp plants as a wellness supplement, hence the ever-growing popularity of CBD-focused cultivation.
Hemp fibers are primarily used for textiles, paper, building materials, and other industrial products. Raw materials such as hurds, or shives, are short woody fibers typically found inside the stalk. They’re used for making bedding materials, absorbents, particleboard, ceiling panels, compost, and other industrial products.
Bast fibers make up the outer portion of the stalk and are typically split into three categories — primary, or line fiber, secondary, and tow. They are categorized according to their cell strength and cell wall thickness, which will determine the fiber’s strength, durability, and what it can be used for.
How is hemp used as a food product?
Hemp seeds are rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They contain an optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for healthful consumption. A 2008 study also found that hemp proteins are more digestible for humans than common soy protein isolates (SPIs) used in food products. Hemp seeds can be used as food directly or via oil produced from them. Seeds can also be ground up for flour or mixed with water to create hempseed milk.
How is hemp processed?
Processors use many types of processing techniques on hemp seeds and stalks. The technique used depends on the purpose of the final product.
Seeds can be consumed whole, or refined by being pressed or crushed to produce hemp seed oil and flour. These seeds are also hulled, or shelled, to make them more palatable. The remaining shells, which are rich in fiber, can also be used for making flour.
Seeds can be consumed whole, or refined by being pressed or crushed to produce hemp seed oil and flour. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Hemp stalks are processed through decorticating, a multistep method for removing the long fibers from the rest of the plant. This can involve field retting, a process in which the plants are cut and laid out in the field for four to six weeks. During this time, any bacteria on the plant’s surface will break down the outer layer of the stalk. The retted stalks are then dried.
Water retting is another option. The stalks are immediately dried after harvesting then placed in water for a few days. The water softens the outer layer of the stalks and promotes the growth of additional bacteria, accelerating the process. Finally, chemical retting uses acids, bases, and special enzymes to break down the compounds that hold together the strong bast fibers.
How is hemp cultivated differently than marijuana?
Other key differences between hemp and marijuana have to do with cultivation and harvesting. Male hemp plants flower much faster than females and do not produce nearly as much fiber. In stark contrast to marijuana fields, which seek to banish all males, most female hemp fields include sporadically placed males.
Male hemp plants flower much faster than females and do not produce nearly as much fiber. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The male hemp plants release pollen female plants use to produce seeds that are either planted for future crops or sold as food. In marijuana fields, male plants are typically eliminated to ensure the maximum production of sinsemilla (seedless) flowers.
While marijuana cultivation requires ample spacing to reduce the risk of mold or bacteria, hemp can be planted more densely. Most marijuana crops are planted with one plant per 4 square feet. Hemp plants that are grown for oil are planted at roughly 40 to 60 plants per 4 square feet. Those grown for fiber are even more densely planted at a rate of about 100 to 120 plants per 4 square feet.
Hemp plants are almost always cultivated outdoors, as opposed to marijuana plants, which are often planted in greenhouses or indoor grow operations. Because hemp is susceptible to the same predators, diseases, and insects that attack marijuana, many cultivators employ a technique called crop rotation, in which alternating crops are planted in the same place, to avoid any buildup of these organisms and to allow nutrients to return to the soil.
The specific order of crop rotation and types of crops being rotated with hemp will depend on the location of the farm. Hemp is also used as a rotational crop at farms where it is not the primary agricultural product.
Is hemp cultivation legal in the U.S.?
The 2014 Agricultural Act, more commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, includes section 7606, which allows for universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp, as long as it is cultivated and used for research. Under the 2014 Agricultural act, state departments and universities must also be registered with their state, and defer to state laws and regulations for approval to grow hemp.
As part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill), the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 reclassified hemp (with less than 0.3% THC) from Schedule I, the federal government’s most restrictive classification of controlled substances, which are considered highly prone to abuse and without medicinal benefits. This move to federally legalize hemp allowed for its cultivation and distribution as a legal agricultural product.
Under the Hemp Farming Act, hemp cultivation is no longer limited to state departments and universities. In addition, the act gives hemp farmers the right to water, crop insurance, and federal agricultural grants, as well as legal access to national banking. Hemp may also be transported across state lines.
Prior to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, 41 states had passed industrial hemp-related legislation. Thirty-nine of those states legalized statewide cultivation programs that defined hemp specifically to differentiate it from marijuana, establish licensing requirements, and regulate production.
The Hemp Farming Act now requires state departments of agriculture to consult with their governors and chief law enforcement officers on a regulatory program, which will then be submitted to the US Secretary of Agriculture for approval. According to Section 297B of the bill, state hemp regulatory programs must include a system to maintain information on all land where cultivation takes place, procedures for testing THC levels in hemp, and procedures for disposing of products that violate THC content restrictions.
World history of hemp
Hemp has been cultivated on a global scale for thousands of years. The oldest documented evidence of hemp cultivation is a rope, which dates back to 26,900 BCE, found in today’s Czech Republic.
Some of the earliest known prolific uses of hemp began in China about 10,000 BCE, where it was used for making clothing, rope, and paper. The Yangshao people, who lived in China from roughly 5,000 BCE, wove hemp and pressed it into their pottery for decorative purposes. From about 5,000 to 300 BCE, the plant was also grown in Japan and used for fiber and paper.
Cannabis played a large role in the Greco-Roman cultures as a source of fiber, intoxication, and medicine. Cannabis seeds were discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, and Greek rhetorician Athenaeus made note of hemp being used to make rope between 170 and 230 CE. Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder also made reference to a cannabis root decoction as a treatment for joint stiffness and gout in the first century BCE.
Exactly how and when hemp originated in the New World is still highly debated. Though long thought to be introduced to the Americas by Christopher Columbus, hemp has been discovered in Native American civilizations that predate Columbus’ arrival. William Henry Holmes’ “Prehistoric Textile Art of Eastern United States” report from 1896 notes hemp from Native American tribes of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley.
Hemp products from pre-Columbian native civilizations were also found in Virginia. Vikings, who used the plant for making rope and sails, may also have brought seeds with them when they attempted to colonize the New World.
Jamestown settlers introduced hemp to colonial America in the early 1600s for rope, paper, and other fiber-based products; they even imposed fines on those who didn’t produce the crop themselves. US presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp.
Hemp was a prominent crop in the United States until 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act virtually obliterated the American hemp industry. During World War II, the crop saw a resurgence in the US as it was used extensively to make military items including uniforms, canvas, and rope. The Department of Agriculture even released a short documentary, “Hemp for Victory,” in 1942, which promoted the plant as a useful crop for the war cause.
The World War II hemp resurgence was short-lived, though. Until the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 kept industrial production dormant. Today, hemp is rapidly becoming an indispensable resource for CBD oil and other CBD products.
Frequently asked questions
Is hemp a drug?
Hemp itself is a plant. But CBD, which might be considered a drug, can be made from hemp. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a CBD-based drug as a treatment for epilepsy. And many people worldwide use CBD products to treat a variety of ailments, though much more research needs to be done on CBD’s efficacy against everything from cancer to acne.
Is hemp legal in Australia?
Certain parts of the hemp plant are legal in Australia. The government has more information.
Is hemp legal in NZ?
The country has a licensing program for those interested in growing certain cultivars of hemp that contain less than 0.35% THC.
What is hemp used for medically?
As stated above, CBD derived from hemp has a variety of uses. The most official is the FDA-approved drug to treat childhood epilepsy. Beyond that, more research needs to be done but scientists are looking at CBD to treat or ease symptoms of:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Pain, including chronic and neuropathic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Wang, Xian-Sheng, et al. “Characterization, Amino Acid Composition and in Vitro Digestibility of Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) Proteins.” Food Chemistry , vol. 107, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2008, pp. 11–18., doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.06.064.
Callaway, J. C. “Hempseed as a Nutritional Resource: An Overview.” Euphytica , vol. 140, no. 1-2, 2004, pp. 65–72., doi:10.1007/s10681-004-4811-6.
Ryz, Natasha R., et al. “Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research , vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 210–216., doi:10.1089/can.2017.0028.
Although hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis, there is a difference between them. The differences between these cannabis varieties are primarily evident in the way each plant is used.
Seeded Weed? Is it Okay to Smoke It?
Home / Blog / Seeded Weed? Is it Okay to Smoke It?
Seeded Weed? Is it Okay to Smoke It?
Posted by Lori Ann Reese on 12/11/2020 in Cannabis Recipes
Updated on January 20, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
You are browsing online and checking out all the different strains. There is a local dispensary that is selling medical cannabis at an unbelievable price. Really? Only forty dollars per ounce? And it is a great strain that you usually buy. Seeded weed? What does that mean?
Photo Credit: SpliffSeeds.com
At the top of the discounted ‘flash sale’ status of the cannabis, you see a phrase that confuses the heck out of you. And it stands out like kind of a warning; “heavily seeded.” Unless you are a cannabis expert, you probably think seeds are no big deal. They are still natural, right? And they probably have the same amount of THC.
When a grower makes a little bit of a goof-up, and the cannabis is allowed to get frisky with other plants in the greenhouse, seeded nugs happen. Everyone loves a discount! They are a great deal. Having seeds in your whole flower cannabis must be just an aesthetic thing that people don’t like.
Think twice before you get the bargain basement cannabis loaded up with seeds. No, it’s not going to add more fiber to your diet (although you could use seeded cannabis for making edibles). But as far as using it in your pipe? Definitely read up on why it is discounted before you buy.
Photo Credit: Yarygin | Deposit Photos
The Birds and The Bees: Cannabis is a Highly Evolved Plant
Did you know that about 80% of plants on the planet are self-pollinating? Cannabis is a highly evolved plant. It is a dioecious species, which means it has separate male and female plants. Cannabis plants have three sexes. There can be male plants and female plants. And occasionally, a strain will produce hermaphrodite plants (both male and female).
If you were walking through a medical dispensary’s greenhouse, you would see plants that have zero flowers. Lots of leaves, though, but no buds. Then you would see plants blooming with buds. Guess which one is the female plant?
The male cannabis plant is worth empathizing with. He tries hard but barely gets a date. The male cannabis plant typically has a thinner stalk and fewer leaves. But the male cannabis plant grows and produces valuable pollen taken by the wind or breeze to nearby female plants. (Cue the disco music). And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how marijuana buds are born.
Every time a cannabis plant seeds, it is a 50/50 split between male and female seedlings. Some strains can produce up to 75% of male plants. But you can’t tell in a greenhouse until they have started to grow. It usually takes about six weeks in the greenhouse before female plants begin to bloom. Then the male cannabis plants are separated from the female cannabis plants.
The female plants are valuable because they will produce crops of flowers or buds. Male plants, however, are not the star of the show, and they are either mulched for fertilizer or repurposed into other cannabis products.
What Happens to Male Cannabis Plants?
Dispensaries are interested in cultivating cannabis flowers from female plants. Some of the male plants are kept if they show specific attributes that are valuable for breeding. You plant corn, you get corn? It’s a little more complicated with cannabis. Most of the male plants are incredibly low in cannabinoids. Not all of them but most. And so, other than pollination, to a commercial dispensary, the male cannabis plant isn’t worth keeping around.
During the vegetative growth phase (when cannabis is maturing into a seedling), the male plants have higher THC concentrates in the leaves. It is only when the female plants mature to the adult stage that they have a higher potency. Female plants are the only sex to create sinsemilla. That is the compound that produces the psychoactive effects in THC.
Male cannabis plants don’t have a very long lifespan. Cultivators worldwide have tried to breed in high THC and bloom production in male plants, but with no success. You can’t delay the pollination process for male plants, nor can you breed enhanced resin production for male cannabis.
More sad news for male cannabis plants; their pollen is detrimental to female plants. So, if you have a happy crop of male cannabis plants sending their pollen over to the ladies on the other side of the aisle, it can stifle the crop. It will reduce the size and production of female cannabis plants.
Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants Have It Worse
The creation of hermaphrodites or both male and female sexed organisms is a rare occurrence in nature. But the genetic anomaly can happen to any species on the planet. And that includes the cannabis plant.
Hermaphrodite cannabis plants are considered trouble. When they are discovered, they are separated from other female plants. A few hermaphrodite plants can ruin an entire harvest and jeopardize the quality of the flowers produced. They are found, uprooted, and destroyed in a way that does not allow them to cross-pollinate with any other plants. It’s very much ‘seek and destroy’ when a cultivator finds them in the greenhouse.
The potential for genetically mutated hermaphrodite plants to reproduce with quality strains is very high. So, it is very much ‘seek and destroy’ when a cultivator finds them in the greenhouse.
Photo Credit: Yarygin | Deposit Photos
What Is Seeded Weed Good For?
When you look at a seeded flower, the composition seems similar but extra chunky. Throughout the bud, you will notice seeds of different sizes. Fully germinated and non-germinated seeds (or baby seeds). More fiber! So, the cannabis seeds must be good for you? Well, they are. Just not in your pipe or cone.
There is a market for marijuana seeds because they contain many health benefits. They are a great nutritional resource and have more than thirty (30) healthy fats. Some of the types of healthy fats include alpha-linoleic acid, which is the plant version of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also a high source of plant-based clean proteins.
Fiber! Boy, are cannabis seeds full of fiber, and they are great for digestive health. So much so that some clinical studies have suggested that cannabis seeds can reduce intestinal and colon cancers. Both soluble and insoluble fiber is found in cannabis seeds.
The soluble fiber is absorbed quickly and makes you feel full longer while providing energy. The insoluble fiber has a cleaning effect. It doesn’t digest but has an exfoliating impact as it travels through the digestive tract.
There are many supplements and nutritional products that are made from cannabis seeds. Also, for cosmetic products and skincare. Cannabis seeds are also high in an amino acid called arginine, which helps with muscle relaxation, blood vessel dilation, and reduced blood pressure. Cannabis seeds are often used for nutritional products sold for weight loss.
Why Are There Seeds In Cannabis Flower the Dispensary is Selling?
Full disclosure? Cultivators and dispensaries know that ‘seeded weed’ is a goof up. They know that it still can provide some wellness benefits. However, both the aesthetic and some of the seeded weed side-effects make the product less desirable to patients.
Does seeded weed still have THC and psychoactive properties? Yes. The cannabis potency is usually not any different, and it is still tested before being sold. The website of the dispensary will confirm the THC content in the description of the product.
Seeded weed happens when pollen from a male cannabis plant touches the female plant. Congratulations, you have a baby seed. But a lot of pollen can interact in a single exchange (from more than one male plant). That’s when you end up with bud that looks like an apocalypse of seeds in the cannabis colas.
Photo Credit: TeriVirbickis | Deposit Photos
Can You Grow Cannabis from Seeds You Find In Your Medical Bud?
If you live in a state that has legalized home-growing for personal use, you may be looking at those seeds and wondering if you should plant them? What would happen if you collected all the seeds and then tried to plant them?
Some seeds would germinate, and others would not. But when you are trying to cultivate seeds from a cannabis strain that has been prone to seedy weed, you would not want to grow plants that had the same properties. That would be lower quality cannabis. And you’d be stuck with more seeds. No one wants to reproduce a mediocre hybrid.
What Happens if You Smoke Cannabis With Seeds In It?
It’s cheap. Maybe you are thinking of just throwing it into the grinder and packing your bowl to see what happens? Well, unfortunately, when you incinerate seeds, you are changing the chemistry quite a lot. And while they can produce psychoactive and physiological effects (you will still get high), they can also produce some side-effects.
Both cannabis seeds and stems should be picked out and not consumed. They both contain cellulose, which burns at a hotter temperature than marijuana flowers. And that cellulose, when incinerated, produces carcinogenic toxins (cancer-causing). It makes the smoke hotter and harsher on your respiratory tract.
Some of the other side-effects that patients have experienced when smoking weed seeds are:
- Gastrointestinal and abdominal pain
- Sore Throat
Finally, if you do happen to roll some cannabis seeds in your cone, it’s going to freak you out a little bit—the seeds pop and crackle. Very loudly when you incinerate them, it’s kind of feels like taking a drag off a lit firecracker. No thanks!
What Do I Do With Cannabis Seeds If I Can’t Smoke Them?
Just because cannabis seeds are not ideal for smoking doesn’t mean that they will go to waste. There are other ways you can repurpose them after you separate or sift them from your bud.
Try placing stems and seeds on a baking tray in the oven for about 40 minutes to decarboxylate the cannabis. That activates it. Then, you can grind them up and use them to create a tea or a cannabis-infused butter. You can even add it to your flour if you want to bake some buzz-worthy edibles at home.
Another cool idea for seeds and stems is to add them (after decarboxylation) to a liqueur. You’ve seen vodka’s with hot peppers in the bottle, right? Same thing! You can place them into a bottle of vodka or whisky for a week and then filter them out. Repeat this process every week for a few months to build up the THC content in the alcohol.
You check your medical dispenary and the price is so discounted, it's really tempting. But the disclaimer about seeded weed should make you think twice.