Hemp is a member of the cannabis family that is grown for different reasons than flowering marijuana. While marijuana is known for its medicinal purposes, hemp is grown for a wide variety of applications that are mostly centered around industrial uses such as making rope, clothing, paper, biodiesel fuels, industrial lubricants, varnishes and various construction materials.
One of the most important features that distinguishes hemp from traditional marijuana is its chemical makeup. While marijuana typically ranges from 5% to over 30% THC, hemp has an industry standard of 0.3% or less THC. If you were to attempt to smoke hemp, you would not actually achieve a “high” or any psychoactivity from it. In fact, the most common cannabinoid in hemp plants is CBD which is non-intoxicating. Due to the lack of THC, hemp can be utilized as a source for extracting CBD, which can in turn be infused into different supplements. Although the CBD may be beneficial, hemp may contain other more toxic chemicals depending on where it is grown.
From afar, hemp and marijuana can look similar; upon closer inspection, the differences become obvious. Hemp has thinner leaves than marijuana and grows taller, up to twenty feet with fewer branches and leaves growing below the top portion of the plant. The growing environment is different for these plants as well. While medical cannabis is often grown indoors with special attention paid to the growing medium and light source, hemp is grown outdoors as closely together as possible.
Despite the differences between medical marijuana and hemp, President Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that established both plants as banned drugs and created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Due to this, the majority of hemp is imported. This means that the exact chemical content of imported hemp cannot be known unless the soil in which the hemp was grown is tested. This information is important to know if the hemp is being grown for ingestion as the hemp plant is a phytoremediator.
Phytoremediation is the process of removing toxins from the soil via plant intervention. Hemp is an effective phytoremediator capable of pulling metals, pesticides, crude oils, and other toxins from the soil. Hemp grown in contaminated soil cannot be used for food or medicine, but it can still be distilled into ethanol for use as a biofuel.
This is why ingesting hemp supplements can be problematic when you do not know where the hemp was grown. Hemp grown to clean soil and later used in the creation of consumable products may result in contamination by heavy metals or other toxins that are hazardous to human health. Hemp has been used as a phytoremediator in extreme cases as well. For example, hemp is being grown at the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant to clean the soil of radioactivity.
To learn more about cannabis derived CBD, we suggest starting with our article What is CBD and How is it Different From THC?
Interested in learning more about using CBD treatments? Schedule a consultation with an expert. If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, contact the team at Arbors Wellness for a free consultation.