Hemp, Cannabis, Marijuana - What’s the Difference?
by Carl Lehrburger
Confused about the legal status of cannabis and cannabis-derived products? You’re not alone.
To understand the benefits and contradictory legal status of the incredible cannabis plant one has to wade through a myriad of misconstrued biology and science, inconsistent federal and state laws, morality- and prejudice-based public policies and Big Pharma lobbied federal criminal codes. With some form of cannabis legalization now in effect in over half of the states, what is one to think since marijuana remains illegal under federal law?
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three species: sativa, indica and ruderalis. For thousands of years our ancestors have used the cannabis plant for fiber, food and medicine. Selective breeding of this extremely adaptable plant has produced different cannabis varieties. In modern history, so-called industrial or agricultural hemp strains have been bred with minimal or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to satisfy modern day narcotics laws prohibiting this psychoactive component.
The Cannabis plant is unique among the plant kingdom with over 100 different cannabinoids, chemical compounds that are processed by specialized receptors in our bodies. The two most studied cannabinoids are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Marijuana strains have been bred to produce maximum amounts of THC. Under federal law, THC is illegal. CBD is considered legal in all 50 states because it isn’t psychoactive. However, even if a CBD product containing THC is or is not be legal in a specific state, it remains technically illegal under federal law.
The word marijuana is a recently invented name for Cannabis, circa the early 20th century, to emphasize racial stereotypes of users. “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” according to Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. During congressional testimony he is quoted as saying, “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage." Anslinger’s predisposition against Cannabis succeeded in 1937 when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which prohibited Cannabis in the United States.
Even though marijuana is now segmented into “recreational” and “medical” in many states, it is included on the list of Schedule I drugs defined by the U.S. Controlled Substances Act as the most dangerous category of drugs that cannot be prescribed by a physician. This makes the estimated 30 million U.S. marijuana users criminals under federal law.
Enter CBD, the cannabinoid recently popularized by the Charlotte’s Web strain of Cannabis, proven to treat childhood epilepsy and many other medical disorders. Unlike marijuana cultivated for THC, industrial hemp is primarily cultivated for its fiber and seeds and more recently for its dominant cannabinoid, CBD. Distinguished from THC-rich marijuana, industrial hemp is required by state laws to contain less than 0.3% THC by weight.
We now know that the human brain comes equipped with cannabinoid receptors, which allow humans to utilize cannabinoids. 19th and early 20th century pharmacies offered over-the-counter products containing different extracts of the two major cannabis strains, sativa and indica. Indica strains have higher THC content while sativa strains are rich in CBD. The reported medical benefits of cannabinoids are one of the many compelling drivers changing the political debate beyond the controversy of recreational marijuana. In addition to 28 states that allow cultivation of industrial hemp, four states now recognize recreational marijuana, 24 states recognize medical marijuana and 17 states recognize CBD as medicine.
In spite of the many medical marijuana state laws and world-wide research and documentation of the medical benefits of Cannabis, the U.S. government confirmed existing federal law in July 2016: “Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States”; also noting that “the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.” Among the hundreds of qualified experts as well as peer-reviewed evidence supporting the medical benefits of cannabinoids, the Israeli Army has been successfully using Cannabis, including prescribing it for post-traumatic stress disorder.
As we begin to emerge from Cannabis prohibition, “slicing and dicing” the miraculous Cannabis plant is nearly complete. Law enforcement seeking to feed the prison system, moralists against “the pursuit of happiness”, the pharmaceutical industry opposing competition from a natural medicine, and of course state and municipal tax collectors seeking their slice of the Cannabis pie – all of these special interests are creating a false perception. Call it whatever you want, it’s all the same plant!
Carl Lehrburger is an author and co-founder of PureHemp Technology, processors of the whole hemp plant. For more information on “What’s the Difference?”, contact . Our affiliated company, Pure Kind Botanicals™ is extracting cannabinoids from agricultural hemp for consumer use. You are invited to visit www.purekindbotanicals.com to check out their full-spectrum cannabinoid oil and CBD isolate products.
"Evolution of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Content during the Growth of Cannabis sativa Plants from Different Chemotypes” Journal of Natural Products. 79 (2): 324–331.
Attributed to Anslinger by many sources, including "Gore Files." Reefer Madness video. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan 2012. http://reefermadnessmuseum.org/chap10/Gore.htm Known for anti-drug propaganda the Gore File are stories Anslinger created about marijuana users. See: https://scienceleadership.org/blog/America_VS_Mary_Jane
The JAMA Network Journals. "Marijuana use more than doubles from 2001 to 2013; increase in use disorders too." Science Daily, 21 October 2015. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151021114956.htm
Scientific American “Can Cannabis Treat Epileptic Seizures?” January 22, 2016. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-cannabis-treat-epileptic-seizures/
Scholastic, “The Science of the Endocannabinoid System: How THC Affects the Brain and the Body.” 2011. http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/endocannabinoid
Also Wikipedia, “Cannabinoid receptor” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabinoid_receptor
TruthOnPot.com, “Indica vs. Sativa: What’s the Difference”, March 15, 2016. http://www.truthonpot.com/2016/03/14/indica-vs-sativa-whats-the-difference/
NCSL, State Medical Marijuana Laws, 4/18/2016. http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx
NCSL, ibid, Table 2. See also: “Overview of US Medical Marijuana Law” Nov 26, 2015. http://www.medicalmarijuanainc.com/overview-of-u-s-medical-marijuana-law/
DEA, Department of Justice, “Denial of Petition to Initiate Proceedings to Reschedule Marijuana” 21 CGR Chapter II, Docket No. DEA-426, July 19, 2016.
Israel 21C. “Uncovering Israel, Marijuana could alleviate symptoms of PTSD.” http://www.israel21c.org/marijuana-could-alleviate-symptoms-of-ptsd/