Industrial hemp is an incredibly useful plant with great agricultural potential. Unfortunately, it’s also been subject to many myths and misconceptions all around the world. Even though the use of the plant has been documented back to 8,000+ BCE, hemp is still banned in many places in the world. Fortunately, times are changing, and the first step to repairing the misunderstood reputation of hemp is to educate people on what it truly is versus what it isn’t. To do so, we’re going to take a look at a few common myths about industrial hemp.
Myth: Industrial hemp is marijuana
Although both marijuana and industrial hemp are members of the cannabis family, they are two different plants. When it comes down to the taxonomy of the plants, industrial hemp is classified as cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. Sativa, while marijuana and medical cannabis is sativa subsp. indica. Practically, however, the plants look quite different when cultivated, look different, and are distinguished by the levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid that they contain. One way to look at cannabis is to compare it to corn. There are many varieties of corn, some of which are good as food, and other kinds that are awful to eat but are great for creating ethanol fuel.
Myth: Industrial hemp can be used as a drug
The level of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in industrial hemp usually falls below .05% in cultivated industrial hemp and does not exceed 1%. This means you won’t get a high from smoking it even if you tried. Medical cannabis can contain anywhere between 3.5% to 25% THC. It takes specialised equipment to extract THC from industrial hemp, and when you pair that with the low levels of the compound, as we’ve mentioned, there is very little incentive to try to do so.
Myth: Marijuana crops are hidden in hemp fields
Aside from their chemical components, medical cannabis and hemp have physical distinctions, too. Industrial hemp can be grown very close together because the plants grow upward, looking rather tall and skinny. Medical cannabis is cultivated for its leaves, thus it takes on more of a bush-like structure. As a result, medical cannabis needs more room between plants when grown. Furthermore, the likelihood of marijuana being grown together with industrial hemp is slim because cross-pollination negatively impacts the THC content of the plants.