What’s the difference between hemp and cannabis?
Aesthetically, for someone that doesn’t know much about cannabis, it may be hard to tell the difference between hemp and cannabis. There are quite a few significant differences that we’re going to have a look at in this article. Stick around to find out everything you need to know about this curious and versatile plant.
The origins of hemp and cannabis
The origins of hemp and cannabis are very clearly intertwined, as they both form part of the same plant family, Cannabis Sativa. This special plant is believed to have originated in Central and South Asia, at around 10,000 BC. Cannabis had been growing naturally in the wild for thousands of years before humanity began to progressively study and find out its amazing properties. All cannabis plants used to be used to the same purposes, without distinguishing between hemp and cannabis.
Over the centuries, humanity began to give cannabis plants various different uses; plants began being chosen based on certain characteristics, and these two types of plants began to be used for two different purposes. One type began to be used for fiber and food, whereas the other type was soon grown in order to harvest its psychoactive flowers which were used in various different rituals as a medicinal treatment. Growing and domesticating cannabis with certain objectives in mind began at around 7000 BC, with a clear difference between medicinal and spiritual plants and plants used for fiber. They still didn’t have a scientific name for them, but these plants definitely had a clear purpose.
Cannabis plants slowly spread around the world, starting with central and south Asia – this was most likely due to humanity, and not a natural expansion or growth which can sometimes happen in nature. This is why we can now find cannabis plants, hundreds of years later, that can be grown in European climates such as the Iberian Peninsula.
This more or less explains the origins of hemp and cannabis, but it doesn’t tell us when they were first classified and when they received this name. The first time cannabis plants were ever classified was by a Swiss botanist called Carl Linnaeus, and he called it Cannabis Sativa L. The word “cannabis” still causes a bit of doubt when it comes to its origins; many cultures and languages have words similar to cannabis and it can be hard to figure out which one it comes from. The word “sativa” means grown, and many, many plant species include this Latin word in their official name. Years later, Jean Baptiste Lamarck discovered what we now know as Cannabis Indica.
Physical differences between hemp and cannabis
Hemp plants have very clear physical characteristics that differentiate them from other cannabis plants. These plants generally grow incredibly tall, and super slim – they can easily grow over 2m tall, and in many cases can reach up to 5m. Its leaves grow quite large, sort of palm-like, with average-sized to large folioles. They have wide distances between nodes, which can even grow to over 15cm in some cases. Their branches and trunks tend to be much denser, and have a higher fiber count than those of normal cannabis plants. The flowers that hemp plants grow aren’t that pretty, not like cannabis flowers; they’re more stretched out and you can tell that they don’t have much consistency to them – we definitely don’t recommend smoking them if you’re looking for any sort of psychoactive high.
The difference between growing hemp and cannabis
Hemp plants pretty much grow upwards and don’t produce wide side branches. If you want to harvest a decent amount of anything at all when it comes to hemp, you’ll need to grow an enormous amount of plants, between 50 and 100, depending on your objective; fiber, seeds or flowers. Logically, you’ll need to have quite a bit of land in order to grow this many plants. You’ll also need to grow them for at least 4 months before they begin to flower if you want to get worthwhile results.
Feeding is one of the most important things when it comes to growing hemp. Your main objective should be to produce non-psychoactive plants which can pass THC tests. If you don’t keep an eye on the feeding schedule and you feed them too much, they may produce too much THC and therefore not considered legal industrial hemp.
When growing industrial hemp, people don’t usually separate male and female plants, as both can be used to get the same materials – apart from hemp seeds.
Difference between hemp and cannabis uses
Hemp, as we’ve said before, is generally used for fiber, flowers and seeds with the intent to make various different products, foods and materials that we’re going to have a look at.
Products made out of hemp:
- Various kinds of clothes and fabrics: t-shirts, pants, shoes, curtains etc.
- Construction materials: bricks, thermal insulation, panels etc.
- Cosmetics: creams, oils, shampoos, etc.
- Food: water, hemp oil, hemp seeds, pasta, flour, animal feed etc.
- Medicinal CBD products: creams, CBD oils, flowers.
- Industrial materials included in various vehicle and machinery components.
As you can probably tell, hemp plants are used in their entirety and can be used to make an incredibly wide range of products, materials and medication; it’s one of the most versatile plants that currently exist in the world, and one of the few plants that can be used fully – not a single thing is thrown away from these plants.
However, cannabis plants are usually grown to produce medicinal or recreational flowers that are consumed – the rest of the plant isn’t usually used for anything else, as it doesn’t contain a particularly large amount of fiber.
Legality in Spain
The European Union is in charge of regulating and allowing industrial hemp growth in its territory, and it is allowed as long as the resulting harvested materials do not contain THC limits over the established amount. The limit is 0.2% THC when it comes to plant material analysis. Any harvest that goes above this number is considered illegal cannabis and can have legal consequences.
In order to avoid such situations, there’s only a certain amount of hemp strains that are allowed to be grown. There are around 30 legal strains that can be grown in Europe, known to conform to THC limits when grown right. You’ll need to keep in mind that THC content can also vary depending on climate conditions when growing or if they’re giving too heavy a diet. You’ll need to analyze the soil in which you’re planning to grow and take careful readings in all parameters to make sure you can successfully grow industrial hemp.
In Spain, growing, transporting, handling and elaborating hemp-based products is fully legal, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have any issues with the law if you grow them legally. There are various cases in which various crops have been taken due to the fact that they simply look like THC-producing plants, without being analyzed. Nobody was actually charged, but they will never get those plants back.