Hemp: marijuana or not marijuana?


Since the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill In December 2018, much attention was paid to the differences between hemp and marijuana. Most of the considerations relate to the level of THC as a differentiating factor. But there is so much more going on here.

Hemp and marijuana are in fact two different plants of the same species from three different strains of marijuana: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis.

According to the 2018 Farm Bill (which is technically not yet in force), hemp is the cannabis sativa type of marijuana that has no psychoactive properties due to an extremely low THC content. Because of this, hemp products are usually legal, subject to various state laws.

But A recent government report concludes that marijuana and hemp are neither genetic identical or genetically similar. A 2011 Canadian study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that “marijuana and hemp are significantly differentiated from one another at the genome-wide level”.

RELATED: Is Shipping Hemp Really Worth the Risk?

This new information is only intended to further confuse what the government is trying to find out about the legal status of hemp. If hemp is not genetically marijuana, does that mean that hemp with a THC content is not marijuana – and therefore shouldn’t be included as a List 1 substance?

This new scientific information could have helped the situation in Idaho on January 19, 2019, when an Oregon trucker was arrested for trafficking 6,701 pounds of hemp in marijuana, which the Idaho soldier said was positive with his field test unit has been tested for THC. His drug dog also warned against it.

Photo by TinaKru via Pixabay

The shipment was seized because the state said hemp was marijuana, and since the 2018 Hemp Legalization Act was not yet in place, the state was able to seize the shipment and arrest the driver for transporting a controlled substance between states.

But what about the genetic differences? Could this new scientific information that marijuana and hemp are genetically different be the basis for a more informed case in defense of what makes marijuana and what makes hemp?

But the plot gets thicker!

With the 2018 Farm Bill, regulatory developments related to the cultivation and transportation of hemp were transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is currently working on finalizing these rules. For this reason, the new rules for legalizing hemp are not yet officially in place. Creating these rules will not be easy.

RELATED: Why The DEA’s Temporary Rule About Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids Is Bad For The Industry

ONE Draft Provisional Final Rule for domestic hemp production by the USDA shows what the USDA expects. It has been suggested that plants grown from the same hemp seeds planted in one state may have different THC levels when planted in a different state.

This means that hemp grown in one state can be marijuana, while hemp grown from the same seeds in another state can still be hemp.

The USDA also has an acceptable margin of error for the THC content in a hemp sample. Hemp must be tested in the laboratory in one of 44 Laboratories Registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to determine THC levels (DEA registration is required as tests may determine that the sample is indeed marijuana).

Photo by Nastasic / Getty Images

The USDA draft states that “measuring the uncertainty” of a laboratory is acceptable. This means that a hemp sample that tests the allowable THC content of 0.3% in a hemp sample will instead give 0.35% if the laboratory measurement of the uncertainty is plus or minus 0.06%. This means that a THC level of 0.35 percent is okay as it is in the upper end of a range that ends at 0.41% (0.35 + 0.06%).

RELATED: The Hemp Standard Is 0.3% THC – And That Should Be Changed

This sample, which is actually marijuana because it is above 0.3% THC, is approved as hemp under USDA laboratory guidelines.

Understood? Please wait.

Yet another hemp-not-marijuana-but-seems-like-marijuana crease has popped up, also from genetic research tDiscovered that hemp plants can actually produce higher levels of THC through their own genetics, and not in Environmental conditions (Drought, flood, excess, nutrients and other conditions) as originally thought. Hemp can turn into marijuana.

So many questions … too few answers. More research is needed. Bottom Line: This is an intricate, amazing plant – and giggling Mother Nature is not so easy to reveal its secrets.


Beth Edmonds