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Hemp, Marijuana and CBD – Weeding Out the Differences


Cannabis has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for centuries. For example, a recent National Geographic article placed the earliest known use by humans at around 2,500 years ago in Central Asia. You are probably familiar with marijuana, which is known primarily for its psychotropic properties. This plant has much more to offer, however, than just a temporary break from reality. Letʼs dig a little deeper to discover the various forms of the cannabis plant and how they are used in society today.

Marijuana is probably what most individuals think of when presented with the term cannabis. Simply put, this is the version of the plant typically inhaled or ingested to produce a high. The chemical responsible for this high is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is only one of several chemical components found in the cannabis plant, collectively known as cannabinoids. As we will see a bit later, cannabinoids are not all created equal, and their distinctions can bring forth dramatically different results. Marijuana is known by a multitude of names, but THC content is the deciding factor when it comes to its illegality.

Hemp is derived from the exact same plant, cannabis, as marijuana – but the hemp-producing strains contain a lower percentage of THC (0.3 percent or less). The lack of THC in the plant drastically reduces or eliminates its ability to cause psychotropic effects. Durable and fast-growing, hemp is a major player in the sustainable agriculture industry – its physical properties make it ideal for use in paper productions and textiles. While the cultivation of hemp is technically legal in Tennessee, there are strict limitations placed on the practice, and specific licensure is required.

CBD (cannabidiol) is another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it is derived directly from the hemp-producing strain of the plant, and therefore does not cause the psychotropic effect, or high, that marijuana elicits. While there is impressive evidence suggesting CBD to be helpful in managing some childhood seizure disorders, there is also ample risk of exaggerated claims of health benefits as the substance has not yet been thoroughly studied.

Medically, legally and socially, the cannabis plant has long been a catalyst for conversation, debate, innovation and discovery. As the legal landscape evolves and more research is conducted, we are sure to learn even more about its fascinating properties.