Hemp is not marijuana and will not get you ’high’. Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a commonly-used term for cannabis sativa plant strains that contain very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and are used for its fiber and seeds.
Industrial hemp and marijuana come from the same genus of flowering plant– cannabis. The term “genus” essentially refers to a sub-family of plants and not a single species. This means that there may be multiple types of the cannabis plant, which are all cannabis but have remarkable differences. So, in terms of scientific classification, multiple species can exist within a single genus, and that’s exactly the case with cannabis.
The genus of cannabis is thought to include three distinct species of the cannabis plant, namely Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
Cannabis sativa is the most common strain of cannabis. It has been cultivated throughout history for a number of purposes, including the production of seed oil, food, hemp fiber (for clothes and rope), medicine, and even recreation.
Cannabis ruderalis is a species native to Russia that flowers earlier and is able to withstand harsher conditions than Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. It is the hardiest of the three, but it is relatively poor in terms of cannabinoids as ruderalis has a lower THC content than either sativa or indica.
Cannabis indica was first discovered in India and is a cannabis species that is described as shorter and bushier than sativa. Problems with botanical taxonomy have led some scientists to still doubt the existence of Cannabis indica as a distinct species of cannabis.
In nature, Cannabis ruderalis typically has the lowest levels of THC, Cannabis sativa has a higher level of THC than it has CBD, and Cannabis indica has a higher level of CBD than it has THC. However, since man has been cultivating cannabis (and especially Cannabis sativa) for thousands of years, the effects of artificial selections have led to several different types of cannabis even within the same species, depending on the purpose the cannabis was cultivated for.
The Power of Artificial Selection
Cannabis has been cultivated by humans, for a variety of purposes, since antiquity. So it comes as no surprise that there are several different species and even different varieties within the species, depending on the purpose the plants were bred for. Through artificial selection, different species of cannabis have different properties–some have been used for medicinal purposes, others as food, and others to create clothes, ropes, and other items.
Industrial hemp is produced by strains of Cannabis sativa that have been cultivated to produce minimal levels of THC and are instead artificially selected and bred to grow taller and sturdier. This is done to enable the plant to be used effectively in the production of hemp oil, wax, resin, hemp seed food, animal feed, fuel, cloth, rope, and more. Industrial hemp is exclusively made from Cannabis sativa.
Medical marijuana is produced mainly from variants of Cannabis sativa that have been selectively bred to maximize their concentration in cannabinoids. Cannabis ruderalis is almost exclusively grown for medicinal purposes, as it naturally has very small quantities of THC .
Hemp-producing cannabis has tall, fibrous stalks that are very strong and have very few flowering buds. On the on the other hand, marijuana strains are short, bushy, and have high amounts of THC. In fact, industrial hemp and medical marijuana are so distinctively different that most laypeople wouldn’t be able to tell that they belong to the same genus of plants if they encountered them in the wild!
While marijuana is bred with the only purpose of maximizing its THC concentration, industrial hemp always has trace amounts of THC and naturally occurring high amounts of CBD (it has the highest CBD/THC ratio of all cannabis strains, even Cannabis ruderalis) This means that industrial hemp’s chemical profile makes it incapable of inducing intoxicating effects and getting you “high” from ingesting it.