Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp: Why Confusion Abounds

It’s not uncommon for Medical Cannabis patients to use terms like ‘cannabis’, ‘marijuana’, and ‘hemp’ interchangeably. It can easily lead to confusion. Throw in discussions on THC and CBD and things get even more confusing. There is a reason for this: people just don’t understand the terms.

An incredibly wise person once said that the key to having difficult discussions is to define your terms and avoid pronouns. Regardless though, defining the terms is important when you’re talking about Medical Marijuana.

For example, cannabis and hemp are not two separate plants. Neither are hemp and marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are both species of cannabis sativa. The biggest differences between the two are the amount of THC they contain and the viability of their seeds.

The Federal THC Threshold for Hemp

Hemp and Medical Cannabis are both legally allowed in Utah. Most of the hemp grown in the state is grown for industrial use. Whether for industrial, medical, or personal use, growers have to abide by the federal THC threshold.

Federal law defines hemp as cannabis sativa plants with a THC content of 0.3% or less. This is achieved through breeding. As long as a plant’s THC profile comes in under the threshold, it’s fine. If it exceeds it though, it is no longer hemp – it is marijuana.

According to a 2019 article published by the Salt Lake Tribune, authorities destroyed more than 16,300 plants that year because they came in above the 0.3% limit. In the industry, this is what’s known as ‘testing hot’. Licensed growers cannot grow hot plants without a separate license. And even at that, doing so is for medical applications only.

The THC and CBD Question

A few months ago, we published a blog post discussing the main differences between CBD and THC. Those differences mean everything when it comes to classifying Medical Cannabis products. Still, both CBD and THC are medically viable, which is to say they can both be used as medicines.

So what happens to hemp that is grown for medicinal purposes? It is sent to processors who extract the THC and CBD. These extractions are subject to the same federal threshold. Extractors who produce products with more than 0.3% THC content are now producing Medical Cannabis products.

They can do a lot more with CBD. This explains why there are so many CBD-infused products on the market. And yet those products are often confused with Medical Cannabis products because many people don’t know the difference between CBD and THC.

A Lack of Solid Education

What it really boils down to is a lack of solid education. People just don’t know the terms. This is true on so many levels. From legislators to retailers and consumers, a lot of people don’t clearly understand the finer points of cannabis, hemp, marijuana, THC, and CBD.

As long as the Beehive State has agreed to legalize Medical Marijuana, it’s probably a good idea to follow up with a more robust educational program. Maybe it’s time to start teaching this stuff in our schools. It is definitely time to begin educating doctors and pharmacists.

We’ve learned a lot about Medical Cannabis and hemp over the last couple of years. There is still a lot more to learn though. Education is the key. The more we know about the many benefits of the cannabis plant, the better prepared we will be to use it to our full advantage.

Cannabis has been cultivated for industrial and other purposes for thousands of years. You would think that there would be little confusion as a result. But sadly, this is not the case. People cannot properly define the terms, and until they can, there will be this confusion.

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Published April 29, 2021

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