Hemp: Marijuana Or Not Marijuana?

By David Hodes, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

 A 2011 study found that “marijuana and hemp are significantly differentiated at a genome-wide level,” further confusing hemp’s legal status.

Since the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill in December, 2018, significant attention has been paid to the differences between hemp and marijuana. Most reasoning comes down to the level of THC as the differentiating factor. But there is so much more going on here.

Hemp and marijuana are, in fact, two different plants in the same species of three different types of marijuana: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis.

According to the 2018 Farm Bill (which is still technically not in force yet), hemp is the cannabis sativa type of marijuana that has no psychoactive properties because of an extremely low level of THC. It’s why hemp products are generally legal, depending on various state laws.

But a recent government report concludes that marijuana and hemp are neither genetically identical nor genetically similar. And a 2011 Canadian study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that “marijuana and hemp are significantly differentiated at a genome-wide level.”

This new information only serves to further confuse what the government is trying to figure out about hemp’s legal status. If hemp is genetically not marijuana, then does that mean any hemp with any level of THC is not marijuana—and therefore, should not to be included as a Schedule 1 substance?


This new scientific information could have helped in the situation in Idaho on January 19, 2019, where an Oregon trucker was arrested for felony trafficking of marijuana carrying 6,701 pounds of hemp that the Idaho trooper said tested positive for THC with his field testing unit. His drug dog alerted to it as well.

The shipment was confiscated because the state said that hemp is marijuana, and since the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp was not in force yet, the state could confiscate the shipment and arrest the driver for interstate transportation of a controlled substance.

But what about the genetic differences? Could this new scientific information about marijuana and hemp being genetically different become the basis of a more informed argument for the defense of what constitutes marijuana and what constitutes hemp?

But the plot thickens!


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