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Cannabis vs. Hemp - What Is The Difference?

21/04/2020 2 MIN. READ Katharina Schweigert
21/04/2020 2 MIN. READ Katharina Schweigert

What is it all about?

You keep hearing the words cannabis and hemp – more often than the terms medical cannabis or industrial hemp. The ambiguity of these terms repeatedly leads to confusion, uncertainty and inaccuracy. However, there are notable differences.

For example, let’s take industrial hemp (“hemp”) and medical cannabis ("cannabis"), which today is legal and strictly regulated in Germany . Generally speaking, both plants fall under the same species – Cannabis sativa. To the ordinary person both plants look the same, or at least very similar – but there is a very important difference:

In Germany, medical cannabis must be grown under strict security measures, which are often in bunker-like facilities, fenced, and with 24-hour security. Cultivation is only permitted with a license, which is extremely hard to obtain and strictly regulated. Industrial hemp on the other hand, can be grown by farmers on ordinary land.

Why is this?

In contrast to medical cannabis, industrial hemp contains very small amounts of THC, less than 0.2%, and is therefore below the level that would categorize it as a narcotic. In addition to its uses for food and cosmetics, industrial hemp can also be used to produce fabrics and building materials, and is a resource that has been used for a very long time.

On the other hand, medical cannabis can contain over 20% THC, more or less depending on the form and strain, and is therefore regulated by the narcotics law.This means it can only be prescribed by doctors and then dispensed in a regulated manner by a pharmacist.

Since the cannabinoids found in industrial hemp, including CBD, are non-psychotropic (i.e. they won't make you high), this plant does not fall under the narcotics law – this goes as long as the THC content is guaranteed to fall under 0.2%. Therefore all products made of industrial hemp are also freely available for purchase.

The difference is an important one to know, but it is often mixed up in debate and discussions.

Differences within the plant

Another point few people know about is the presence of the active ingredients in the various parts of the plant. While the flowers of both varieties contain the most cannabinoids and terpenes, the stems and leaves are already much less 'potent', and the seeds (known from hemp seed oil) carry no detectable traces of cannabinoids and terpenes.

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