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Hemp, Cannabis, Marihuana….An Identity Crisis

By Mark Goldfogel

One of the many absurdities in the Cannabis Industry is the relationship between hemp and cannabis.

The simplest answer to the question, “What is the difference between hemp and cannabis? Is… Yes.” Now for the more complicated answer.

Hemp is cannabis. They are both the same species. What’s more, hemp and cannabis can interbreed causing any number of variations that complicate an already absurd relationship. When the government decided to demonize cannabis, they adopted the slang word for the drug, marihuana (spelled like this). Marihuana is meant to represent the types of cannabis that can get you high, but even that is a misnomer.

When the Cannabis Industry started to organize, it was made clear that we should all refer to the industry as cannabis and not marijuana. Until recently, I never really understood why.

Defining what exactly is hemp

The government defines hemp in two ways.

  • It is cannabis with a THC content of .3 percent or below; and/or,
  • It is the version of cannabis used for industrial purposes like rope, t-shirts and oil that is not used to get you high.

The rub is that from a growing and processing standpoint there is no differentiation. So while it is legal to wear a hemp shirt or tie a hemp knot, it is not legal to grow it or process it. It is no more legal to grow, process, or distribute hemp than it is cannabis, or more specifically, marijuana.

Think of it like alcohol. Near beer may not contain any alcohol or trace amounts, but a minor or a vehicle driver can consume near beer without fear. But add alcohol from a wine spritzer to Mad Dog 20/20 and you have a whole different animal — even if it is the same species.

There has been a lot of press about CBD oils and their ability to have amazing medical impacts. The producers of CBD oil are quick to point out that it is made from hemp and not cannabis (actually marijuana) and so it has no psychotropic effects, like making you understand Pink Floyd lyrics or appreciate jam band music.

Because it does not contain more than the legal .3 percent that demonizes it as the evil weed, the makers of CBD oil freely ship anywhere in the country and boast of medical effects ranging from seizure and MS relief, to a good night sleep. The problem is that .3 percent may not be the ideal percentage of THC to best impact CBD for effect.

Hemp’s Achilles Heel

There is a big range from .3 percent which the government has deemed hemp, 15-30 percent which the industry finds worthy of a good buzz, and the 60-70 percent found in oils, shatters, waxes and other concentrates.

Some anecdotal studies show that a THC of around 1.5 percent has significantly more value than .3 percent when creating an effective CBD oil. But nobody is going to get any more appreciation for The Grateful Dead on 1.5 percent than they will on .3 percent. The government also has no minimum requirements of CBD in CBD oil, so its hard to tell what will heal and what is snake oil.

Add to this hemp’s major Achilles’ Heel: If it is grown in proximity to marijuana, it fertilizes the plant and ruins the crop. One hemp plant crashes the entire party for the THC crowd. A hemp crop can send pollen up to 10 miles downwind and make your neighbors hate you with a passion. Just what this industry needs… more infighting.

Yet another challenge is that the only difference between hemp and marijuana is the THC level, so there is no way to identify which is which when they are growing. Only a drug test of the plant reveals if the owner is brewing drugs or fiber.

Hemp remains every bit as Federally illegal as marijuana, and it all remains cannabis. But, there is no rational argument against hemp. It is a magnificent fiber, oil, concrete hardener, steel hardener, alternative fuel, and it has thousands of other uses, none of which can get you high. But according to the government, it is all a schedule 1 drug.

One of the things I have loved about being in the Cannabis Industry for the last five years is the ability to solve problems from a common sense perspective rather than political dogma. In this middle of this dogma is Great Dane called hemp, a member of the cannabis family that is so respectable that nobody wants to talk about it.

Mark Goldfogel is a self-confessed nerd who published software at the age of 17. He has held management positions at John Deere Corporation and director positions at ADP before opening a technology consulting company in Telluride, Colorado. Mark co-founded MJ Freeway, the cannabis industry’s first “Seed to Sale” point of sale system and then went on to become CEO and co-founder of C4EverSystems, the industry’s first cash management system. Mark currently is EVP Industry Relations for The Fourth Corner Credit Union, the first state chartered institution whose field of membership includes a common interest in cannabis and hemp. Mark is dedicated to helping humanity understand the benefits and responsibilities associated with this important plant. He can be reached at [email protected].


Mark Goldfogel

Mark Goldfogel

Mark Goldfogel is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and speaker. He is credited with having first proposed “Seed to Sale Tracking” as a means of diversion control, taxation, and health and human safety to the State of Colorado. He co-founded the cannabis industry’s first compliance inventory control system and was a key advisor to The Fourth Corner Credit Union, a financial institution with a banking charter to support the “Hemp and Cannabis Movement.” He has advised States, non-industry companies wishing to enter the industry, and startup companies capitalizing on the opportunities and avoiding the potholes of the budding cannabis industries. For a free copy of his book, Smoking Something, The Cannabis Paradox10, (Amazon $24.20) please send an email to [email protected]

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Consider the Cannabis, Hemp, Marijuana and the “distant cousin” nonsense and look at it more of an all girls school vs boys also being allowed in the field……

    Both Hemp and Cannabis or Marijuana are Cannabis sativa plants, legal cultivators such as myself (Wa) space our all female plants about 6′ apart in order to allow ample room for growth, with female Cannabis plants reaching about 5′- 8′ in height, growing nice and wide using a variety of techniques which maximize the THC producing, resin rich flowers.

    Hemp is cultivated to produce fiber, oils, seed, stalks, and thousands of products. Hemp production allows male plants, all are planted about 6” apart growing up, not out, and reaching 10′-15′ heights. While male plants do produce some flowers, not in the abundance which females do; hemp harvesting is done prior to flowering….

    Winds from Morocco easily carry Cannabis pollen into Spain disrupting Cannabis cultivation and pollinating those ripe female plants. Do any of us really know how far pollen, or insect carrying pollinators, can travel? We’re about to find out. Neighboring Oregon requires only a 5′ mile distance from licensed outdoor Cannabis production…perhaps they haven’t experienced Columbia River Gorge winds?

    I do concur with Mark’s previous article, specifically:

    “If this article has not scared you away from wanting to participate in this industry, I suggest you seek psychiatric care. But if you follow this advice, and don’t take yourself or your ideas too seriously, you have a chance to become the next great pot entrepreneur.  You may not be a millionaire overnight, but you will have taken part in history and you will have experiences that you will never forget. And, some of you might just make a few bucks along the way.”

    And this year promises to be even more volatile with about 6 farmers to every retail store, and more farms being approved daily, and no new retailers……who will be standing at the end of the year? 

    I believe that once Oregon gets up and operational it will seriously impact, and hopefully, improve the way Washington has botched just about everything…..things should settle down nicely in about 4 years….if we’re lucky!

    By the way, tomorrow is my 1 year licensed anniversary, or 10 years by Cannabis standards!

    This ain’t no Cake Walk!

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