The Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana

A truck pulls over at a weigh station at the East Boise Port of Entry in Idaho. During a routine check, state troopers open the trailer and find a green, leafy substance inside – almost 7,000 pounds of it. The trucker is arrested for marijuana trafficking; only he says it’s not marijuana. It’s hemp.

True story. It happened on January 24th, 2019.

Big Trouble

In serious trouble now, the 36-year-old driver has been charged with a felony. He’s caught in the middle, and his future is at risk. If found guilty, he could spend up to five years in prison.

He was bringing the plants from Oregon to Colorado. Big Sky Scientific, the company that shipped the load, claims it’s legal hemp. But Idaho police say they were sure it was marijuana, and when an on-the-spot test for THC came back positive, they knew they were right.

Hemp won’t get you high, but it does contain about 0.3% THC. The marijuana plant, on the other hand, typically has anywhere between 15 and 30% of the psychoactive compound, depending on the strain.

The trouble is, Idaho law says that any substance that tests positive for any amount of THC is illegal.

But Isn’t Hemp Legal Now?

It doesn’t matter that the cultivation of hemp was made legal in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Idaho State Journal says that’s because the bill gives states a choice, and right now in Idaho, the sale and transport of hemp plants are still banned.

That means anyone caught doing it there will be arrested.     

Big Sky Scientific has launched a lawsuit against Idaho State Troopers. It wants its hemp back and an admission of wrongdoing. Idaho is now testing the seized cargo to find out what it really is.

We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. In the meantime, this story raises an important question: what is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Cannabis Cousins

Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants, but they are also very different.

The main difference, as already mentioned, is the THC content. The Ministry of Hemp says your lungs will fail long before you can get high from smoking industrial hemp.

Hemp contains CBD, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and analgesic properties. It’s quickly gaining momentum has a valid medical treatment in North America and beyond.   

The way the two plants are cultivated is significantly different too. Hemp is very low-maintenance and can grow just about anywhere. Marijuana is often grown in controlled environments.

Marijuana is used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Meanwhile, there are thousands of uses for hemp. From textiles and building materials to food, fuel, health foods, and so much more, hemp plants are a sustainable option.

Long classified as a schedule 1 drug by the DEA, the tides are changing when it comes to hemp across most of the US.

Just maybe not in Idaho…yet.

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.