Cannabis Corner What about hemp?

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FEATURED | Cannabis Corner

By Marcella McClure

Hello Readers,

I haven’t written in the last month because I broke my clavicle, but I am feeling a lot better so it is time to write again.

Before my clavicle leave I wrote about two species of the genus Cannabis: sativa and indica. You may be asking yourself, where does hemp fit into this? Well, sequencing the DNA of hemp showed that it is a strain of sativa, the only one of its kind. Hemp is a special type of cannabis, and has very different properties from all other cannabis plants. Hemp does not look like any other type of cannabis: it grows very tall and skinny with only a few flowers on top. It has been used worldwide for fiber and textiles for thousands of years. The Founding Fathers brought hemp seeds with them so they could have cloth for sails. It is still used as a fiber for textiles, and it’s also being developed as biofuel. In many parts of the world today, hemp is used to detoxify contaminated soils. These plants are then destroyed as they are full of toxins and have no further use.

Contrary to what you may have heard, hemp is not a good source for the medicinal compounds of cannabis. In fact, it has so little CBD that it takes tons of hemp to extract any appreciable amount of CBD. Prior to 2018 this was a big problem. Unscrupulous people imported tons of hemp used to decontaminate soil in other countries and used it to extract CBD to sell. This was a cheap source of CBD,the type found in a truck stop, grocery store or online. Of course, this extracted and concentrated CBD also contained any toxin that the hemp had absorbed from contaminated soil. Testing of CBD from multiple sources quickly revealed that many samples did not contain any CBD or too little to be effective, and most samples had pesticides, toxins and/or metals in them. These quickly disappeared from the open market and they were never in legal dispensaries in California because they would not pass the strict testing required by law.

Some people grew hemp in clean soil but they soon learned that the low amount of CBD in the plant made it inefficient and costly to grow. This type of hemp is now referred to as industrial hemp and is not for human or animal consumption.

Then something amazing happened.

The federal Farm Bill of 2018 made it legal to grow hemp for commercial purposes in the USA, so now there is a growing industrial hemp enterprise in the USA. The Farm Bill did not make it legal to extract any medicinal compounds from hemp, although the media hype on CBD would lead most people to believe that this is a federally legalized substance. CBD is just as illegal as THC and any other cannabis product at the federal level. Only the FDA can approve CBD as a food supplement and to date that has not occurred.

The Farm Bill allowed something else that the legislators did not realize at the time the bill was passed. With pressure from the cannabis lobby, those who wrote the Farm Bill made a new definition of hemp. Hemp is now legally defined as cannabis that has less than 0.3 percent THC. The logic being used is simple and a bit deceptive at the same time. Science has shown that hemp is a strain of cannabis, species sativa, with low THC. So any cannabis with 0.3 percent THC or less is now called hemp. It is federally legal to grow hemp in the USA again. It is not federally legal to grow cannabis, which by definition has greater than 0.3 percent THC, in the USA. Illogical, Mr. Spock!

And thus, without much fanfare, legislators used The Farm Bill of 2018 as the first step in federal legalization of cannabis.

Recasting low-THC cannabis as hemp opened the door to breed low-THC strains of cannabis with the full spectrum of cannabinoids and their accompanying entourage, the terpenes. Cannabis that has less than 0.3 percent THC is called medicinal hemp and it is legal to grow under federal law. This is the new source of medicinal cannabis for those who do not want the cannabis “high.” There is a caveat, however, to medicinal hemp as a source of low-THC products. Random testing has shown that products obtained via the internet and from other unregulated places often have less CBD than stated and much more THC than the 0.3 percent limit. Only those medicinal hemp products obtained through regulated, legal dispensaries are tested to insure they are what they claim to be as far as purity and contents.

Please remember neither industrial hemp nor its products are approved by the FDA for human consumption. Medicinal hemp is just low- THC cannabis. Federally, CBD from medicinal hemp is just as illegal as THC. For your own safety, only obtain CBD products for consumption from legal dispensaries.

Next time I will cover whether or not CBD is good for all things at all levels. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true.

And remember: save the holy weed from the damn greed.

Marcella McClure

About Marcella McClure

After a successful career as scientist, Dr. Marcella McClure moved to Salinas to enjoy the weather and the people. She enjoys gardening, hiking on beach dunes and rock crawling.