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What is Cannabis?

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Cannabis is the generic term applied to all members of the cannabis sativa L. plant genus. When talking about CBD, the term most often refers to hemp, a member of this genus. However, the term is also applied to marijuana, which is infamous for its psychoactive properties due to the phytocannabinoid THC.

Cannabis itself is a member of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes hops, common hops, hackberries, trema orientalis, and aphananthe aspera. Cannabis plants produce annual, flowering herbs. Additionally, all known strains of cannabis are wind-pollinated.

So what is the difference between hemp and marijuana, undoubtedly the two most popular (and commodifiable) forms of cannabis?

Hemp vs. Marijuana

“CBD is to hemp as THC is to marijuana.”

This is what we’ve been taught to believe when comparing the two plants. However, such a statement is not entirely true. Hemp and marijuana both contain CBD and THC, although to varying degrees. Other factors set these plants apart as well.

Hemp and marijuana both derive from the plant family cannabis sativa, but even novice eyes can tell the difference between the two. Hemp is skinny with shiny leaves. Marijuana is thick with bushy leaves.

Looks aside, what truly differentiates these two forms of cannabis is their chemical compositions. While “CBD is to hemp as THC is to marijuana” is somewhat misleading, it does have something to it: hemp produces much higher quantities of CBD and marijuana produces much higher quantities of THC.

Hemp naturally produces high amounts of CBD while only producing about 0.3% THC. Hemp alone could not get you high, but marijuana can contain up to 30% or more THC by dry weight. This is why hemp is considered a legal, commodifiable good and why it’s the source for the majority of CBD products on the market. The only marijuana-derived CBD products are strains of medicinal marijuana that are specifically cultivated with high amounts of CBD, but they still possess large quantities of THC as well, inducing psychoactive effects.

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