Fiction Vs. Fact – Busting Industrial Hemp Myths

Industrial hemp has long been a victim of myths that  contributed to it being banned in many countries. Times are changing, but some myths still persist and will continue to do so for a while – so if you know of people who are misinformed, do them a favour by sharing this page.

Industrial hemp vs. marijuana
(L) Industrial Hemp (sativa) – H. Zell | (R) Marijuana (indica) – Axsadi Sánchez de Tagle

Myth: Industrial Hemp is Marijuana

Fact: It isn’t. However, industrial hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family. Industrial hemp is cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa, and marijuana (and medical cannabis) is sativa subsp. indica. When cultivated, the plants look quite different, are grown differently and importantly, industrial hemp has very low levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC.

The situation with cannabis is much like it is with other crops used by humanity. For example, there are varieties of corn that are good to eat and others that are absolutely awful, but are great for creating ethanol fuel.

Myth : Marijuana Is Female Cannabis And Hemp Is Male

Fact: Again, they are different plants as described above, the sex of the plant has nothing to whether a plant is one or the other.

Myth: Industrial Hemp Can Be Used As A Recreational Drug

Fact: Nope. You could smoke industrial hemp until the cows come home and the best you’ll is get a headache for your efforts. The level of THC (the psychoactive component) is usually below .05% in cultivated industrial hemp and doesn’t exceed 1%. In marijuana/medical cannabis; it can be anywhere from 3.5% (considered still quite weak) to as high as 25%.

Myth: Marijuana Crops Are Hidden In Hemp Fields

Fact: Any marijuana grower who attempts to cultivate it in a field of cannabis is in for a rude shock as cross-pollination between hemp and marijuana negatively impacts the THC level of the marijuana plants.

Industrial hemp is also grown quite differently to hemp in that it is planted very close together (4-5 inches apart), whereas marijuana needs a fair bit of space in an outdoors situation (4 – 5 feet apart). Industrial hemp also grows tall and skinny whereas medical marijuana is more of a bush-like structure (see image above). Given the differences in growing practices, marijuana cultivated within a hemp field would be very easy to see from the air and you’d certainly be able to tell the difference if you stumbled upon it.

Myth: THC Can Be Extracted From Hemp For Recreational Use

Fact: Given the very low levels of THC as we’ve mentioned, it’s not worth the bother – plus specialised equipment needs to be used. There’s simply no economic attraction or case otherwise for extracting THC from industrial hemp. It would be a little like trying to extract opioids from poppy seeds.

Myth: Ditch Weed Eradication Is Important In The War On Drugs

Fact: “Ditch weed” is the feral descendant of industrial hemp grown in the USA prior to prohibition in the 20th century. Like cultivated industrial hemp, it has zero recreational value and aside from being a weed, is harmless. There’s far better ways for the U.S government to spend its (taxpayers) money than chasing and destroying ditchweed.

Myth : Industrial Hemp Is The Thin Edge Of The Wedge For Legalising Marijuana

Fact: With it now well established what industrial hemp is and isn’t, it remains a rather large jump to marijuana being legalised as well. It’s a bit like saying tomato plants being legal helps tobacco to remain so. Both tomato and tobacco have nicotine (and are both members of the nightshade family), but in the case of the tomato, it’s very small amounts and the tomato’s primary use, like hemp, certainly isn’t the smoking of it.

Myth: Industrial Hemp Normalises Recreational Marijuana Use

Fact:  As more people become aware of the differences between the two plants, they will increasingly be perceived as being different. All the demonising of industrial hemp has done has deprived economies of a very useful plant, while illicit marijuana trade went on regardless – and will continue to do so.

Myth: CBD Is An Addictive Drug

Fact: While hemp is low in THC, it can be high in cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid being pursued for its therapeutic benefits. Cannabidiol has no psychoactive effects and therefore zero value for recreational use and abuse. There is no scientific literature whatsoever that even hints to the use of CBD potentially habit-forming or addictive.

So, Why All The Myths?

The start of the myths goes back to the 1900’s when hemp was seen as being too much of a competitor for other crops such as cotton and products including plastics – so the misinformation began. Issues concerning the plant became more complicated when some botanists lumped the plant in with “marihuana” – the way marijuana used to be spelled and still is in some legal documents.

All this confusion and deception ultimately led to industrial hemp and marijuana being considered the same plant in the USA and as such, a narcotic. This had a flow-on effect throughout much of the world, leading to cultivation being outlawed in many countries.

Governments, politicians and the misinformed have continued to perpetrate the myths, but are now being called to account.

While some myths may still be rampant, this new age of enlightenment regarding the crop will see them eventually fade out – but until then, you can play a role in these falsehoods being quashed for good by being a hemp myth-buster!

Learn more about this incredibly useful and lucrative crop.