Can you Smoke it?
This is invariably the first question I get when people find out we have a Hemp farm. It’s asked in a fun way but it does signal the huge lack of information and awareness about what exactly Industrial Hemp is. Now this confusion begins with the fact that Industrial Hemp and Cannabis/ Marijuana possess only one real differentiating factor and that is the presence of or lack thereof of Tetrahydrocannabinoids or THC for short.
This is the ‘psycho-active’ substance in Marijuana that gets you high or stoned or whatever you want to call it. In hydroponically grown marijuana typical THC levels will be over 20%, with some as high as 35%.
“The difference is in its use. Hemp and Marijuana both come from the same plant - Cannabis Sativa L. The term 'Hemp' commonly refers to the industrial/commercial use of the cannabis stalk and seed for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials. The term 'marijuana' refers to the medicinal, recreational or spiritual use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. Industrial hemp contains only about 0.3% - 1.5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids, the intoxicating ingredients that make you high) while marijuana contains about 5% - 10% or more THC. Hemp fibre is the longest, strongest and most durable of all natural fibres. Hemp cultivation requires no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. Grown in rotation with other crops such as corn and legumes, hemp farming is completely sustainable.” HEMPETHICS
Industrial Hemp generally has a THC level of less than 3% in most countries. In others, like Australia that allowable level is less than 1%. In Australia, all hemp crops THC levels are checked and monitored by state government agencies that come who actually test all crops near the end of their growing cycle. Levels above the legislated levels will be forward to the local authorities and the grower’s license will be revoked with the possible laying of formal charges for the cultivation of a prohibited substance. In Tasmania, The Poppy Board act as the testing agents and forward the test results through to the licensing bodies within the Dept. of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment.
There has been an unfounded concern on the part of Government Agencies that Industrial Hemp would/could be grown as a cover for Cannabis/ Marijuana. The idea that someone would go through all the licensing requirements and then actively promote government agencies coming onto their properties and testing THC levels would sound a bit ‘un-criminal’ like to me. The other issue with this is that it would be like growing lime trees in the middle of lemon trees. The difference in varaties would be visually obvious and ultimately you would get some degree of cross pollination and hybridisation between the two varieties. So you would ultimately end up with something not great to smoke but perhaps more interesting to eat? :)
Interestingly, the miss information that surrounds Industrial Hemp can be attributed to the bias of Government and Media. There have also been considerable intervention from competing industries like the Cotton Industry. The Cotton Industry is one of the worst polluters and water users in large scale agriculture. It is easy to see why they might view a competing fibre plant that requires no chemical intervention and far less water to produce viable crops as a potential threat to their industry.
"Cotton: One of the biggest downsides to cotton is how much pesticides are used to grow the plant. Although organic cotton farming is beginning to catch on a bit more, the production of cotton worldwide takes up about 25% of the world’s pesticide use. The other unfortunate factor is that these chemicals can end up being absorbed into our skin as we wear clothing.
Hemp: The beauty of hemp is that it requires no pesticides to grow. In fact, it doesn’t require any chemicals at all to grow. The growing nature of the plant competes with weeds and over-powers their ability to sustain themselves. This allows the hemp plant to grow freely and quickly." Collective Evolution
Perhaps in an effort to separate and define Industrial Hemp and to mitigate public confusion we could move to discuss ‘Hemp’ as being the low THC variety used for food and fibre production and ‘Cannabis’ as the high THC Marijuana variety. Until we get some clarification on the terms surrounding this ancient and amazing plant I feel the public education process will be slow and serve to further frustrate those wanting to see Hemp become an important Agricultural crop for all of its potential benefits to humanity.