The Difference Between Industrial Hemp and Consumer Hemp

Is there a difference between industrial and consumer hemp? We explain the common misconception and dive into what hemp really is.

hemp plants in a field in sunrise Source: iStock

Whether you call it industrial or consumer, the term hemp refers to the same thing. Hemp is cannabis and cannabis is hemp.

The only differentiating feature is THC content. Cannabis containing more than 0.3 percent THC is not legally considered hemp.

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What is Industrial Hemp?

Legally, hemp is defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

That means that any legitimate hemp product in the United States has these two features:

  • It comes from the Cannabis sativa L. plant
  • It contains 0.3 percent or less THC

The legal definition also makes it clear that the term hemp includes all possible products made from Cannabis sativa L. containing .3 percent THC or less. That includes an incredible variety of products with uses in almost every major industry.

How is Industrial Hemp Used?

Hemp can be used to produce thousands of products. Here are some of its many uses categorized by plant part.

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Hemp Seeds and Their Derivatives

  • Baked goods
  • Confectionaries
  • Cosmetic products
  • Animal foods
  • Dietary supplements
  • Industrial oils

Fibers From Hemp Bark

  • Plastics
  • Specialty papers
  • Construction fiberboard
  • Biodegradable landscaping
  • Plant culture products
  • Coarse textiles (carpets and upholstery)
  • Fine textiles (clothing)

Hemp Stem Cores

  • Animal bedding
  • Thermal insulation
  • Construction materials (fiberboard, plasterboard, etc.)

Hemp Flower

  • Cannabinoids
  • Essential oils
  • Insect repellant

Whole Hemp Plant

  • Alcohol
  • Fuel
  • Silage

Is Hempseed Oil the Same as CBD Oil?

The increased interest in the medicinal properties of CBD has led many consumers to the cannabis industry. However, not all cannabis products contain cannabinoids.

Hempseed oil is produced when hemp seeds are cold-pressed to make oil. While hemp seeds contain a lot of nutrients and make a great fat addition to a meal, they do not contain cannabinoids. Unless it is added to the hemp seed oil, hemp seed oil does not contain any CBD.

CBD is extracted from cannabis plant matter such as the flower, stems, and leaves of the plant. The highest concentration of cannabinoids is found in the flower of the cannabis plant.

If you are interested in experiencing CBD’s therapeutic relief, make sure that the ingredients of the product you are purchasing specify the inclusion of CBD.

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If the label says hemp seed oil or cannabis sativa seed oil, it is made with hemp seeds. Unless otherwise noted, the product does not contain CBD (or any other cannabinoids).

If the label lists cannabidiol (CBD), phytocannabinoid-rich (PCR) hemp extracts, PCR, or full-spectrum hemp, it likely contains CBD.

If the label does not clearly indicate the included ingredients, steer clear of the product and the brand. Transparency is a reliable indicator of safety. The less information presented, the more likely the product is not safe for consumption.

The History of Industrial Hemp in the United States

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act imposed heavy taxes on all cannabis products. This included hemp containing negligible amounts of THC.

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The law became the nation’s first law prohibiting cannabis. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 categorized all cannabis as a Schedule I substance, or a drug with no medicinal use and the high potential for abuse

But one hundred years before the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act, cannabis was a cash crop. In fact, it had been cultivated in the colonies.

In the 1600s, law required that “every planter as soone as he may, provide seede of flaxe and hempe and sowe the same . ” Hemp was considered so valuable, that Virginian colonists were even allowed to pay their taxes in hemp.

Industrial hemp’s value was (and still is) in the strength of its fibers. Hemp was used to manufacture thread, rope, clothing, paper, and food.

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It was even used for its medicinal and recreational effects, though alcohol was a much more common source of relief back then.

Hemp’s evolution from cash crop to Schedule I substance is a product of racist and xenophobic laws. By criminalizing cannabis, the Feds were able to target Latino and black populations who were associated with the substance.

There is no scientific or moral reason to criminalize hemp. This is why the 2018 Farm Bill was an enormous win for the cannabis movement.

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Is Hemp Legal Today?

Easily the most notable effect of the 2018 US Farm Bill was its legalization of hemp.

According to the most recent iteration of the law, it is now federally legal for hemp to be cultivated, processed, and distributed nation-wide.

The law made these specific adjustments to hemp law:

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  • hemp products can be carried across state lines
  • the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture will oversee hemp regulation
  • hemp farmers can now access protections under the Federal Crop Insurance Act
  • CBD derived from hemp products is federally legal (as long as the products are extracted in compliance with the law)

Some estimates predict that the global hemp market will be worth $10.6 billion by 2025. Prior to the legalization of hemp, US farmers were unable to tap into the burgeoning hemp market.

In fact, most hemp products consumed in the United States have been imported from Canada.

The 2018 Farm Bill’s legal changes present American farmers with the ability to access the lucrative potential created by the hemp industry for the first time since the early twentieth century.

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