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Do You Know the Difference between Marijuana and Hemp?

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

Video embedded from

When many people hear industrial hemp, the first thing that may come to mind in marijuana. After all, there is a close association between the two, but perhaps not as close as one might think. In fact, the biggest thing that ties hemp and marijuana together is they are both members of the plant genus, Cannabis. It's the old SAT logic question: all marijuana varieties are Cannabis plants, but not all Cannabis plants are marijuana.

Hemp cannot be used as a drug like marijuana. In fact, if a hemp plant were to be grown alongside a marijuana plant, the hemp would render the marijuana sterile. Hemp seeds are used to make foods, oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, building material, and even fuel. It has over 25,000 uses.

Industrial hemp has become the center of attention for the new Farm Bill, which passed Congress on February 4 and was signed into law on February 7. The common mistake made when talking about this bill is that it legalizes hemp -- it does not. The new Farm Bill allows colleges and universities to start pilot programs for growing hemp in states where the industrialization and cultivation of the crop is legal. The law just removes the barrier of a DEA waiver.

Currently, this applies to 10 states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

However, the bill says nothing of the 40 states where such programs are not authorized by law. So, hemp has not been legalized at the federal level.

That being said, this is a step in the right direction for those who support the legalization of industrial hemp nationwide. The crop, as even the Congressional Research Service reports (see video), is an agriculture commodity worth hundreds of millions now, and could be worth billions in the future if the ban on its industrialization was completely lifted.

"If the administration really wanted to create an environmentally-friendly industry that enabled long-lasting jobs for generations to come, it would be through the industrialization of hemp," Britt Hysen, editor for Millennial Magazine, said. "This is an incredible cash crop that has the potential of being bigger -- and more cost effective -- than cotton."

Unemployment and jobs remains very high on the priority list for most Americans. The industrialization of hemp would mean the creation of tens of thousands of businesses in a vast variety of markets. Some politicians are focusing the jobs discussion on the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline into the United States and other projects with relatively small and short-term potential for job growth, but the jobs that would be created simply by lifting the ban on hemp far surpasses the number of jobs that may or may not be created because of these projects and would be far more lasting.

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