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Cannabis seeds, while again technically from the same plant as hemp seeds, are more often associated with the legal cannabis market for medicinal and recreational consumption. Anyone involved within the cannabis industry knows that the key to a high-quality cannabis product starts with the seeds used for production.

Recent developments regarding hemp and cannabis regulations have expanded hemp from grocery shelves to alternative health clinics and corner stores across the country and beyond. Hemp oil has various uses and benefits (which is why people use cbd lotion, take it as a tincture, and use it in cooking, to name a few), while being the fuel behind the recent boom in the CBD market.

Another big difference between cannabis seeds and hemp seeds is cost. Since cannabis seeds are most often sold for purposes of growing cannabis plants, their seeds will typically cost you more than what you’d pay for hemp seeds at the grocery store. The rise of legal hemp and the CBD market has increased the value of hemp seeds a bit, but cannabis seeds will almost always cost considerably more.

Hemp Seeds

The main distinction that separates hemp seeds from cannabis seeds sits in the amounts of certain compounds, called cannabinoids, present within them. The 2018 Farm Bill established a limit of 0.3 percent THC content for any Cannabis sativa plant to be classified as hemp in the US – seeds included. Some local jurisdictions on the state level (and other regions of the world) have their own definition of what distinguishes hemp from cannabis. Still, this 0.3% THC content threshold is quickly becoming an accepted standard.

Fueled by widespread acceptance and removal of regulations, the hemp and cannabis industries are growing rapidly across the globe. They may technically be the same plant from a scientific standpoint, but in lawmakers’ eyes, two classifications exist with their own set of rules and regulations. Understanding the difference between hemp and cannabis seeds is a critical step for anyone involved in these industries – from seed to sale.

These seeds are essential both to the businesses and farmers who grow the cannabis crops and the consumers who use the many different varieties of cannabis products currently available. And while there are numerous methods to growing and producing the plant itself, the entire industry relies on the ability to use viable cannabis seeds obtained from a reputable and reliable source.

Hemp seeds can be used for a variety of everyday purposes and have been for years. The seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant are highly nutritious and can be found on the shelves of your local health food store. These seeds can be added to smoothies, salads, granola, and any other kitchen concoction you can scheme up in their processed form.

Are hemp plants just cannabis plants that happen to have less THC? Again, the reality is more complicated. Hemp plants, especially those grown for industrial purposes, tend to look, grow, and act differently than marijuana plants. Marijuana plants tend to be short and “stalky”, with lots of branches and a profusion of small leaves and heavy buds. Industrial hemp plants tend to be taller with skinny leaves, thick stems, and fewer branches.

In Europe, it is more difficult to give exact dates, as ultimately each country deals with its laws separately. That being said, on the level of the EU, the production of low-THC hemp (under 0.2%) is legal for industrial purposes as part of EU Regulation 1307/2013. However, in some countries (such as Portugal), they’ve gone so far as to decriminalise recreational cannabis too.

Europe

If you count yourself among the confused, fear not—the time for clarity has arrived. We’re here to delve into the relationship between cannabis and hemp. But before we get our answers, we’ll need to ask some questions.

If hemp is high in CBD, does that mean that hemp oil is CBD oil? It actually doesn’t. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from cannabis seeds, while CBD oil—or any cannabinoid oil—must be extracted from the flowers. Hemp oil doesn’t contain CBD, but it’s still special—it contains the golden 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, a combination that fights inflammation and helps build your brain. It’s also high in vitamin E, which has been shown to have anti-ageing properties.

Hemp and cannabis are legally defined by the concentration of THC present in the plant. In the US and Canada, hemp is defined as cannabis plants with THC levels of under 0.3%. In the EU, hemp is defined as cannabis plants with under 0.2% THC. Many European companies aren’t thrilled about this difference; in fact, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has called for these rates to be standardised to ensure fair competition.

Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, textiles, rope — even building materials. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

The Hemp Farming Act now requires state departments of agriculture to consult with their governors and chief law enforcement officers on a regulatory program, which will then be submitted to the US Secretary of Agriculture for approval. According to Section 297B of the bill, state hemp regulatory programs must include a system to maintain information on all land where cultivation takes place, procedures for testing THC levels in hemp, and procedures for disposing of products that violate THC content restrictions.

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Wang, Xian-Sheng, et al. “Characterization, Amino Acid Composition and in Vitro Digestibility of Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) Proteins.” Food Chemistry , vol. 107, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2008, pp. 11–18., doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.06.064.

While marijuana cultivation requires ample spacing to reduce the risk of mold or bacteria, hemp can be planted more densely. Most marijuana crops are planted with one plant per 4 square feet. Hemp plants that are grown for oil are planted at roughly 40 to 60 plants per 4 square feet. Those grown for fiber are even more densely planted at a rate of about 100 to 120 plants per 4 square feet.

A variety of Cannabis sativa L, hemp is a dioecious plant, which means it can be separated into male and female plants. These plants have served a wide variety of purposes for more than 10,000 years. We get fiber from the plant’s stems, protein from the seeds, oils from the leaves, and oils from the smokable flowers. Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, textiles, rope — even building materials.