Cannabis…marijuana…hemp…. They’re the same, aren’t they? Wait, there’s a difference?
Why has cannabis become such an elusive, confusing plant to talk about? It’s because the history of cannabis is complex. The cannabis industry overseas has heavily influenced and shaped the way Australians think of cannabis. Over the years, people have started calling cannabis different names and they’ve become a part of popular culture. Most people don’t actually understand the cannabis plant, and what different common cannabis terms mean. By the end of this article you’ll be able to answer the following questions:
- What is cannabis?
- What is marijuana?
- What is hemp?
- What are the chemicals in cannabis?
- What’s the difference between hemp, cannabis and marijuana?
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a flowing plant in the Cannabaceae family. Some of the most popular terms for cannabis include: “marijuana”, “weed”, or “pot” and it has a vast number of other slang names.
The term cannabis refers to the plants of the species Cannabis Sativa L. Within the species there are three types of cannabis plant:
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Ruderalis
The cannabis plant, however, is best known for the cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica species. Each of the species has different qualities and characteristics and are therefore have different effects and outcomes on individuals. For example, Sativa is known for giving feelings of euphoria and a ‘heady high’ whereas Indica is known for a ‘body high’ that can soothe aches and pains. Because of this Sativa is often chosen in the adult-use (recreational) market whereas Indicas are more often used in the medicinal space.
Cannabis plants have chemicals called cannabinoids which are compounds that interact with your body to give you the high feeling or health benefits. Scientists have found over 110 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The two most well-known chemicals are CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is often thought to be the medical chemical in cannabis whereas THC is known to be the chemical that gets you high. However, research is showing that THC has certain medicinal properties.
Cannabis has traditionally been consumed by smoking the buds or extracting the THC and turning it into an oil which is then consumed. In more modern times, cannabis is turned into oil, pills and mucosal sprays for medical use. For recreational and wellness purposes it’s consumed in many other forms. Use of the higher THC variety of cannabis provides a sense of euphoria, a high, as well as a delay in motor responses. It is a depressant drug which means that it slows down the activity of the central nervous system and delays messages between sent from the brain to the body. In this sense, it’s similar to alcohol.
So, what is marijuana?
Marijuana is a slang word used for the cannabis plant. It generally refers to recreational cannabis.
The term originated from the Mexican Spanish word “marihuana” and eventually was adapted to other languages, landing on the term marijuana. The term is thought to have been popularised in America by opponents of the drug who wanted to stigmatise it. During the period Mexicans, Latinos and black people were marginalised in America. Cannabis, or marijuana, alongside the aforementioned people were blamed for many of America’s issues. While the roots of the popularisation of the term are derogatory and racist, the term has become a part of many cultures, many without realising the origins or historical context of the term.
In Australia, all “medical marijuana” will be referred to as medical cannabis by doctors and other medical practitioners.
What is hemp? And, are cannabis and hemp the same?
Hemp is thought to be one of the oldest plants used for textiles and is also one of the fastest growing plants. There is evidence that hemp was used 9000 years ago in ancient Çatalhöyük (Turkey).
Hemp is a ‘strain’ of the cannabis Sativa plant that has different properties from what we think of as cannabis. However, hemp is actually the same plant that produces less of the psychoactive chemical THC. In the USA, ‘industrial hemp’ contains 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight whereas in Australia the minimum standard is 0.35% or less THC. While hemp still has some THC, it’s impossible to smoke enough hemp to get you high.
There are five parts of the plant (the inner fibres (hurd), the outer fibres (bast), stalk, buds and the seeds) that can be used. Today hemp can produce resources such as food, clothing, building materials, rope and even fuel.
In conclusion, cannabis and hemp are the same plant species but have different chemical properties and uses.
What are the chemicals in cannabis?
According to research by Dr. Ethan Russo, there are over 400 chemical compounds in cannabis which include the three most widely known compounds – cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Cannabinoids are every chemical substance, regardless of structure or origin, that joins the cannabinoid receptors of the body and brain and that have similar effects to those produced by the Cannabis Sativa plant.
The first cannabinoid isolated from cannabis was cannabinol in 1899. Next, in 1963 cannabidiol (CBD) was found. And, in 1964 two scientists isolated delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC).
- CBN (cannabinol) is a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This means that CBN is produced when THC is activated. CBN has potential immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory activities.
- CBD (cannabidiol) is a nonintoxicating cannabinoid (C21H30O2) found in cannabis. CBD is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in the cannabis plant and is best known for its use as CBD oil.
- THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a chemical compound found in plants of the cannabis genus and is the psychoactive compound that gives you the feeling of being ‘high’. Prior to this chemical becoming active it is THCa and is non-psychoactive.
If you’d like to learn more about the most popular chemical compounds in cannabis, check out these articles:
So, what’s The Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana and Hemp?
The difference between Cannabis, Marijuana and hemp are both technical and basic. Cannabis is the scientifically correct name for all of them. They all come from the Cannabaceae family and have been around for thousands of year. Marijuana, like the terms weed or pot, are slang names for the cannabis plant. Hemp is simply a cannabis plant that has a low THC content and is used to create multiple resources and has many industrial uses.
At honahlee, we use the term cannabis and marijuana interchangeably so that people begin to understand that they are the same exact thing. In Australia, the term cannabis is used when talking about medical cannabis and marijuana is often used to describe adult-use (recreational) cannabis.
Now that you know the truth about cannabis, marijuana and hemp, we encourage you to share what you’ve learned and tell us, “What’s your opinion of cannabis?” Tell us in the comments below.