Researchers say that cannabis may have been around for about 19.6 to 28 million years. The earliest evidence of the plant’s existence is in the form of fossilized pollen.
Fast forward to modern times, and cannabis has become a $20.5-billion global industry. Market experts project this to multiply by more than four-fold by 2026. If this forecast comes to pass, its value will exceed $90 billion.
A primary factor behind this growth is the legalization of industrial hemp in the US. Scientists also continue to unearth hemp facts that establish the plant’s beneficial effects.
Despite the available literature, there’s still a lot of confusion about hemp. We’re here to set things straight, so be sure to read on to get your hemp plant facts right.
1. Cannabis Sativa That’s Not Marijuana
One of the facts about hemp and marijuana is that both are Cannabis sativa species. That makes them botanically similar, yes, but they have genetic varietal distinctions. It’s because of these differences that people grow and use them for different things.
Marijuana is a cultivated plant usually used for medicinal or recreational purposes. According to experts, the oldest evidence of its use as an intoxicant dates back to 2,500 years ago.
By contrast, hemp uses are much broader, as you’ll find it in fabrics, textiles, food, and beverages. Its many parts also go into manufacturing paper, rope, and construction materials. Nutritional supplements and personal care products are the latest additions to the list.
2. It’s Been a Schedule I Drug for Almost Half a Century
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug in 1972. These are substances said to be without any acceptable medical use but have high abuse risks. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), heroin, and ecstasy are other examples of such drugs.
Back then, the CSA defined marijuana as any Cannabis sativa plant, including most of its parts. That included growing and non-growing plant components, including their derived compounds. There were only a few exceptions, such as their stalks, fibers, and sterilized seeds.
Still, hemp, being a Cannabis sativa species, became part of Schedule I nearly five decades ago.
3. The Agriculture Act of 2014 To the Rescue
It wasn’t until 2014 when industrial hemp received an official, standardized definition. It was all thanks to the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill of 2014.
The bill defined industrial hemp as Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3%. This definition covers all parts and derivatives of the plant, including its seeds.
The THC in delta-9-THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s one of the 500+ compounds that occur in the cannabis plant. It’s received so much attention, especially from drug regulators, because it’s psychoactive.
However, despite hemp having less than 0.3% THC, the bill still restricted its cultivation and use. As such, industrial hemp and most of its parts and derivatives were still Schedule I drugs up until 2018.
4. When Hemp Finally Got Separated From Marijuana
The signing of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 into law took place on December 20, 2018. This is the official name of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The 2018 Farm Bill is the bill that finally differentiated hemp from marijuana. It’s also this law that removed hemp and its parts from marijuana’s definition. Moreover, it exempted hemp-derived THCs from the CSA’s Schedule I list.
5. A Powerhouse of Phytocannabinoids
The cannabis sativa plant, which includes industrial hemp, contains over 120 phytocannabinoids. Of these, THC and cannabidiol (CBD) have been the subjects of most scientific studies. Other lesser-known cannabinoids are cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG).
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids made exclusively by cannabis plants. These compounds interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) found in mammals, including humans. They’re mostly responsible for the physiological effects caused by cannabis and cannabis products.
For example, THC is most popular for its hallucinogenic effects. However, experts say it has therapeutic benefits, too, such as helping ease pain. Others say it may help with mood and sleep disorders, some types of arthritis, and seizures.
CBD appears to be helpful for similar conditions, except that it doesn’t cause people to be high. Moreover, it seems to counter the psychoactive effects of THC. There are at least 13 CBD terpenes that appear to have therapeutic effects, too.
Best of all, many CBD products are legal, so long as they come from industrial hemp. Just remember that, for a CBD-containing hemp product to be legit, it must contain less than 0.3% THC.
6. An Incredible Source of Nutrient-Rich Oil
Hemp seed oil is healthy because it’s a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Linoleic acid is the primary PUFA in hemp seed oil, accounting for about 50% to 70% of its fatty acid content. However, it also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The body can synthesize many PUFAs, but not those that you’d find in hemp seed oil. This makes hemp oil a good dietary source of PUFAs, which you need for many biological processes.
For starters, PUFAs are necessary for the maintenance of cell membrane structures. Moreover, fatty acids play a role in the development and the health of the central nervous system.
Note, though, that hemp seed oil has a smoke point lower than most cooking oils. This means it burns faster and at a lower heat than, say, vegetable oil. For that reason, you’d want to avoid using it for food prep methods that require high heat.
There you have it, all the top hemp facts you ought to know, especially if you plan to use CBD products. Keep in mind that not all CBD goods come from hemp; some may be a derivative of marijuana. As such, one of the most important things to look for is the THC concentration, which should be less than 0.3%.
Ready for more tidbits of wisdom to boost your health and science know-how? Feel free to browse our other educational news and blog posts then!
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.