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Hemp, cannabis, and marijuana are all terms that we hear these days more than ever before. Have you ever been curious about the differences among the three or had questions about what makes them unique? If so, the answers you seek can be found below!

The first thing you must understand is that “marijuana” is not a plant species, but rather a term which has dark roots used to reference what is known as cannabis. Cannabis is the scientific name for the genus of flowering plants within the Cannabaceae family. Cannabaceae includes three different species:  Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

Hemp and cannabis are general classifications for a broad spectrum of varying strains (also called chemovars) and varieties of cannabis. So, what is the difference between hemp and medical cannabis? The answer lies in the little details. Let’s take a closer look.

Hemp 101

Hemp is a term used to describe varieties of cannabis containing low concentrations of THC and high concentrations of CBD, two of the most abundant and well-known cannabinoids in cannabis. Countries around the world have set their own limits on what THC concentration in a variety is considered hemp. In most cases, it is any cannabis cultivar that contains less than 1% THC; however, specifics vary in each country. CBD derived from hemp is legal in many countries which have restrictions on medical or adult-use recreational markets, whereas CBD products derived from high THC varieties are sometimes not.

Hemp is widely utilized to produce a plethora of CBD products found in the global consumer markets today. In Australia, any Hemp or CBD product containing THC in amounts over 0.3% of THC in dry weight is illegal to produce, sell or import for any use unless regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administrationand the Office of Drug Control. CBD products must be obtained through a legal medical pathway.

Medical Cannabis 101

On the other side of the spectrum is where you find medical cannabis. This classification is used to reference varieties of cannabis that have both high CBD concentrations and also high THC concentrations that contain varying amounts of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Unlike industrial hemp varieties, cannabis strains and cultivars which contain higher levels of THC are illegal in many countries that do not have adult-use recreational markets.

However, Australia and many other countries, have approved and implemented medical cannabis programs allowing certain qualifying patients access through a physician, to utilise specific cannabinoid-based therapies and products with laws and approval processes varying from state to state. In Australia, the only legal access pathways for any medicine containing CBD or THC, are obtained through a Clinical Trial, the Special Access Scheme or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme.

Major Cannabinoids

THC or Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the primary cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp that not only plays a significant role in the potential benefits offered but also the legality of various strains. THC has long been known as the psychoactive cannabinoid for creating mind-altering effects, but has many therapeutic benefits for medical purposes.

CBD or Cannabidiol is another primary cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp. It is commonly known as the medicinal cannabinoid, as it has shown significant potential in treating a wide range of ailments. CBD is deemed as psychoactive as it interacts with our brain receptors however it does not produce any euphoric effects. The World Health Organization has also declared CBD to have no dependence potential. Other major cannabinoids include CBN, CBG, THC, and CBC, to name a few.

Difference Between Recreational and Medical Cannabis

While the laws may govern two different markets that were implemented to cater to the needs of patients vs. consumers, many believe that all cannabis consumption is medical, whether we treat it that way or not. The cannabinoids found in cannabis like the ones mentioned above work directly with the endogenous endocannabinoid system. This system is found within the anatomy of all humans and known mammal species.

This system, commonly referred to as the ECS, is responsible for creating a state of homeostasis within the body and is responsible for the efficiency of varying systems throughout the body ranging from neurological processes to how we regulate pain, process emotions and quite possibly everything in between.

When consuming or utilizing cannabis products in a safe and responsible way, we nourish the ECS system and allow it to thrive to its fullest potential. This leads to the argument that whether we consume to feel elevated or to find relief from an ailment, all consumption is medicinal. However, when it comes to the laws, there are many differences between what is considered medical vs. what is regarded as recreational cannabis.

Now that you know the difference between hemp and cannabis, be sure to share this valuable information with a mate today!

To learn more about accessing medical cannabis in Australia, book an appointment with our cannabinoid experts here.

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