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No, marijuana and hemp are not ‘the same stuff’

Posted on June 2, 2000

By David Watson, Quincy Herald-Whig

In response to:
Hemp and marijuana are one and the same illegal thing, Thursday, May 4, 2000

To The Herald-Whig:
Qunicy, Illinois — Please excuse my late response, but I did not read Leo E. Mueller’s letter until Thursday. While Mr Mueller’s letter is correct to state that cannabis has only one species, he is incorrect in his statement that marijuana and hemp are the same. While both hemp and marijuana are the same species (cannabis sativa), they are never grown interchangeably. The real differences are found in the cannabinoids produced by the plants. Marijuana is grown for high THC (the major psychoactive compound produced by cannabis), typically over 5 percent and as high as 20 percent, while European Union (EU) registered hemp varieties must be below 0.3 percent THC and have twice as much CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid) as THC present. The CBD levels twice the THC levels prevent any intoxication from the THC. In fact, research has shown that the more a person would attempt to get high from industrial hemp, by smoking it for example, they would achieve no high. This is because the increased CBD intake blocks the effects of THC. They would only get a mild headache.

As for the statements from Mr Mueller that “The marijuana cultivated for smoking in Mexico or Hawaii is no different than the marijuana (hemp) that is being proposed as an alternate crop for farmers. Marijuana is marijuana”: This is simply not true, and shows a lack of understanding by Mr Mueller. The production of cannabinoids in cannabis is primarily controlled by genetics, not the environment. If a plant has the gene for high THC, and the environment allows for full flowering and maturation, it will produce lots of THC. If the plant has the gene for only high CBD, it will only produce CBD with little or no THC, as in the new French THC-free industrial hemp variety. Low THC varieties will not magically become high THC by growing them in Mexico or Hawaii, anymore than white people born in Africa will become black; genetics does not work that way. Wild hemp is not collected by people to smoke, it is only collected by someone who wishes to cheat a marijuana smoker. You can’t get high from wild USA cannabis, and no pot smoker would try it twice. The THC levels are too low and the CBD levels too high.

As for Mr Mueller’s statements that, “The ‘hemp’ proposed as an alternate farm crop is marijuana, the same stuff that is illegal and psychoactive. From a forensic perspective, the problems of legalizing “hemp” while continuing to outlaw “marijuana” would be significant. You would in essence be legalizing marijuana”: I find it interesting that here in Europe (France, Holland, Germany, the United Kingdom), the police have had no problems with identification in the field, forensic verification, or with licensed hemp farmers trying to grow marijuana. The same lack of problems has been experienced in Canada, so why should the USA have any problems with industrial hemp cultivation? I assume the US police are as competent as in Europe or Canada?

I agree that the issue should be decided on facts, but let’s get the facts straight before we decide the issues. To quote Mr Mueller, “Too often when totally untrue statements are presented as fact they are accepted as such in the absence of accurate information.”

As a postscript, please know that the International Hemp Association is an association of several hundred industrial hemp researchers and hemp business members “dedicated to the advancement of Cannabis through the dissemination of information.”

David Watson, Chairman
International Hemp Association
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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