What is Hemp? Your Guide to the Hemp Plant

Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that contains low amounts of THC and is rich in CBD and other minor cannabinoids. It was legalized in the United States in 2018 by the Farm Bill and has shown its value as an industrial material thanks to the strength of its plant fibers.

The hemp plant has fascinated people throughout history. Humans have cultivated and harvested this plant for millennia. Despite our long history with this plant, much of our knowledge has been lost — or at least hidden — but recent legal developments have reintroduced this multifaceted herb into our lexicon.

As expected, a lot of people have questions about hemp. US Hemp Wholesale is here to provide the answers. In this article, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the hemp plant, its history, and its legality, as we explore the following topics:

The Biology and Taxonomy of Hemp

Hemp has a complex biology that makes it valuable for a variety of uses. This complex biology has also led to a lot of confusion in the general populous. People often come to us wondering if hemp and cannabis are identical. Given how little hemp is discussed in public forums, it’s a fair question.

When people discuss hemp, they are usually referring to industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species known as cannabis sativa L that contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. Put simply, the hemp plant falls under the genus known as cannabis. While it is one type of cannabis plant, it is distinct from other types such as marijuana because of its non-psychoactive nature.

To use an example, it might help to think of cannabis and hemp categorizations in terms of whiskey. Whiskey encompasses a variety of liquors, such as bourbon and scotch, all of which are considered whiskeys. In this example, cannabis is whiskey and hemp is bourbon. Hemp is still a cannabis plant, but it is a unique species variant that is grown to be non-psychoactive compared to marijuana, which is also under the cannabis family.

Hemp Usage throughout History

The earliest recorded instance of hemp farming comes from China in 2800 BCE. In that time and since, the plant has been cultivated for its strong fibers. Farmers turned this fiber into everything from rope to clothing. There is some evidence that people harvested a cannabis variant that had psychoactive effects more than 2500 years ago.

Throughout much of history, hemp has been prized as a useful industrial material that could be turned into ropes, clothes, paper, canvas, and more recently, bioplastics. It was only recently that hemp was subject to any significant regulation and scrutiny.

In 1937, the United States passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which banned the production of hemp in the U.S., though some states, like North Carolina, passed local laws that enabled them to continue hemp production. In 1970, these restrictions were further tightened by the Controlled Substances Act, which made all cannabis plant cultivation illegal. Fortunately, the federal government has reversed these laws with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production and cultivation of hemp containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. Hemp that meets these requirements is often called industrial hemp.

The Legality of Hemp and Hemp Products in the United States

Currently, hemp enjoys a legalized (though highly regulated) status in the United States. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, and the subsequent new rules in January 2021, dictate that all hemp plants must contain less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. Certain states such as Idaho and South Dakota have stricter state laws regarding the sale and production of hemp products. However, most of the 50 states and Washington D.C. have restrictions that are in line with or looser than those in the Farm Bill.

Today, many of the products made from hemp fall in line with those made throughout history. Since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, we have seen increased availability of domestically produced hemp fabrics and other hemp products. Most notably, modern science enabled the isolation of CBD, which hemp manufacturers quickly introduced to a wide range of industries.

CBD, known by the full name of cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been linked to several positive effects. Research is ongoing to determine the potency and efficacy of these effects. Some common CBD products include:

  • CBD edibles
  • CBD tinctures
  • CBD skincare products

These products have been legalized under the umbrella of the 2018 Farm Bill, and can be sold at most retailers in a vast majority of states.

The Potential Effects and Benefits of Hemp Products

Anyone who researches hemp and CBD hears about countless benefits these plants provide. In truth, research still needs to be done to confirm how effective these products are, but there is compelling evidence that they provide some benefit. The most commonly referenced benefits include:

  • Reduced pain response: CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system to produce a variety of effects. One of the most documented effects is a reduced pain response. While the full scope of this effect requires more research, both pain inhibition and anti-inflammatory effects have been documented in research.
  • Increased relaxation: CBD has been shown to produce certain effects related to the activation of serotonin receptors. Serotonin notably influences fear, anxiety, stress, and happiness responses in the body. Most studies performed on CBD indicate that the compound produces a mild feeling of relaxation by interacting with these receptors.
  • Sleep assistance: While the research on this topic remains ongoing, preliminary research indicates a positive correlation between CBD and sleep. CBD users have also provided anecdotal evidence that it helped them deal with mild sleep troubles.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hemp

Outside of the above information, there are several questions that come up regarding CBD and hemp. Here are five of the most frequently asked questions about hemp and CBD.

  • Does CBD have any side effects?

So far, CBD has produced a limited set of side effects, many of which have been traced to the carrier oils instead of the CBD itself. The most notable side effects include mild drowsiness and mild stomach discomfort. These side effects are uncommon, and have almost exclusively been linked to the consumption of an abnormally large amount of CBD.

  • Does CBD do anything?

While the FDA prohibits claims about the efficacy of CBD in treating, curing or diagnosing any illness or malady, early research results have been promising. There is reason to suspect that CBD can help with sleep troubles, relaxation and pain management, among other things.

  • Do CBD/hemp products get you high?

No. As a non-psychoactive substance, CBD has no intoxicating effects. Any anecdotal evidence to the contrary is likely due to products that contain both THC and CBD.

  • Can you use too much CBD?

No. There has been no evidence to suggest that someone can consume a harmful amount of CBD. Regardless of the safety, we advise consuming small amounts of CBD before increasing your serving size.

  • Will CBD make me fail a drug test?

CBD alone should not make you fail a drug test. If you work in a Department of Transportation regulated job, or any other profession with a zero-tolerance policy, you should still exercise caution when using CBD products. Many products contain trace amounts of THC that, while not likely, could trigger a positive test.

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