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There are some clear misunderstandings about the distinction between hemp and cannabis. The complicated answer is that there is no difference: both are members of the cannabis sativa family, sharing many identical characteristics and, conversely, differing quite dramatically in others aspects. Chief among those is also the most obvious. Unlike conventional cannabis, hemp contains very low concentrations of THC, and relatively high levels of CBD.

The many differences between these uniquely similar plants begin with cosmetics and end at the chemical attributes. Where cannabis plants produce dense flowers, hemp displays skinny leaves that are concentrated at the top of the plant and allow it to grow tall, yet thin.1

Cannabis and hemp are generally grown for radically different reasons. Cannabis is cultivated primarily for medical and recreational use across disparate demographics the planet over, while hemp is grown both for CBD and industrial reasons. The hundreds of commercial applications that hemp undertakes is matched by its contribution to cannabinoid therapy.

One of 104 cannabinoids in the cannabis sativa plant, cannabidiol (CBD) is found in particularly high concentrations in the hemp plant. For this reason, it is often cultivated from hemp. In addition to being used by patients as a pain reliever, CBD is also reported to reduce issues from skin conditions to anxiety.2

Industrial hemp is a term used to define a range of commercial products and applications. That list includes, but is not limited to, textiles, construction, cosmetics, clothing, paper, biodegradable plastics, fuel and food. Hemp was one of the first domesticated plants on the planet, as well as one of the fastest growing biomasses.3

Produced legally in many places around the world, hemp has unquestionably been treated much like cannabis, but also found itself regulated for industrial purposes in countries like Canada, France, China and, most recently, the United States. Other countries, still, do not distinguish between the chemically robust cannabis plant, and the CBD-rich hemp plant. Needless to say, some confusion lingers like an unusual odor over the discussion. 

Where cannabis is altogether different than hemp is in the decades of research that will still need to be done with the former as the topic of study. Hemp, on the other hand, has been grown openly and legally in at least some parts of the world for centuries – a fact that may prove a significant catalyst to large volumes of CBD and limitless commercial applications for the hemp plant. In terms of the commercial possibilities for hemp in the future, the sky truly is the limit. 

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