Last Updated on 3 meses by Plain Jane
When lawmakers outlawed marijuana in 1970, they tossed hemp into the same category. The reason? They both came from the same plant, looked the same, smelled the same, and were thus taken as one and the same. With time, however, experts proved that hemp and marijuana are definitely not the same.
On a chemical level, that is. In terms of appearances and outward properties, hemp and marijuana overlap and share various qualities. So if you were hoping to tell the two apart with your sniffer alone, we’ve got some bad news for you.
Hemp vs Marijuana: Legal Status
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Differentiating hemp from marijuana is a big deal. The reason? Well for starters, one of them is illegal and the other isn’t. Back in 1970, the government officially outlawed marijuana for its psychoactive effects. And because they didn’t know any better, they tossed hemp right in there with it.
In 2018 however, lawmakers passed the 2018 Farm Bill which officially recognized hemp as a separate, different agricultural commodity. That’s because, unlike marijuana, hemp doesn’t produce the symptoms of a high.
Why is that? Well, hemp and marijuana differ in that they don’t demonstrate the same THC expression. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the main and only psychoactive compound found in the Cannabis sativa L. plant.
When parts of the cannabis plant contain 0.3% THC or less, it’s considered hemp. If it contains more than 0.3%, it qualifies as marijuana. In fact, some labs have tested marijuana showcasing THC concentrations as high as 40% in some cases.
Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
One important fact to keep in mind is that marijuana and hemp both come from the same plant. In fact, there’s really nothing else that differentiates these two products aside from their THC content.
So when it comes to appearance and aroma, these two products are entirely identical. Therefore, yes, marijuana and hemp can smell exactly the same. But that doesn’t mean that there’s one specific smell to identify them.
Cannabis plants get their fragrance (or odor) from the terpenes that exist in the plant’s parts. As of writing, there are over 50,000 different terpenes identified by experts and scientists. Around 400 of those may exist in cannabis.
Depending on which terpenes a specific cannabis plant has in abundance, its aroma may change. That’s why some of them smell fruity, while others force their way through the olfactories with offensive notes of gasoline and skunk spray.
What are Terpenes?
Also called terpenoids, terpenes exist in both flora and fauna. Tens of thousands of these naturally occurring organic compounds hold responsibility for the aromas and fragrances we smell every day. In cannabis, they do much more than just appeal to the olfactories.
Terpenes have been found to complement the effects of cannabinoids. That means when cannabinoids and terpenes enter the human body together, they work to enhance each other’s impact on the system.
Hundreds of terpenes can express themselves in hemp chemistry. But the most common and the most highly sought-after include:
- Myrcene – Also found in mangoes, myrcene releases a pungent, musky, herbal aroma. The stuff has been said to improve the effects of hemp on physical discomfort by relaxing the body and relieving aches and tension.
- Limonene – Sour and fruity, limonene (just like its name) gives off a zesty, citrus fragrance and flavor. It helps to target specific aches and discomfort in the joints and muscles. Some studies also assert that it might play a role in the absorption of cannabinoids.
- Caryophyllene – Spicy and peppery, this powerful antioxidant protects against free radical damage. It gives off flavors and scents reminiscent of black pepper and cloves and may feel slightly in-your-face for less experienced users.
- Pinene – The soothing, calm aroma of pine that you might pick up from a hemp sample is all thanks to pinene. The foresty fragrance mimics fresh-cut grass or parsley depending on who’s sniffing. Literature about pinene remains scarce, but many believe that it works well as an antioxidant.
- Linalool – The relaxing aroma of linalool exists in copious amounts in lavender. As of writing, not a lot of information exists about linalool. But according to anecdotal evidence, the hemp strains rich in linalool may work best on mood-related issues.
How Can You Tell Marijuana and Hemp Apart?
So obviously, simply smelling your hemp might not provide accurate, reliable conclusions. Especially when you consider the fact that only THC separates hemp from marijuana.
Here’s what you can do instead to make sure you’ve got hemp instead of marijuana:
- Only transact with trusted vendors – We hate to admit it, but it happens. Presently, the hemp market doesn’t have enough machinery in place to regulate every single farm and vendor. So some irresponsible companies slip through the cracks and manage to sell products that don’t meet legislative guidelines.
In simple terms, it’s possible to accidentally buy marijuana instead of hemp especially if you transact with unscrupulous vendors. So to avoid the possibility, read reviews and buy your hemp from brands with a proven track record and a trusted reputation.
- Look for certificates of analysis – When vendors value the trust and confidence of their buyers, they practice transparency. By providing their customer’s detailed reports that reflect the chemistry of their hemp products, buyers are reassured that they’re getting the real deal.
Almost every vendor these days will provide a certificate of analysis to go with their products. But don’t take it as is. Some fake these reports or use the same certificates across all of their products just for show. So be cautious and learn how to read the CoAs to make sure they’re legit.
- Test the products yourself – Not every buyer goes the extra mile to test a product, but it’s definitely not unheard of. Lots of labs accept small batch samples or even single samples for testing. This retail testing service caters specifically to end-users who want to make doubly sure.
Testing prices vary from lab to lab. So you might want to consider comparing prices. The average cost of testing a single hemp sample plays around $50. But depending on what specific aspects you want to test for (in the areas of potency and contamination), prices may significantly increase.
The Nose Doesn’t Always Know
Telling apart hemp and marijuana takes more than just a sleuthing snout. The smells between these two commodities don’t change a lot, and they often smell exactly the same. So instead of sticking your snout into a jar and hoping to make the distinction, choose instead other foolproof methods.
Transacting with trusted vendors, checking certificates, and even going as far as paying for your own lab tests should help guarantee that your hemp stash is truly what it claims to be.