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The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

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You know those bumbling bugs that look just like big mosquitos? Did you just say something like, “yes, those are mosquito eaters”? Well, that’s not what they are; they’re called Crane Flies.

Think about it. If you’ve ever seen a Crane Fly, it was most likely running into a door or a window nonstop like an uncoordinated idiot. And if you’ve ever tried to kill a mosquito, you know those things are pretty much winged ninjas. So, how would a gangly bug like the so-called “mosquito eater” ever catch and eat a mosquito? Well, they can’t, and they don’t, because they’re vegetarians, but people just go on believing that the Crane Fly is a mosquito eater even though logically, it doesn’t make any sense. The reason for this is that since the Crane Fly looks like the lovechild of a mosquito and a bird, they were called “mosquito hawks” back in the day, and since hawks are predatory, people started thinking that mosquito hawks ate mosquitos. But to this day, I cannot understand why the myth persists given that we all have the combined total of human knowledge in our pockets thanks to smartphones. Seriously, if you still don’t believe me, just google “crane fly,” imagine me saying “I told you so,” and then come back to finish reading this.

Anyway, the reason I told you all of that is that there’s another myth out there that could be easily dispelled if people used the encyclopedias in their pockets. Believe it or not, there’s no real difference between hemp and marijuana (or ruderalis, for that matter), because both are the exact same species of plant, Cannabis sativa. If you’re a skeptic who’d like a second opinion, go ask the UDSA via THIS link, because those people know what they’re talking about. Granted, a hemp plant and a marijuana plant look like different plants, but humans have always placed way too much import on looks, which are nothing more than phenotypical differences.

A good way to get a grip on this would be to take a look at humans. For instance, a native African looks a lot different than a Chinese native, but those physical differences are only skin-deep, and they’re governed by a freakishly small amount of our DNA. Underneath it all, that native from Africa and that native from China are the same species because they have the same number of chromosomes, despite the phenotypical differences, and cannabis plants are the same way: they evolved in different parts of the world, so they ended up looking slightly different over time thanks to natural selection.

Alright… I’m going to plow through a whole bunch of science stuff as quickly as I can because it’s boring, and I doubt you went to a dispensary’s website to be bored, so let’s do this: There is only one bona fide species of cannabis (Cannabis sativa, like I said), but there are a bunch of putative sub-species beneath it with colloquial names such as Marijuana, Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. There’s a good article on all of this that you can read HERE that goes much more into depth, but I’m just going to skim the surface. Anyway, Cannabis sativa, or hemp, existed in many places millions of years ago just like most plants, but differing environmental stressors most likely caused to it evolve in funny ways. The Indica variety (which evolved in India, thus the name) turned into a short, squat bush with thick, dark-green fan leaves, as where the Sativa version, which evolved in Eurasia, started to grow much taller with thin, bright-green fan leaves. So, of course, when all the early botanists encountered these plants, they gave them a variety of “scientific” names not knowing that the differences were only skin-deep. And the same can be said for ruderalis, which is just another “sub species” of Cannabis sativa that earned its ruderal nomenclature because it’s a hearty plant that can grow just about anywhere.

Now, if you’re a cannabis nerd, here’s the interesting part: cannabis hasn’t always produced THC or CBD—it’s thought that a virus attacked the hemp population millions of years ago and caused a genetic mutation, possibly as a defense mechanism via a colonization of the plant’s genome, which led to the production of psychoactive cannabinoids in cannabis. Crazy, right? You can read the peer-reviewed study from The University of Toronto HERE.

And of course, it stands to reason that these viruses were more virulent in different areas, so the amount of THC or CBD that was produced differed from region to region. And then humans came along, we figured out that THC could get you high, and we started the not-so-natural selection process of breeding cannabis for high THC output. The cannabis in nature stayed low vis-à-vis cannabinoid content, and then all the differing categories started looking much different (and doing different things), so today, most people assume that they’re all different species, just like most people think that Crane Flies eat mosquitos. Boom. Full circle.

Anyway, all you really need to know is that the difference between hemp and marijuana is nothing more than a human classification, and not something to which nature pays attention. Today, in the cannabis industry, we call cannabis plants “hemp” if they produce less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, and any plant that produces more is called marijuana. That’s the short answer to this blog’s title, even though I was longwinded getting here. And the other thing you need to know is that at The Greenery, we take the time to educate you with posts like this one instead of trying to get you in and out just so we can make money by getting you high. We want you to know the truth behind our favorite plant, and we take pride in the education we give each and every time you visit our Durango dispensary, because We’re Your Best Buds!

Cannabis Commercialism

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Did you know that they have CBD multi-level marketing campaigns out there now? For real, cannabis products have made it into pyramid schemes, and if you haven’t encountered it already, you’ll soon see your old friends from high school selling CBD products on Facebook just like Scentsy or Tupperware. And it doesn’t stop there. I just got some junk mail from Bed Bath and Beyond advertising their new CBD products, Carl’s Junior sold a CBD-infused burger this past 4/20, and the Kardashians even have their own line of CBD cosmetics.

In a way, this is awesome because the stigma surrounding cannabis gets weaker every time a new celebrity or corporation comes out with a CBD line, but in a different light, it’s unfortunate, and I’ll tell you why. All the CBD products that are available nationally are derived from hemp instead of marijuana because hemp is legal everywhere as where marijuana is not. And while hemp produces high amounts of CBD, it produces negligible amounts of all the other cannabinoids like THC, CBN, and CBG. You need all these compounds for a true full-spectrum entourage effect (we’ll talk about that in a second), so hemp doesn’t encompass nearly as much as marijuana. Here’s a good way to think about it:

Hemp is good for making rope, marijuana is good for making drugs.

All the commercialism out there would have you believe there’s no difference between the two, and that’s frustrating because CBD products derived only from hemp haven’t been proven to do that much (read THIS). People with serious ailments who try hemp products usually don’t get much relief, and then they never try the real stuff that’s sold only in dispensaries because they think they already have. It makes me want to stand in public like a town crier and shout, “take marijuana, not rope!” but that would be weird, so I’m writing this blog instead.

Here’s the most important thing you need to know: there’s no such thing as “full-spectrum hemp oil.” And the reason you need to know this is that every single bottle of hemp-derived CBD oil I’ve ever seen says “full spectrum” right on the label. Liars! The term “full spectrum” is something we use in the cannabis industry to describe products that deliver all the cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana, and since hemp doesn’t produce all the cannabinoids, it’s impossible for it to be “full spectrum.” Get it? Granted, some hemp oil has a “fuller” spectrum than others, but it’s still lacking as compared to the complete spectrum marijuana provides. But in their defense, the reason some hemp-derived products are called full spectrum is that there are two ways to get the CBD out of hemp plant matter: a chemical isolation process (that captures only the CBD), or a whole-plant extraction process that gets out everything hemp has to offer. The latter is indeed “full spectrum” when compared to the former, but not when compared to marijuana products.

But the term “full spectrum” doesn’t really matter if you don’t know why it’s important. Basically, a full-spectrum marijuana product is the only way to achieve the entourage effect, which is the synergistic way all the cannabinoids work together to produce a physical or psychoactive effect. Wikipedia can tell you all about it HERE, but long story short, cannabis products both get you high better, and provide better overall effect, if you get ALL the cannabinoids instead of the limited few produced by hemp. And yes, I’ll admit that trace, itty-bitty amounts of secondary cannabinoids (like CBG of THC) show up in hemp from time to time, but marijuana packs a whopping 113 different cannabinoids, which makes hemp’s spectrum empty in comparison.

But if you’re a hemp enthusiast, please don’t think that I’m trashing your plant completely. Hemp-derived CBD is used by many people, but I’d still recommend the real stuff. In my mind, hemp products are like essential oils as where marijuana is something for which you can get a prescription. And I’d imagine that as soon as legal weed is available nationally, the hemp products will start to dwindle because that’s what always happens to second-best.

My point is that you shouldn’t listen to all the cannabis commercialism that seems to be getting worse daily—marijuana professionals, such as the ones you’ll find at The Greenery, know way more about this stuff than Bed Bath and Beyond or any Kardashian ever will. And if you’ve tried the hemp-derived stuff and didn’t find the effect you were looking for, please, come into our shop and try the real stuff. We have a tincture that contains well over 600mg CBD per bottle, but it also contains 9mg of THC and a smattering of other cannabinoids. You can’t buy this stuff online. And the best part is that you don’t need to worry about the “high” with this tincture because each serving delivers only a quarter milligram of THC, which is just enough to enable the entourage effect without clouding your mind with a psychoactive effect. We offer the same sort of product in a gummy or a vape pen or straight-up flower because we’re the best Durango dispensary for real CBD products.

So please, if you’re looking for CBD’s effect without THC’s high and you’d like to try a bona fide marijuana product, come see us at 208 Parker Avenue (but we’ve also got your back if you’re looking for the high as well). We’re open seven days a week with plenty of discrete parking and we have a knowledgeable staff you need to meet, because when it comes to real CBD, We’re Your Best Buds!