What is a Hemp Plant?
The hemp plant, commonly referred to as industrial hemp, is a widely cultivated cash crop used to produce many different types of products. A plant native to Central Asia, the hemp plant is a variety of Cannabis sativa L. It’s classified as herbaceous and dioecious — having both male and female plants.
The cultivation of the hemp plant as a raw material for numerous consumer goods is not a recent development. Hemp has been cultivated for millennia by civilizations across the globe. The earliest evidence of hemp cultivation can be traced back to Czech Republic where a hemp rope dating back to 26,900 BCE was discovered. In Central Asia — particularly China —hemp was utilized in the production of clothing, ropes and paper as early as 10,000 BCE. In Japan, hemp was pivotal in the production of paper and for its fibre between 5,000 and 300 BCE.
Does the Hemp Plant Differ From Marijuana?
More often than not, people assume that the hemp plant is the same as marijuana. However, this is simply a common misconception. The cannabis plant is a genus of flowering plants under the family, Cannabaceae. Hemp and marijuana are both classifications of the cannabis plant. There are numerous factors which differentiate both types of cannabis plant from each other. For example:
This is the most defining difference between marijuana and hemp.
Both hemp and marijuana produce cannabidiol, a non psychoactive chemical compound, in high amounts. However, both plants produce exceedingly different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the major psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis.
While hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, marijuana can contain up to 30% of the chemical compound.
Given the varying levels of THC in hemp and marijuana, there are regulated very differently under the law.
In New Zealand, hemp was previously regulated under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975. However, in 2005, the government approved regulations which would permit the cultivation of hemp for commercial purposes.
Marijuana, however, is still listed as a Class C substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1975.
Just as hemp and marijuana are cultivated for different purposes, they require different growing conditions.
Marijuana is often selectively bred. Given this fact, each strain requires its own set of unique breeding conditions in order to optimise its yield. When cultivating marijuana, the grower must pay close attention to the plant at each stage of its life cycle. Environmental conditions including temperature, lighting and humidity must be properly regulated.
The hemp plant, however, does not require such precise growing conditions in order to give a sufficient harvest.
Hemp and marijuana each offer a range of usages which are unique to their composition.
Typically, marijuana is used for recreational purposes. Its high concentrations of THC are popular amongst recreational consumers as this induces the mind-altering, euphoric state referred to as being “high.”
Hemp, on the other hand, is predominantly utilized for its medicinal and nutritional properties. Hemp is used to develop many medicinal and nutritional goods including;
- Cooking oil
- Hemp flour
- CBD oils
- CBD tinctures
What is the Hemp Plant Used For?
The hemp plant is made up of several parts, and each part serves its own unique purposes.
The stems are utilized for fibre, which is used in the production of numerous items including building materials, paper and fabrics. The seeds are an excellent source of protein, often consumed in meals or processed into hemp seed oils. The leaves and flowers can be used to produce oils and smokeable herbs.
Hemp in New Zealand
Originating from Central Asia, the hemp plant has been cultivated throughout history for its many industrial and nutritional applications. More often than not, the hemp plant is mistaken for the marijuana, a psychoactive plant in which it shares classifications with.
Contrary to common thought, the different types of cannabis plant differ greatly from each other. All parts of the hemp plant can be utilized in the production of various consumer goods, and it is legal to cultivate in New Zealand. While marijuana may have some way to go before it gains wide acceptance, the useful properties of hemp and lack of psychoactive ingredients mean this ancient plant is an extremely important crop for New Zealand.