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Understanding Hemp and Why it Matters

The Magazine: Understanding Hemp and Why it Matters

Hemp has been used for thousands of years as a food, fuel, fabric and medicine. After a history of ups and downs, driven by confusion and fear, hemp is finally coming back into the light. Here's why hemp matters.

Why is hemp good for our health?

Hemp contains hundreds of beneficial active compounds: over 100 compounds called phytocannabinoids and approximately 200 terpenes that work synergistically with the human body. Science shows that compounds in the plant support our body's Endocannabinoid System (ECS), the body's master regulatory system that helps us stay in balance. The ECS plays an important role in regulating brain, endocrine, reproductive and immune function, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory and more. While the ECS produces its own source of cannabinoids called endocannabinoids, hemp and cannabis are the only plants we know of that produce their own cannabinoids, called phytocannabinoids.

By supplementing our body’s own supply of cannabinoids with hemp-based compounds and cannabinoids, we may be able to better support the body in maintaining health.

How is hemp different from marijuana?

Though they are both flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family, hemp and marijuana are genetically different and also differ in growing method, chemical makeup and function. Unlike marijuana, hemp does not get you “high,” meaning it does not contain noticeable levels of the intoxicating compound, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Rather, hemp contains high levels of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid, Cannabidiol (CBD), in addition to hundreds of other therapeutic compounds. Hemp is marijuana's sober botanical cousin: it's a different plant with a different purpose.

How did hemp get confused with marijuana?

Though hemp has been used for thousands of years as food, fiber and medicine, hemp has always been confused with marijuana. It started in the 1970s when President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law. This law banned a set of compounds, including marijuana and hemp, and established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The War on Drugs classified hemp as a drug, even though it doesn’t contain the intoxicating effects of marijuana. As a result, people have continued to misunderstand hemp and its benefits.

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What is the Farm Bill and why is it important?

The 2014 Farm Bill clarified the definition of hemp and legally separated hemp from marijuana, legalizing hemp and hemp extract. The Farm Bill established that plants “with less than 0.3 percent concentration of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinols" are considered industrial hemp and are considered federally legal. As a result of the Farm Bill, hemp and CBD were removed from the Controlled Substances Act. The 2018 Farm Bill clarifies and broadens the definition of “legal hemp,” including all hemp derivatives, including CBD.

How can we evaluate the quality and safety of our hemp?

Healthy hemp starts with healthy soil. The hemp plant is fast-growing, has deep roots and stabilizes and enriches the soil in which it is grown by acting as a bioaccumulator, with the ability to absorb contaminants from soil. It’s important to find the highest quality, organic hemp sourced from farmers who grow their hemp in organic soil to avoid pesticides and unnecessary industrial chemicals. In order to ensure the safest products possible, we need more research and clinical trials to help us better understand the full benefits of the plant.

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