Mitch McConnell Wants To Legalize Hemp — Here's How It's Different From Marijuana

- Mar 28, 2018-

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill on Monday to legalize industrial hemp as an agricultural product.

The Hemp Farming Act would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances and allow it to be grown and sold as an agricultural product.

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While hemp and its more famous cousin, marijuana, are both varieties of cannabis sativa, one of the three main subtypes of the cannabis plant, they're different in a number of ways.

Hemp contains negligible amounts of THC — the intoxicating substance in marijuana— and can't get you high.

Marijuana can contain up to 30% THC, while hemp contains less than 0.3% (per dry weight) THC. Hemp also contains more CBD, a non-intoxicating compound with medical applications, than marijuana.

Hemp leaves are skinnier than marijuana leaves.                                            REUTERS/Issei Kato                                    

Hemp was selectively bred for a range of consumer and industrial uses and has been grown in the US for centuries. The fibers from the stalk can be used to make rope, clothes, and other textiles — and can even be used as an organic construction material. The seeds are also edible.

The marijuana that you'd find in a dispensary is generally cross-bred from different strains and is grown carefully in climate-controlled indoor environments. Rather than selecting for strong fibers, marijuana strains are optimized over generations to produce THC-containing trichomes on the plant's buds.

Unlike marijuana, hemp is relatively easy to grow outdoors in a range of climates.

Hemp stalks can grow up to four meters tall, without needing pesticides, and are generally much skinnier and taller than marijuana plants. Hemp leaves are also thinner and less densely clustered than leaves on a marijuana plant.

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