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HEMPCOVER

Blurred Lines: Is This Hemp or Weed?

In the rapidly evolving cannabis industry, distinguishing between hemp and cannabis has become more challenging, leaving consumers to navigate a maze of regulatory frameworks and creating unprecedented confusion. One primary example of this confusion is THCa hemp. This product exists in a gray area between legal hemp and regulated cannabis due to its potential conversion into THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. This situation raises critical questions about consumer safety, market fairness, and the trajectory toward broader cannabis acceptance and federal legalization.

 

report of female politician at a debate
The legal landscape of Cannabis is always changing.

The Critical Questions 

As our industry continues to mature, we must ask ourselves: Is THCa hemp merely a temporary regulatory loophole, or does it represent a more straightforward path to federal legalization and broader cannabis acceptance? This gray area demands more explicit guidelines and greater transparency to alleviate consumer confusion and ensure that products meet rigorous legal standards. The ongoing dialogue around THCa hemp’s role in cannabis policy and consumer education underscores the importance of regulatory evolution and informed discussion. 

Simplifying the Science

THCa, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the non-psychoactive precursor found in unprocessed cannabis plants. When heated—through smoking, vaping, or cooking—THCa converts into THC, unlocking the plant’s psychoactive potential. This conversion is crucial for understanding cannabis potency and navigating the legal landscape. However, the calculation can be complex:

Total THC = (THCa×0.877) + THC

This formula accounts for the conversion efficiency, providing a closer estimate of a product’s psychoactive potential and potency. Yet, for many consumers, the intricacies of this process remain opaque, underscoring the need for straightforward information.

The Need for Transparency and Consumer Safety 

The 2018 Farm Bill distinguished hemp from marijuana by setting a delta-9 THC threshold at 0.3%. Because of this legal definition, many assume hemp and cannabis are different plants. And that hemp does not produce psychoactive cannabinoids, which we know is not the case. This focus also overlooks THCa’s impact, complicating regulatory compliance and consumer education. Accurate labeling and informed consumption are essential as the market evolves, empowering consumers to make educated decisions.

Anecdotes from confused consumers highlight the urgency of addressing this issue. For example, Jane Doe, a medical cannabis patient, shares her frustration: “I thought I was purchasing a low-THC hemp product, but the effects were much stronger than anticipated. It’s clear we need better labeling and education.”

But how did we get here in the first place?

The definition of hemp products has evolved over the past five years since the 2018 Farm Bill. This has been a bit of a convergent evolution, a “process in which organisms that are not closely related independently evolve similar features.” But it’s not the plant evolving. Like biological evolution, the industry has been “adapting” to legal interpretations as it grows. And this rapid evolution is leaving everyone perplexed. But how can one plant become two and then turn back into one?

 

caucasian female farmer checking industrial hemp
Industrial hemp has been historically grown for fiber and seed.

The 2018 Farm Bill Defined Hemp

Historically, hemp has been a low-potency crop, grown for fiber to produce textiles and seed for its healthy oils high in omega-3 fatty acids. These plants needed to be easy to process, so the sticky flower resin was minimized through centuries of crop selection. This cultivation strategy changed with the popularization of CBD in mid-2010. Hemp plants, low in THC, could be bred to produce high amounts of cannabinoids such as CBD.

To satisfy hemp operators and consumer demand for CBD, the 2018 Farm Bill divided Cannabis sativa L into two categories: hemp and marijuana, which defined hemp as any cannabis plant that is below .3% THC, and marijuana as any plant that tests above .3% THC. The intention was to ensure intoxicating plants were cultivated as marijuana and regulated as such. This language would allow farmers to grow crops for fiber and seed and non-intoxicating cannabinoids such as CBD, CBDa, CBG, CBGa, etc. This definition also meant that hemp would not be considered a scheduled, controlled, and federally illegal substance like cannabis.

Learn more about the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Problem

Lawmakers failed to recognize one critical point: THCa, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, is the prominent intoxicating cannabinoid in cannabis plants. Cannabis plants don’t produce high amounts of Delta-9 THC. Delta-9 THC comes from the decarboxylation of THCa when you consume cannabis flower in traditional ways.

The USDA clarified this by solidifying rules for producing legal hemp. According to the USDA, which regulates hemp cultivation, hemp plants must pass two burdens of proof to be considered hemp.

  1. It was grown by a licensed hemp grower in compliance with state hemp rules that the USDA approved.
  2. Pass a pre-harvest test 30 days before harvest for the total THC (THCa * .877 + Delta 9 THC) outlined by the USDA.

Furthermore, to be shipped from over state lines, the DEA requires all hemp products to remain under .3% THC.

So then, how is marijuana being sold across state lines, and outside the regulated market under the name of THCa hemp?

To find out about how THCa hemp is being sold nationwide, read the full article here.

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical

 

Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.