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What is the difference between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana?

Last month, the legalization of the recreational use and possession of marijuana was removed from consideration in the current New York State budget. In order to obtain revenue from recreational marijuana sales, legislation needs to be passed legalizing the recreational use and possession of marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been legal in New York since July 2014, with the passage of the Compassionate Care Act. Medical marijuana may be used by patients certified by medical practitioners as having serious conditions, like cancer, AIDS, severe chronic pain, and other ailments.

The biology of cannabis

The therapeutic benefits of marijuana use have been the target of misinformation for decades. At the heart of this misinformation, is the blurring of definitions that has made understanding marijuana difficult. Cannabis is a family of plants with two primary classifications – Indica and Sativa.

  •    Marijuana is a member of both classes.
  •    Hemp is a member of the cannabis – sativa family.

Cannabis contains a variety of different compounds called cannabinoids – the two most known are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the ingredient in marijuana that makes the user feel high or stoned. Marijuana has two primary human uses – one as medical and the other for recreational purposes.

When used for medical purposes, CBD is the ingredient that has been extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD users claim it eases their aches and pains. CBD can be reduced to a substance or oil and added in food for example, similar to adding protein to a milkshake.

When used for recreational purposes, THC is the ingredient users are seeking to obtain the high. What makes marijuana illegal in the whole United States is the existence of THC in the substance being used. Marijuana contains 10% of THC or the psychoactive agent. Hemp, on the other hand only contains .3% of the psychoactive agent.

Hemp is used for a variety of industrial purposes that has nothing to do with human ingestion of the substances. Hemp is an ingredient in paper, clothing, biofuels, food products, and oils for example.

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, first passed in 1938, makes it illegal to sell an active ingredient in dietary supplements or in foods that will be sold across state lines. This means that adding a 15 mg or 30 mg shot of cannabidiol or CBD to any food is breaking the federal. It also means that the user is breaking the New York law and may be subject to arrest.

In early May, a 69-year old grandmother on holiday with her family at Disney World Orlando was arrested and charged with a third degree felony charge of possession of hashish. The lady possessed CBD oil in her purse, when it was subject to search at the amusement park. She was referred to the police and arrested. Legally prescribed pursuant to North Carolina’s medical marijuana laws, the lady uses CBD oil to treat the painful symptoms of arthritis that attacks her legs, shoulder, and arms. The label of her CBD oil stated it was THC free. However, when tested by the police officer, the oil was found positive for THC, prompting the arrest. Thankfully, the Orange County prosecutor’s office dropped the charges.

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