What is Hemp?

illustration of the differences between male and female cannabis hemp

In modern days, hemp is simply the agreed upon name for a crop of cannabis sativa that is being grown for industrial purposes. The major difference between industrial and medical/recreational varieties is the gender of the plants.

This study from Euphytica describes some of the varying characteristics between male and female cannabis sativa. The general physical difference is that male plants often appear to be taller and thinner than females.  Male plants also have little ‘balls’ that distinguish them from females. 

It’s often thought that hemp is simply the male cannabis plant.  However, this is widely misunderstood.  The male cannabis plant simply exists to pollinate the female plants. If it is pollinated, it will produce copious amounts of seed.  There will also be more usable fibre.  If this happens, the plant proceeds to drop off a lot of it’s cannabinoid content.  However, if not pollinated, the female plant produces higher concentrations of cannabinoids.  This includes THC, which is the chemical in cannabis that can get people high. 

Throughout history, hemp has been used to produce a number of resources for some of the most populated nations on earth. These resources include fibre for textiles and seed for food and oil.

The many commercial uses of Industrial Hemp

There are dozens of records that describe cannabis as one of our oldest agricultural allies. Numerous institutions have observed uses of hemp in North and Central Asia that date back as far as 8,000BCE. China still produces half of the world’s hemp to this day. We’ve also found financial statements that illustrate the huge hemp trade between the USA and Russia in the 20th century. Actually, Russia once produced 3/4 of all hemp sold on the market.

There’s even evidence that suggests Australia might have been founded as a ‘Hemp Colony’!

However, when the U.S Government claimed that the female plant caused ‘Reefer Madness’, most of the modern world abandoned cannabis. This meant that just about everything that was made from hemp was replaced with unsustainable alternatives.

male and female wearing black and white natural hemp clothing
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