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The Cannabis Plant

Written by Jen Kerr

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The cannabis plant is made up of two species, hemp and marijuana.  I like to refer to these as cousin plants as they are similar in make up yet different.  The hemp plant grows tall (up to 15’ and narrow) and contains high amounts of the cannabindoid CBD and low trace amounts of THC.  There are no psychoactive effects from ingesting any part of the hemp plant.  The marijuana plant is shorter and wider and contains high amounts of THC (which produces the psychoactive effects or “high” feeling) and lower amounts of CBD.  While the hemp plant is now legal due to the 2018 Farm Bill, marijuana is still considered illegal on the federal level but legal in some states for medicinal and/or recreational use.  

Cannabis-derived medicine use can be traced all the way back to 2737 BC when Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung used a cannabis-infused tea to aid with a variety of ailments including memory, malaria, rheumatism and gout.  Queen Victoria was also believed to have used CBD for menstrual cramps during her reign, which ended in 1901.  Cannabis was used medicinally for centuries until the US banned it in 1937 and classified it as illegal.  It was then that hemp was also classified as illegal as it was a derivative of cannabis.  Up until this time, hemp had been used for paper, clothing, rope and even food for our livestock (which I will talk about later).  Henry Ford once built a vehicle almost entirely out of hemp, which was 10 times stronger than the steel we use today and this vehicle ran off of hemp ethanol.  However, classifying hemp as illegal made way for the steel, gasoline, paper and pharmaceutical industries as this plant was once used for all of these necessities.

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