Cannabis and Hemp: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions 

Updated on September 1, 2023
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Hemp is a wondrous plant that has been used by many in various forms, from incorporating hemp seeds into food to using hemp-derived CBD oil or even smoking hemp-based cigarettes. Yet, there still remains a great deal of uncertainty regarding hemp, its use, and its legality — particularly as it is related to the sometimes-illegal marijuana. 

As the use of hemp and marijuana has increased in recent years, the growth of its popularity has inevitably led to confusion and misconceptions. The similar nature of the substances makes it understandable that consumers would be confused, as does their uncertain legality, historical stigma, media sensationalism, and occasionally misleading marketing.

Common misconceptions about hemp

One of the most prevalent misconceptions about hemp is that it is the same thing as marijuana. While the cause of this misconception is obvious — both hemp and marijuana are derived from the Cannabis sativa plant — it is crucial to distinguish the two. 

The main factor distinguishing hemp from marijuana is its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Hemp must have less than 0.3% THC by weight.

Since THC is the psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp is also different from marijuana in that it does not create a “high” because it generally does not contain the amount of THC that would be necessary to have the psychoactive effects of marijuana. It does, however, have many of the desirable health benefits, making it a viable alternative to the highly restricted medical marijuana.

It is also important to distinguish between hemp and cannabidiol, or CBD, which is also a compound derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Although marijuana also contains CBD, the higher level of THC in marijuana makes hemp a much more common source of CBD. Many claim CBD has numerous health benefits, including the potential ability to help with anxiety, pain, or depression.

Another common misconception regarding hemp is that, like marijuana, it is illegal on a federal level. This is simply not true. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill) removed hemp seeds from the list of federally controlled substances. As such, even though marijuana remains a federally controlled substance, its lower-THC cousin hemp does not. That being said, it is worth noting that some states and jurisdictions still prohibit the possession or use of any cannabis-derived compounds, including hemp and CBD.

Because of the complex regulatory nature of hemp, many falsely assume that hemp products are unsafe. Granted, not all hemp and CBD products are created equally. 

Commercially available hemp products are not FDA-regulated, meaning there is no consistency in the rigor of testing they are put through before being sold to the consumer. Additionally, there are some side effects that users should be aware of, though high-quality hemp and CBD products are put through rigorous, independent testing that verifies their safety and efficacy.

How to debunk the misconceptions regarding hemp

One of the most important steps users of hemp and CBD products can take to debunk some of these common myths is to stay informed themselves. 

Consumers should do their research before purchasing hemp and CBD products to ensure they are up to a high standard of quality. Hemp and CBD users can also learn about and share credible sources of research, as this will allow them — and their friends and loved ones — to become more knowledgeable about the truth of hemp and CBD.

Finally, those who want to combat misinformation regarding hemp and CBD should advocate for a clearer regulatory framework when it comes to these substances. If hemp and its derivatives (including CBD) are more clearly regulated, they will be subjected to the type of testing medicines must currently undergo to receive FDA approval. With this, not only will hemp and CBD products be more consistently safe, but this will also increase the accessibility of high-quality hemp and CBD products for those who need them to reap their substantial health benefits.

Although it is understandable why the average person would be confused about the true nature of hemp, it’s important to know the difference between hemp and its Cannabis sativa relative marijuana. Knowing the differences between these two substances will ensure that consumers can take advantage of the exciting positive health effects hemp could have.

Jorge Olson Chief Marketing Officer copy
Jorge Olson

Jorge Olson is the co-founder and CMO of two publicly traded companies, Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO, and Green Globe International, ticker GGII. Olson was born in Tijuana, Mexico, without running water or electricity, hurdling buckets of water across a block several times per day. Now, Olson is the author of business and inspirational books, as well as an authority on consumer packaged goods, beverages, and wholesale distribution. His partners are super-entrepreneur Sandro Piancone, Cheech and Chong, James Linsey, Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg.