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Civil War: Hemp v. Marijuana - An Examination of the Impending Clash

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, battle lines have been drawn in the seemingly inevitable ‘sibling’ conflict between the two legal THC-producing plants that share the same roots.

A Nothing But Hemp Series on the Escalating Feud Between Hemp and Cannabis in America

One of the primary functions of this blog is to provide current news and knowledge surrounding the hemp plant and its associated topics and issues. Sadly, over the past few years, those daily doses of information and insight have begun to center more and more on the growing misalignment and downright bad blood between the hemp industry and its sister market sector, legal cannabis. And, of course, much of that heated conflict concerns money.

However, at this point, a brief history lesson is needed to provide some context to the growing feud. First, it is vital to understand that hemp and cannabis come from the same plant - cannabis sativa. An ancient crop long heralded for its medicinal applications by countless civilizations, it is still one of the most maligned and stigmatized flowers ever. While it is primarily known as the plant that produces marijuana, it also contains hemp.

Until recently, most people would have never known about hemp and all the fantastic products and applications it can produce and provide. That all changed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Before 2018, hemp and its "sister plant," cannabis, were listed as Schedule I Drugs on the federal government's Controlled Substances List. However, as part of the titanic Farm Spending Bill 2018, congressional lawmakers removed hemp from that list, making it legal to cultivate and sell.

So how is hemp legal, but cannabis or marijuana is not? Well, it comes down to percentages. According to the language of the legislation, any part of the cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC is considered hemp and is now legal. The remaining portion having more than that threshold amount is classified as cannabis and is still illegal at the federal level.

Complicating the issue further is the relatively recent seed change in American culture and the legal arena concerning cannabis. In the past decade-plus, almost half the states in the union passed cannabis legalization reform, making recreational marijuana legal for adults over 21. At that same time, close to 80% of states also established medicinal marijuana programs to help serve the needs of patients suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, and other debilitating conditions.

However, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, leading to the proliferation of a somewhat unexpected but lucrative market to fill in the demand gaps for those states where possessing and consuming marijuana products is against the law. The legalization of hemp and all of its derivative products opened the door to a vast array of hemp-derived products containing intoxicating cannabinoids like the familiar delta-9 THC (most associated with the "high" people get from consuming cannabis) and other less known variants like the enigmatic and controversial delta-8 THC.

While most of the hemp industry's revenue comes from the sale of CBD products, the market for edible hemp-derived THC offerings is the fastest-growing sub-sector within the industry and is the leading cause for the current and coming conflict between hemp stakeholders and corporate cannabis interests.

For those in the cannabis camp, the only legal products containing intoxicating cannabinoids should come from legal cannabis sales and not hemp. Not surprisingly, hemp advocates strongly believe in their industry's legal right to produce and sell intoxicating products derived from their plant.

Over the next few weeks, Nothing But Hemp will begin an in-depth exploration of the legal, economic, social, health, and cultural aspects of this impending clash between two burgeoning industries that should be united in their efforts to spread the power and magic of the cannabis sativa plant, but are instead locked in a life and death struggle for the future of hemp and cannabis in America.

It is ironic that such a unique, versatile, and healing flower could be at the center of such an untenable and painful battle over which part of it is allowed to exist legally over the other. It's the equivalent of having two siblings fight over a joint inheritance.

Working together, the hemp and corporate cannabis interests could massively advance the cause of cannabis reform and an expanded hemp industry. Unfortunately, much like the American Civil War, a long and mutually destructive conflict between the two embittered camps appears inevitable. The following article in this series will focus on some of the legal cases, coloring the tone and direction of this still-young and intensifying struggle.

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