By Thomas Ivory Jr.
Something must be very threatening to a particular governing body when they continue to wrongly define and refuse to medically and scientifically consider a single plant species that represents sustainability and self-sufficiency.
With over half of the United States working toward marijuana law reform, and more considering decriminalization, many were shocked when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently refused to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I narcotic—a substance considered highly addictive, with no medical value—to a Schedule II narcotic—a substance considered to have high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological and physical dependence.
What is more concerning, in the industrial hemp world, is that the federal government, in agreement with other federal agencies, changed their definition of industrial hemp in the federal Farm Bill 2014 from Cannabis sativa L.—with a dry weight basis of 0.3 percent THC or less, to Cannabis sativa L.—used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a dry weight basis of 0.3 percent THC or less.
This is problematic because the new interpretation excludes the flower of the plant. Industrial hemp was initially viewed as a dual-crop—a crop, which when harvested has two materials (fiber and seed) that can be turned into products. These days, with new knowledge and understanding, hemp can be viewed as a tri-crop—a crop that has three useable materials (fiber, seed and flower).
The flower and its final products, when under 0.3 percent THC, does not have a psychoactive effect, but does have the medicinal value. Scientists have recently discovered in the past couple decades that many cannabinoids (not only THC, but also CBD, CBG, CBN, and 100 more) are produced by the cannabis plant. Industrial hemp, while it may have an extremely low level of THC, can have much higher levels of other cannabinoids—which states do not regulate.
CBD, in particular, has become very popular due to its medical effectiveness without the psychoactive effect. Research on the effects is new, but users are quickly discovering its usefulness in treating many ailments, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV dementia, seizures and more.
Scientists and geneticists look for the ratio between CBD and THC. Nothing less than a 20-to-1 CBD-to-THC ratio is ideal. This ensures more CBD, while THC remains low. When ratios are closer together, like 5-to-1 CBD-to-THC, CBD percentages tend to be lower when compared to the 0.3 percent THC levels.
With industrial hemp still in its infancy in America, and much of the infrastructure (steady genetics, harvesting techniques, processing facilities) still developing, it is important for American-grown hemp products to make their way into stores. With over 25,000 different products that can be made from industrial hemp, America is currently the largest importer of the plant-based products; yet it still may not legally be grown on US soil under federal law.
Awareness of locally grown and processed hemp is also new. States that have the ability to commercially sell industrial hemp products have been encouraged to develop “soap and rope” projects to illustrate the textile aspects of the plant. While these products are valuable and highly desired, they are not as exciting as the flower-extracted medical CBD. Although understanding of and research on CBD is currently minimal, yet expanding, its effectiveness (and on-psychoactivity) is hard to ignore.
To make hemp plywood, industrial rope or hemp seed oil, for instance, hundreds of thousands of acres are required. And with that, large processing facilities are needed. Here in the US, the acreage and facilities for these products are very limited.
As for CBD, many fewer plants and much less processing equipment is needed to make a lot more products.
One issue that has arisen is that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy requires that if a substance is authorized for investigation as a new drug, then products containing that substance are not allowed for public consumption. With that, the FDA has prohibited the sale of cannabidiol (CBD) as a dietary supplement in human or animal food.
It is important to remember that for THC to become psychoactive (when raw on the plant the cannabinoid is actually THCa [delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol acid]) it must go through a “decarboxylation” process—a chemical reaction in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is released when smoked, vaped or baked.
This chemical reaction causes the human body to experience a psychoactive effect when the plant is consumed. The cannabis plant alone has never caused a human death. This is because—unlike alcohol—marijuana, when used to excess, does not cut off function of the spinal cord nervous system, and unconscious breathing and brain function can continue.
As for industrial hemp, the low THC content causes no psychoactivity when consumed and, like marijuana, there is no risk of death. Still, many hemp advocates have been striving for an understanding of the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana. They are two very distinct plants with very distinct characteristics. Although they are similar because both produce cannabinoids, other plants also produce cannabimimetic compounds. These include hops, black pepper, basil, lavender, cinnamon and more.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has just revised the state wholesale/manufacture license application, asking applicants whether their products contain “cannabis” or “hemp.” This is a confusing and inaccurate representation of the cannabis plant: Hemp and marijuana are the same plant. This links industrial hemp with the negative stigma of marijuana.
Public safety is important, yet public demand should also be considered. If a product has been proven safe and effective, there should be more logical and appropriate ways to approach policy (unlike how the US government patented certain use of cannabinoids found with the Cannabis sativa plant. US patent 6630507, US Health and Human Services, filed 2/2/2001).
Many hemp farmers are able to use the material needed to make safe CBD products, helping to fund and support their expanding and more challenging fiber and seed products.
When the federal government and its agencies continue to promote old biases and support special interests, they restrict progress, lose credibility and force an industry underground and into the black market.
What is the threat of cannabis to the nation? How can the citizens begin living healthier and happier lives? When will the freedom and voice of the people be heard?
Many states have taken upon themselves to provide truth and possibility for its citizens without permission of the federal government by legalizing cannabis. Instead of trying to control the people, the government could instead create connections that establish maturity and responsibility. When the people are educated about this plant and make their own choices, they can base decisions on love and not fear.
To support the legalization of cannabis—industrial hemp and marijuana—please let your state representatives know.