5 Differences Between Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis

The terms ‘hemp’, ‘cannabis’, and ‘marijuana’ are often used interchangeably. They shouldn’t be. All three terms have specific meanings in the botany world. When those meanings are not applied in the cannabis-marijuana world, confusion is the result. A good case in point is observed in the differences between industrial hemp and medical cannabis.

Industrial hemp is pretty straightforward. But referring to medical cannabis can be confusing if you do not know what plant is being discussed. Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of cannabis plants. Both are utilized for medical cannabis applications. However, hemp has more CBD than THC. Marijuana is just the opposite.

When experts speak of hemp, they are usually referring to cannabis indica. Referencing marijuana applies to cannabis sativa. With all of that said, here are five big differences between industrial hemp and medical cannabis from a business perspective:

                   1. Legality

Industrial hemp is fully legal in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. It is by no means a controlled substance. It can be transported across state lines and shipped nationwide using the U.S. Postal Service or private delivery provider. As for medical cannabis, not so much. It is still fully illegal in fourteen states. Medical cannabis is available in thirty-six states and DC. However, it cannot be transported across state lines because it is still illegal at the federal level.

                   2. Applications

Industrial hemp has a seemingly limitless number of uses. It can be utilized as a building material when combined with concrete, plaster, wood, and even plastics. It can be used to make rope and paper. Hemp can even be used as a food product. Medical cannabis on the other hand, has only a single application by definition: treating a small number of qualifying medical conditions.

                   3. Processing

Applications obviously affect processing. Medical cannabis processing is a matter of extracting THC, CBD, and terpenes to be used to create medical products. Processing industrial hemp can take on dozens of different forms depending on the desired product. While all of medical cannabis processing is highly specialized, there are certain portions of hemp processing that require very little specialization.

                   4. Pricing

As you might expect, medical cannabis is expensive. It costs a lot to grow due to licensing costs, equipment, and land availability. Processors pay a lot for raw material, then build that cost into their wholesale prices. Finally, dispensaries charge a higher retail price to cover their costs and profit.

Comparatively speaking, hemp prices are pretty low. Due to its legality and the sheer number of growers and processes around the country, you can get a ton of industrial hemp compared to what the same amount of money could buy in medical cannabis.

                  5. Business Hurdles

Being in the industrial hemp business is pretty straightforward in terms of rules and regulations. There are rules to follow, but they are easily navigated and complied with. It is a lot more difficult to run a business in the medical cannabis field. There are far more hurdles to overcome.

UtahMarijuana.org frequently uses their podcast, Utah in the Weeds, to speak with business owners in both the hemp and cannabis markets. If you were to listen to those podcasts, you would see just how difficult it is to run a medical cannabis growing operation, processing operation, or dispensary.

Outside of the biological differences between hemp and medical cannabis, most of the differences between the two really boil down to the legal issue. If medical cannabis were available in all fifty states and Washington were to decriminalize marijuana, many of the hurdles faced by business owners would simply disappear.

By WebEditor

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