Understanding Cannabis Terminology

Cannabis is a genus of plant colloquially known by many names and can be widely controversial. The cannabis genus contains three species: C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis, however there is an ever increasing amount of varieties or strains of Cannabis. The most common delineation between these varieties is between those that contain relatively high concentrations of the cannabinoid THC and those that contain little to no THC. Cannabis containing high levels of THC is commonly referred to as Marijuana, Pot, or Weed. Cannabis containing little to no THC is known as Hemp. There are certain genetic differences within the different plant types but overall there are relatively few differences between Hemp and Marijuana. These similarities have caused certain people to use the terms interchangeably, leading to the negative connotation that all Cannabis is Marijuana.

Cannabis plants naturally produce what is known as phytocannabinoids. While there are many different phytocannabinoids produced only one is known to be physiologically psychoactive, Tetrahydrocannabinol or simply THC. The two primary phytocannabinoids in cannabis are THC and Cannabidiol or CBD. Hemp is comparatively free of THC at an accepted concentration of 0.3% or less whereas Marijuana is generally around 3-20% THC.

The foundation for the definition of Hemp was laid in the 1970’s when The Species Problem in Cannabis written by Dr. Ernest Small PhD was published. Dr. Small inadvertently determined the global definition of Hemp by defining this cultivar as Cannabis that has a THC concentration of less than 0.3%. The global community almost unanimously adopted this definition of Hemp and since then all regulatory bodies have defined Hemp in this way.