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Understanding Intoxicating Hemp and Marijuana: Market Manipulations and Legal Distinctions


The term “intoxicating hemp” has sparked considerable debate within the cannabis industry. As the lines between hemp and marijuana blur, understanding these distinctions becomes crucial for consumers and industry stakeholders alike.


A Humboldt county grower holding a cannabis leaf.

The Rise of Intoxicating Hemp


Hemp, defined legally as cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC prior to harvest, has historically been cultivated for its industrial uses—fiber, seeds, and oil. However, with advancements in extraction technology, the hemp market has seen a surge in products that contain higher concentrations of cannabinoids like THCA. THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a precursor to THC and is found in both hemp and marijuana. Despite this, THCA remains federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.


Terminology as a Tool of Control


The term “intoxicating hemp” is increasingly used by regulators and some industry groups to create a negative perception of these potent hemp derivatives. This terminology serves several purposes:


1. Market Segmentation: By branding certain hemp products as “intoxicating,” it creates a divide between these products and those derived from marijuana. This allows for tighter control over the market by steering consumers toward regulated marijuana dispensaries.

2. Economic Implications: The negative connotation affects the more affordable hemp products that many economically disadvantaged users rely on. By labeling these as dangerous or less desirable, the market subtly shifts demand toward pricier, regulated marijuana products.


3. Regulatory Pressure: States with legal marijuana industries are increasingly pushing for stricter regulations on hemp products. This pressure is not merely about safety; it’s also about maintaining market share and controlling competition.


States with legal marijuana industries are increasingly pushing for stricter regulations on hemp products

The Reality of Cannabinoid Products


Despite the scare tactics, the reality is that both hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species, Cannabis Sativa L. The difference lies in the concentration of THC at the time of testing. Hemp is cannabis tested before harvest with less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana is cannabis tested after harvest when THCA has naturally converted to THC during the curing process. The distinction is legal rather than botanical, meaning that hemp and marijuana are the same exact plant. As more consumers seek the benefits of cannabinoids without the legal risks associated with marijuana, the hemp market has adapted, offering products that bridge this gap.


Legal and Safety Considerations


For consumers, understanding the legal landscape is crucial. While hemp-derived cannabinoids are federally legal, state regulations vary widely. Some states have moved to ban or heavily regulate products like THCA, citing safety concerns. However, these moves often coincide with the interests of the regulated marijuana industry.


Looking Forward


The future of hemp and marijuana regulation will likely see continued attempts to delineate between the two through terminology and law. As consumers, it’s essential to stay informed and understand the motivations behind these regulatory changes.


For the latest updates and comprehensive insights into the evolving cannabis industry, stay tuned to THCannabis.



THCannabis marketing team

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