The distinction between “hemp” and “cannabis” in the public eye of America can be a bit hazy; a confusion not helped by inconsistent, murky legal issues, typically enforced by an oppressive, capitalistic government and its wealthy elite.
As laws on hemp, cannabis, and their assorted byproducts begin to relax, it’s smart to understand the difference between these two similar-yet-very-different plants – With more and more consumable cannabis and hemp products on store shelves knowing what to expect when taking each is important. Because despite similarities in appearance, smell, and taste? Hemp and cannabis aren’t as alike as it may seem.
So the short answer to “can you smoke hemp?” is “yes”. But whether or not smoking hemp buds is something you want to do? Is a much wider topic. Let’s delve in.
What is Hemp?
What we refer to as “hemp” is a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa that contains little to zero psychoactive compounds. Though the nomenclature can get a bit confusing at times, for the purposes of our article we’ll be defining
When hemp plants are harvested and dried the hemp buds are removed and their stalks stripped of additional plant material before further processing. These stalks contain many strong plant
Tow, Line Fibre, Paper & More
After the fibers have been removed from the core they are then further cleaned (a process called “
Hemp Seed, Hemp Flower, Hemp Oil
Hemp buds and seeds have uses as well,
“A Pipe of Sweet Hemp”
Interestingly, though hemp flower certainly has been smoked in some regard through-out history, smoking has never been known as it’s primary purpose, particularly in the western world (and for those curious about the header up there, no, that is
After the concept of smoking tobacco was introduced to Europe following the voyages of Christopher Columbus, those taken to the new vice sought ways to improve and alter the experience. One popular method was by
As a smokable substance on its own, though, most cultures across the globe have long recognized the distinction between hemp grown for industrial purposes and cannabis grown for its psychoactive properties. Most cultures except, of course, for the United States of America.
Is Hemp Legal in the USA?
Now? Yes, though that hasn’t always been the case. To discuss this topic properly, we’ll need to go over a bit of history on the United States and cannabis.
America and Hemp: A Brief History
From the early years of America hemp was a
After slavery was legally abolished cannabis – the type meant to smoke – began growing in popularity throughout the southern regions of the United States, often shared and
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937
Before going any further, a disclaimer: Reports of exactly what lead up to the
With an automated machine able to handle the labor-intensive process of breaking down the hemp plant, other textiles and fabrics would likely soon face stiff competition, potentially even destroying industries such as wood pulp producers.
Combined propaganda assaults from deep-pocketed paper, cotton, and nylon moguls tied both hemp and marijuana to racist fears; outlandish reports of (typically non-white) citizens flying into drug-addled rages after a single toke for were crafted and distributed for the purposes of inciting terror in the American populace – See
Once these industries were able to tie together the concepts of smoking cannabis and the “dangerous Other” in the minds of white America it was sadly easy to pass legislation effectively banning the cultivation and sale of all forms of cannabis, hemp included. Sadly easy and, as coming years would point out, also incredibly stupid and short-sighted.
America Goes to War
Enter World War II, bringing with it a vast need for hemp material. Before this point America had been importing most of its industrial hemp from countries in south-east Asia it was now at war with, meaning the US military machine was sorely lacking on basic, high-quality textiles .
After releasing “
The Rise of Synthetic Textiles
In post-war America hemp was no longer as valuable, with advancements in synthetic fibers such as acrylic and polyester making the labor-intensive process of gathering hemp less economically feasible.
Prior to the turn of the century the last legal industrial hemp field in the United States was planted in the early 1950s. Past this, the US government doubled down on it’s prohibition against hemp in the 1970s, by adding it and marijuana to the Controlled Substances Act as a
Finally Legal Again
After many more years of various experiments and governmental missteps the Agricultural Improvement Bill of 2018 (
Hemp & CBD
As noted above: Industrial hemp does not contain any appreciable amount of THC. If you’re wondering if smoking hemp buds will get you high,
Though the market for CBD has had it’s issues over the years (see our article on “
The .3% Limit
To be sold legally in the United States a hemp bud (or related product) cannot contain more than .3% THC content – Again, this is not an appreciable amount, and certainly not enough to get anyone high upon smoking, but anything above that fraction of a percent cannot be legally owned from a federal standpoint.
Legal “smoking hemp” manufacturers must keep close watch on their crops – Mutations or crossbreeding from nearby THC-laden cannabis plants can cause THC levels to elevate in their crop of hemp plants, potentially requiring the entire field to be discarded and burned. To prevent this from happening, samples of their hemp buds must be sent to testing facilities on a regular basis, to ensure the ratio of CBD to THC remains constant.
Such farms often specialize in high quality hemp strains developed and cultivated by their own staff – The call for “designer”, high-CBD strains among the hemp industry is a growing market, and developing a strain of smokable hemp that is CBD-heavy & THC-free can bring in significant amounts of revenue all on its own.
So, How Do I Smoke Hemp?
Exactly the same way you smoke any other sort of plant material; tobacco, cannabis or anything in between. Hemp flower buds aren’t very different from cannabis buds and can be smoked via a pipe, bong, joint or whatever your preferred consumption method may be.
Often companies that focus on CBD products will sell not only the loose smokable hemp flower but a wide array of concentrates and even pre-rolls (see below), making your options for smoking hemp flower even more convenient.
Concentrated CBD products can be used in any other concentrate-smoking device you might have, including vaporizers or dab rigs; likewise these concentrates can be added to other plant material for a more traditional smoking experience.
Pre-Rolled For Your Convenience
Pre-rolls filled with hemp buds (often known as “hemp smokes”) can be found at a variety of online shops and over-the-counter retail outlets, and at least visually do an excellent job of mimicking the look and feel of a very large cannabis joint/blunt.
(With the above in mind, though, breaking out one of these pre-rolls in front of, say, a local law enforcement officer may not be the smartest idea – They don’t know that blunt you’re smoking is 100% legal, and will likely have a few sternly worded questions.)
While smoking hemp buds filled with CBD shows signs of having significant medical benefit without providing any psychoactive effects, to get the most out of your CBD intake it may be smart to consider combining it with a little bit of THC on the side.
CBD + THC: The Entourage Effect
We discuss this topic in further detail in our article “
When cannabis is taken into the human body it’s effects are determined by it’s ratio mixture of THC, CBD and various terpenes. This interplay between the three major components of cannabis is often referred to as the “entourage effect”, implying that it isn’t enough to have just THC or CBD as the star of the show, it’s rolling up with the squad that makes the real difference.
Cannabinoids Teaming Up with Terpenes
In 2011 the British Journal of Pharmacology published the
A further study in 2018 reported that
This has lead many home hemp consumers to create a “mix” of smoking hemp buds heavy in CBD-heavy combined with THC-laden cannabis flower, often at a 1:1 ratio; scientific studies on this are unfortunately still uncommon, but anecdotal evidence claims this mix displays more noticeable effects from the CBD with a milder, less-intrusive high coming from the THC.
So: Can you smoke hemp? Sure. Do you want to smoke hemp? That’s more up to you and your situation. As stated (ad nauseum) above, hemp won’t get you high, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have medicinal, or even cultural, significance over smoking it’s more THC-laden relative in marijuana, and may just be worth a try in it’s own right.
We hope our article on hemp and it’s effects (or lack thereof) has been helpful. Happy smoking!