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Hemp vs. Marijuana: Why Can’t Cops Tell Them Apart?

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Last February, the Idaho State police pulled over a truck carrying 6,701 pounds of hemp and promptly seized it, allegedly claiming it was marijuana. Now the cultivators of that hemp, Big Sky Scientific, are suing the police, the county, and an attorney. If you’ve been following hemp news recently, then you have probably seen a few of these stories surfacing. Cops across the country seem to be mistaking legal industrial hemp with illegal marijuana (at least in some states like Idaho)..

So what gives? Here’s why cops may keep confusing hemp for marijuana, and how to tell the difference.

The similarities

Before we can talk about why hemp and marijuana are different, let’s talk about how the two plants are similar. Both hemp and marijuana are members of the genus Cannabis. There are three distinct species of Cannabis: Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. What we refer to as marijuana belongs in both the Sativa and Indica family. Hemp, on the other hand, is solely a member of the Sativa species.

Both hemp and marijuana have similar smells, and to the untrained eye look very similar. This is especially true if you look at a side-by-side comparison of hemp and marijuana flower.

Here’s a picture of hemp flower:

And here’s a picture of marijuana flower:

The differences

To the untrained eye, hemp and marijuana can look similar, but there are some key differences. Hemp leaves look skinny while marijuana leaves often have a much broader appearance. Additionally, marijuana plants often look like a short bush while hemp plants look tall and skinny with most of the leaves growing at the top. That is not to say that marijuana plants can’t reach tall heights, but even the biggest plant will still have that bushy appearance.

To help give you a better visual, here’s a graphic showing the differences, courtesy of the Ministry of Hemp:

However, the most significant difference between hemp and marijuana is their chemical composition. Hemp plants contain a variable amount of the compounds CBD and typically less than 1 percent THC. The legal definition of hemp is that it must contain 0.3 percent THC or less, but some hemp plants will go over that percentage. Marijuana, on the other hand, typically contains 5 percent THC or more.

A business opportunity

One reason why cops keep confusing hemp for marijuana comes down to education and training. Ever since the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, hemp and marijuana have legally been considered the same substance. Consequently, law enforcement has never taken the time to learn how to distinguish the two plants; and why would they? If both hemp and marijuana are considered the same plant under the law, why bother learning the difference?

Even though the 2018 Farm Bill changed that legal definition, law enforcement has yet to change with it. Not only are police officers often unable to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, but the equipment they use to determine marijuana is antiquated. Most roadside marijuana detection kits are designed to detect the mere presence of THC but not the concentration.

At the moment, there is no way for law enforcement to tell the difference between legal hemp and marijuana, but that may soon change. Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a notice that they are seeking companies that can provide test kits capable of telling the difference between hemp and marijuana. With any luck, an enterprising entrepreneur will come up with a device that allows the DEA to quickly resolve the issue and put to rest the long history confusing hemp for marijuana.

Both plants are cannabis, but there are some key differences.

How to recognize high quality CBD flowers. Complete guide.

If you’re new to the world of legal cannabis, our first advice is: don’t always trust labels. The CBD flower itself should speak for its quality.

The good news is that it’s quite easy to learn how to recognize high-quality CBD flowers and to distinguish them from a low-quality product.

You will surely find a lot of online guides based on various physical and chemical characteristics, but insiders will tell you that your most important and precise measuring tool when you are looking for high-quality CBD flowers is your nose.

Aroma

Top-quality legal cannabis is often characterised by a powerful fragrance. So when you are examining your CBD flower, consider that fine quality cannabis flowers should have a distinct and captivating smell which should stand out from other flavours. The strong and rich aroma indicates a high content of terpenes that with some more experience you will be able to identify. Terpens are produced by a variety of plants and are the primary components of resins and essential oils. It’s the combination of terpens that gives to a flower or a plant its particular smell and aroma (floral, citrus, fruity etc.) Pungency of CBD flowers is also directly linked to their potency.

If your storekeeper has different display samples, consider that remaining open to the air the flavour loses its intensity. If possible ask the storekeeper to give the flower a little pinch in order to release some of those terpenes and help you to get a better idea of what the actual smell of your CBD flower is.

So the smell is the first and main evaluation criterion for CBD flowers. The pungent aroma with its different nuances (sweetish, sourish, fruity, citric, floral etc.) is always a sign of quality.

  • Avoid buds that smell like hay or have no smell at all.

Visual appearance: judge by the appearance!

Color

Another important thing to consider if you are looking for fine-quality legal cannabis is the color.

First quality CBD flowers should be generally green in color, though the shade can range from lighter green to darker green. Bright, robust coloration generally signals a high-quality product. Top-quality CBD flowers tend to be some combination of green and purple.

Purple color of CBD flowers indicates the TOP quality

  • When the CBD flower on the shelf is brown, red, or yellow, that’s not a great sign. Our advice: avoid purchasing them.

Trichomes

If your storekeeper provides magnification devices to inspect the product (alternatively take a picture with your smartphone and zoom it), check out the trichomes on the flower’s surface. The trichomes are the collection of crystalline white hairs that aren’t always immediately visible to the naked eye. To determine the quality of your CBD flower you will have to evaluate whether those small crystals on the plant are intact or machine-trimmed and hacksawed down. In fact, best quality legal cannabis should be tightly hand-trimmed.

It’s in the trichomes that you will find your THC and CBD. Apart from producing such cannabinoids, which determine the potency and the properties of a flower, trichomes produce the resin. But not only! They are also responsible for the storage of essential oils and terpenes, which have been already mentioned, special compounds that confers to CBD flowers it’s aroma and flavor.

So if your CBD hemp flowers are densely packed with ripe trichomes and have a “frosty” look , you are almost surely holding in your hands a powerful and high-quality marijuana.

The quantity of trichomes is proportional to the quality of legal hemp flowers.

Golden pistils

It’s common to see quality CBD flowers covered with numerous colored pistils. Orange, brown or rarer red, pink and purple tiny hairs represent the maturity of the flower and their presence is a clear signal of a high-quality product and a confirmation of the correct maturation of the plant. This means that the plant comes from the controlled cultivation and the farmer is an expert in his field.

Their abundance does not affect the potency of the flower in any way, they only represent a clear quality mark.

To the touch

Too dry or too wet? Both are the low-quality signals. If the CBD flower is too dry it will crumble easily to dust. It should maintain a minimum of consistency and chop easily without pulverizing.

If the hemp flower is too wet it means that it has not been dried properly. The greatest risk of this drying error is the development of mold. The mold is usually easily visible to the naked eye.

Try to break off a small part of the flower. If it feels “sticky” to the touch – that is to say resinous and therefore laden with cannabinoids (THC, CBD) – but still remains slightly crunchy, then you are holding a flower of excellent quality.

CBD flowers structure

Quality cannabis buds should be quite tight, dense and well-formed. Avoid hemp flowers with “airy” or open structures and visible stems.

The best quality of legal cannabis comes from indoor cultivation. Almost always it excludes the presence of seeds, twigs and leaves that not only add an extra weight to your CBD flowers, but are normally synonymous with the poor quality.

Price

First-class CBD flowers are priceless and should be considered luxury items like fine wine and best cigars.

How to undersand the quality of CBD flowers. Learn how to recognize high-quality CBD flowers and to distinguish them from a low-quality product. Guide. ]]>