Although weed has come a long way in terms of legality and freedom, it still has a ways to go. Fortunately, the THC-free alternative hemp has unlocked new potential. The only problem however is that hemp and weed tend to overlap in more ways than one.
This makes it difficult to differentiate one from the other and may cause confusion that could put hemp users in sticky situations with the law. So how can you tell these two herbs apart? And do they smell different enough to identify them? Here’s what you need to know.
One of the major reasons why you’d want to make sure you’re using hemp and not weed is legality. The 2018 Farm Bill changed the landscape of cannabis across the United States, ultimately legalizing hemp on a federal level.
That’s because back in the day, hemp was lumped together with marijuana as an illegal, controlled substance because of the alleged ‘psychoactive effects’ that it caused. Unbeknownst to those early lawmakers, hemp actually doesn’t contain any compounds that would cause such effects.
Through further research and studies, scientists discovered the organic compound responsible for the mind-altering effects of cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol or simply THC exists in copious amounts in marijuana — but not in hemp.
Apparently, specific cultivation practices can keep THC expression levels down to near negligible. So despite hemp and marijuana coming from the exact same plant, they don’t necessarily cause the same effects.
After having proven that THC levels could be kept consistently low by practicing proper farming techniques, the US government officially declared hemp a completely different product from marijuana, thus making it legal across the country.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, any part of the Cannabis sativa L. plant will qualify as hemp if it contains 0.3% of THC or less. Even just a hair above that threshold, and the product graduates into marijuana territory.
Here’s where things get tricky. While hemp and weed are legally recognized as different products, differentiating the actual product by way of the five senses can be pretty tough.
Remember, both hemp and marijuana come from the Cannabis sativa L. plant. That means aside from their THC expression, not much looks or smells different from the actual plant sample.
So the answer to the question is yes, hemp flower and weed can smell almost exactly the same. That’s because, during cultivation, farmers only really suppress THC expression in hemp. All of the other cannabinoids and terpenes are encouraged to manifest to the highest possible degree.
Of course, not all hemp (or weed for that matter) exudes the same scent. It ultimately depends on its predominant terpene content.
You can’t really talk about hemp and marijuana scents without touching on the topic of terpenes. These natural compounds exist in almost all plants and even animals. According to the most recent studies, there are about 30,000 different known terpenes.
But what exactly are they? Well, terpenes give plants their distinct smell and taste. Depending on what combination of terpenes a plant has, its flavor and scent may change.
Today, experts have found a way to measure terpene expression in both hemp and marijuana. The most commonly expressed terpenes in the Cannabis sativa L. plant include:
These are just some of the possible terpenes you’ll find in your hemp flower. Depending on the combination existing in the sample, scents and flavors may change.
What’s important to keep in mind however is that these terpenes may also exist in marijuana. So while there might be slight variations in the overall aromatic profile, it’s still going to be tough to differentiate between hemp and marijuana-based on scent alone.
There are better ways to differentiate hemp and marijuana instead of just by scent. If you want to make sure you’ve got a stash of hemp and not its illegal, controlled counterpart, here’s what you can do:
Some of these vendors might work with unscrupulous suppliers who don’t think twice to test their hemp for THC content. That’s why it pays to deal with vetted vendors who get their products only from certified hemp farms.
Check the tests to make sure you’re using true blue hemp products. If a vendor refuses to release reports, or if the results don’t come from certified third-party labs, consider buying the product elsewhere.
If you do, check how old the product is, and its lab reports, and reach out to the vendor immediately. If it happens again, toss out the stash and try seeking your next purchase from another place.
Your sniffer might not be the best tool to tell apart hemp and marijuana. Still, the best way to differentiate the two products would be by testing for THC content. Being the only, true distinction between these two agricultural commodities, a reputable third-party lab report demonstrating THC levels will guarantee the identity of your latest haul.