One of the most common misconceptions about the hemp plant is that it is a different plant than marijuana. This misconception stems from the 2018 Farm Bill where federal regulations classify cannabis by its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content; cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC is classified as “industrial hemp” while cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC is classified as “marijuana”. The reality is that industrial hemp and marijuana are both cannabis, just like granny smith and red delicious are both apples. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on cannabis that is considered ‘hemp’.
Just like apples are bred for different purposes like hard cider or a tasty lunch snack, hemp is cultivated for many different purposes as well. A critical part of sourcing high quality hemp extracts is understanding how and why a processor chooses different types of hemp for their products. Apples can be classified based on many characteristics like sweetness, tartness, acidity, crispness, etc. Similarly, THC is only one small property that changes a phenotypic characteristic of the hemp plant. Outside of that one property there are hundreds or thousands of variants that are accessible through breeding hemp strains such as varying levels of cannabinoids, terpenes and fatty acids.
At Treehouse, we are focused on hemp bred for its cannabinoid-rich properties. Our farmers use feminized seeds or clone plantings where the budding portion of the plant is cut and planted to create similar cannabinoid profiles throughout an entire field. To ensure consistency we then test plants during and after harvest. This is because environmental factors like the soil’s mineral content, PH, fertilizer or weather conditions can affect the cannabinoid profiles even within an identical genetic pool.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Understanding the types of hemp your vendor is using is a key factor to understanding the final product you’re purchasing. For this article we’ll skip covering THC-rich hemp or cannabis, most commonly thought of as marijuana since it is well known and not processed by Treehouse. Beyond THC-rich hemp, the other three main categories of hemp include: fibrous hemp, cannabidiol (CBD) rich strains and cannabigerol (CBG) rich strains.
Understanding Hemp Strains
Fibrous hemp is the most distinct variation of the three. Producing very few cannabinoids, it can often be identified by its height, growing over six feet tall, and appearing significantly bushier than other varieties of hemp. When people think of hemp as distinct from marijuana, this is typically the variety people imagine since it was commonly cultivated throughout the US, especially during World War 2 for the manufacture of rope and textiles. Currently fibrous hemp is used for everything from environmental remediation to the production of construction materials, textiles, insulation, paper, and rope. As the popularity of farming this crop continues to grow, we look forward to seeing even more innovative applications.
CBG-rich strains of hemp have been around for decades, but research is only beginning to understand the potential of this compound. CBG is considered the “mother” of all cannabinoids as it’s the first primary compound produced by hemp plants. As a hemp plant matures CBG is the base molecule that enzymatically converted to become THC, CBD, CBC and other minor cannabinoids. CBG-rich strains don’t convert CBG into other cannabinoids at the same levels as other strains maintaining twelve to fourteen percent CBG in high quality buds.
CBG-rich strains are just increasing in popularity and accessibility. Sourcing high quality CBG-rich hemp requires carefully monitoring harvest time and hemp variety, making this an especially complicated strain to source. Treehouse prides itself in working closely with our farmers to cultivate the highest grade flower.
CBD-rich strains of hemp typically contain between fourteen and eighteen percent CBD in the flowers by weight. Depending on the variety and harvest date, the plant can also contain significant levels of cannabichromene (CBC) and CBG. CBD-rich hemp has been cultivated to produce naturally low levels of THC with variations in the percentages of other minor cannabinoids. Because of the importance Treehouse places on standardized active ingredients, cannabinoids in our case, we work closely with our farmers to ensure minor cannabinoid content guaranteeing the consistency of our products like our elemental extracts.
So how do you know what you’re getting? At the end of the day, it’s complicated. Even within those broad groupings, there's varying levels of terpenes and fatty acids, and very different profiles of minor cannabinoids. You can find CBD-rich strains that contain 18% CBD and 5% CBG to strains that contain 4% CBD and 0.5% CBG and anywhere in between.
The important question to ask your vendor is how they are sourcing the hemp. Request the farm license, strain information, and potency analysis of the flower – at minimum. If they can’t or don’t want to explain how they source their flower, it should be a red flag. Or even easier, contact our sales team, Treehouse prides itself on setting the industry standards from sourcing to manufacturing and supply chain transparency.