Processors use many types of processing techniques on hemp seeds and stalks. The technique used depends on the purpose of the final product.
The country has a licensing program for those interested in growing certain cultivars of hemp that contain less than 0.35% THC.
How is hemp processed?
The 2014 Agricultural Act, more commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, includes section 7606, which allows for universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp, as long as it is cultivated and used for research. Under the 2014 Agricultural act, state departments and universities must also be registered with their state, and defer to state laws and regulations for approval to grow hemp.
While marijuana cultivation requires ample spacing to reduce the risk of mold or bacteria, hemp can be planted more densely. Most marijuana crops are planted with one plant per 4 square feet. Hemp plants that are grown for oil are planted at roughly 40 to 60 plants per 4 square feet. Those grown for fiber are even more densely planted at a rate of about 100 to 120 plants per 4 square feet.
Male hemp plants flower much faster than females and do not produce nearly as much fiber. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Hemp originated in Central Asia. Hemp cultivation for fibre was recorded in China as early as 2800 bce and was practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe early in the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. It was planted in Chile in the 1500s and a century later in North America.
Although only the hemp plant yields true hemp, a number of other plant fibres are called “hemp.” These include Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum), Mauritius hemp (Furcraea foetida), and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea).
Cultivation and processing
Fibres are obtained by subjecting the stalks to a series of operations—including retting, drying, and crushing—and a shaking process that completes separation from the woody portion, releasing the long, fairly straight fibre, or line. The fibre strands, usually over 1.8 metres (5.8 feet) long, are made of individual cylindrical cells with an irregular surface.
Hemp is grown in temperate zones as an annual cultivated from seed and can reach a height of up to 5 metres (16 feet). Crops grow best in sandy loam with good drainage and require average monthly rainfall of at least 65 mm (2.5 inches) throughout the growing season. Crops cultivated for fibre are densely sowed and produce plants averaging 2–3 metres (6–10 feet) tall with almost no branching. Plants grown for oilseed are planted farther apart and are shorter and many-branched. In fibre production, maximum yield and quality are obtained by harvesting soon after the plants reach maturity, indicated by the full blossoms and freely shedding pollen of the male plants. Although sometimes pulled up by hand, plants are more often cut off about 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the ground.
The hemp plant is a stout, aromatic, erect annual herb. The slender canelike stalks are hollow except at the tip and base. The leaves are compound with palmate shape, and the flowers are small and greenish yellow. Seed-producing flowers form elongate, spikelike clusters growing on the pistillate, or female, plants. Pollen-producing flowers form many-branched clusters on staminate, or male, plants.
Hemp and cannabis are legally defined by the concentration of THC present in the plant. In the US and Canada, hemp is defined as cannabis plants with THC levels of under 0.3%. In the EU, hemp is defined as cannabis plants with under 0.2% THC. Many European companies aren’t thrilled about this difference; in fact, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has called for these rates to be standardised to ensure fair competition.
Are Marijuana And Hemp The Same Plant?
The top uses for hemp are:
So, are the first two hemp, and the third cannabis? Not quite. It’s more accurate to say that numbers one and two tend to be hemp, while number three tends to be cannabis.
Are hemp plants just cannabis plants that happen to have less THC? Again, the reality is more complicated. Hemp plants, especially those grown for industrial purposes, tend to look, grow, and act differently than marijuana plants. Marijuana plants tend to be short and “stalky”, with lots of branches and a profusion of small leaves and heavy buds. Industrial hemp plants tend to be taller with skinny leaves, thick stems, and fewer branches.