It is important to define what we mean by Cannabis, as the term is often used interchangeably with Marijuana and Hemp, causing much confusion.
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. Underneath which there are three species that are recognized: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
Cannabis plants produce a variety of Cannabinoids. Currently, 144 different cannabinoids have been identified, which have a variety of uses and effects when consumed.
The two most notable cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
THC is a psychoactive compound, which produces the “high”.
CBD does not produce a high but is used to treat anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain.
Cannabis plants may have various ratios of CBD to THC.
Marijuana broadly refers to cannabis containing predominantly THC (but also CBD), which can be used for medical and/or recreational use and will provide the psychoactive high that it is well known for.
Hemp broadly refers to cannabis plants that only contain CBD, (or an insignificant % of THC). It can be grown for a variety of industrial purposes as well as for specifically extracting CBD.
The Legality of Marijuana
Due to its presence of THC, the legality of Marijuana for medical and recreational use varies by country, in terms of its possession, distribution, and cultivation, and (in regards to medical) how it can be consumed and what medical conditions it can be used for.
The use of marijuana for recreational purposes is still prohibited in most countries; however, many have adopted a policy of decriminalization to make simple possession a non-criminal offense (often similar to a minor traffic violation).
Countries that have legalized recreational Marijuana are Canada, Georgia, South Africa, and Uruguay, plus 11 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia in the United States and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia.
Countries that have legalized the medical use of Marijuana include (but are not limited to) Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Zambia. Others have more restrictive laws that allow only the use of certain cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals, such as Sativex, Marinol, or Epidiolex.
The Legality of Hemp
Some countries do not draw a distinction between Marijuana and Hemp, treating them both simply as Cannabis.
Although Marijuana and Hemp both derive from the species Cannabis sativa and contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they are distinct strains with unique phytochemical compositions and uses. Hemp has much lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects.
The legality of hemp varies widely between countries. Some governments regulate the concentration of THC and permit only hemp that is bred with an especially low THC content.
Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel, however more recently it is also used to extract the valuable chemical CBD.
The world-leading producer of hemp is China, which produces more than 70% of the world output. France ranks second with about a quarter of world production. Smaller production occurs in the rest of Europe, Chile, and North Korea. Over 30 countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine
As of December 2018, hemp is now also legal to grow across the United States under federal law. The Hemp Farming Act allows any hemp-derived product not exceeding 0.3% THC to be sold legally.
The Legality of THC
Due to its psychoactive nature, THC is subject to many of the same restrictions as Marijuana.
The Legality of CBD
CBD does not have the same psychoactivity as THC and is therefore not scheduled under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances or any other UN drug treaties.
In 2018, the World Health Organization recommended that CBD remain unscheduled. However, the legal status still varies from country to country, as well in some cases depending on the method used for extraction.
In the European Union for example, in 2019 the European Commission announced that CBD and other cannabinoids would be classified as "novel foods", meaning that a license would be required by the producer but are otherwise legal to produce and consume.
Similar to energy drinks and protein bars which may contain vitamin or herbal additives, food and beverage items can be infused with CBD as an alternative means of ingesting the substance, and it is often marketed as alternative medicine.
How we can help
As the legal landscape and understanding about the differences in medical cannabinoids unfold, our experts are on hand to assist with protecting your business on an ongoing basis.
First, we must establish that your operations are operating in a legal capacity wherever you are, then we will be able to make the appropriate recommendations on how you can best protect your business from the suite of products and services that we have available to us.
To start the process, please get in touch via the contact form below or you can fill out our application form and apply for a quote today.