Houdini Lab

Cannabis or hemp?

Every botanical plant has a class of volatile compounds known as terpenes, which are responsible for the flavor and aroma that distinguish them from other plants. These chemicals or molecules also act as a defense against predators, a lure for pollinators, and a storage facility for the aromatherapy properties of the plant.

When the plant is in a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum state, the terpenes work in concert with the plant’s other constituent phytochemicals (or cannabinoids, in the case of cannabis) to produce the entourage effect on the plant. One of these terpene kinds, Limonene, is found in abundance in citrus fruits and is also found in significant quantities in certain cannabis strains.


Beyond the generic classification of cannabis, there are two legally recognized sub-classes, including low-THC hemp and high-THC cannabis, which can be distinguished by their THC content. The presence of terpenes in all plants eliminates the surprise at the variety of cannabis terpene types, which are divided into two sub-classes: hemp terpenes and cannabis terpenes, which are both derived from cannabis. Before delving into the specifics of these terpenes, it is necessary to provide a quick overview of their parent materials, which is essential to gaining a better understanding of them.



In light of the fact that both types are members of the Cannabaceae flowering plant family, they are somewhat similar but distinct in a variety of aspects, such as in their chemical composition and tensile strength, preferred application, resilience, and a variety of other characteristics.


When cannabis became legal in states that have controlled its use, it quickly climbed up the priority list (no pun intended) for use in the production of consumables because of its overall low toxicity as well as its high THC content. Hemp, on the other hand, is making inroads into the consumables sector, but it remains the preferred raw material for the production of non-consumables due to its high tensile strength, low THC concentration, and widespread availability. Many hemp farmers are waiting for the FDA to provide a final rule on CBD-infused foods and other consumable products.


Additionally, the legal status of both plants is taken into consideration when classifying them into these sub-classes. The Farm Bill, which was passed in 2018, does not include hemp as a regulated or controlled substance, although cannabis, which is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, does. More states in the United States, however, are wiggling their way out of this rule in order to facilitate easier access to cannabis for therapeutic and recreational uses.


In contrast, hemp has the ability to metamorphose into its high-THC counterpart under particular climatic conditions, as was shown in Hawaii. This is both exciting and terrifying for producers, as it means they will have to adapt to new conditions.



The difference in composition between these two plants extends beyond their psychoactive properties to include their terpene levels. As a result of this distinction, as well as federal legislation, cannabis companies have had difficulty striking a balance between producing high-quality terpenes and low-quality terpenes; however, this appears to be a problem that will only be resolved if federal legislation changes in a positive way regarding marijuana.


Status in the legal system:

Since the cannabis plant is prohibited from being used as a source of terpene extracts under federal law, some extraction companies have resorted to turn to the hemp plant as a substitute source of terpenes. However, for those industries who are fortunate enough to be located in areas where this jurisdiction does not apply, they are free to manufacture and are not subject to the negative consequences of using hemp in this process.


Requirement for a large amount of raw materials:

The difficulties of employing hemp for terpene extraction originate from the fact that it contains a low amount of terpenes in comparison to other plants. As a result, in order to generate a commercially viable amount of extracts from hemp, a substantial amount of base material is required, which is significantly more than would be required with cannabis.



It is defined as the steady buildup of chemicals, particularly toxins, in the body at a rate that exceeds the rate at which they can be eliminated through catabolism and excretion. The chemicals and soil toxins that are applied to or taken up by the plant, in accordance with the food chain analogy, have a tendency to flow up the chain to the final consumer, with a greater likelihood of such occurrence when the terpene extraction process necessitates a large amount of substrate, as in the case of hemp.


In an experimental investigation to determine the phytoremediation potential of the hemp plant, it was discovered that the plant, because to its unusually wide roots, was able to efficiently absorb all of the heavy metals present in the soil. [source: USDA] Despite the fact that this is environmentally helpful, it is not beneficial to consumers due to the reason stated above; the transference of pollutants to ultimate output.


Hemp, on the other hand, is often grown outdoors in enormous fields, where it is vulnerable to pollution, pollutants, and the vagaries of Mother Nature. While marijuana is typically cultivated outside in controlled circumstances, cannabis is typically grown indoors in highly controlled environments and conditions, right down to the soil.



It would appear that the hemp plant is attempting to compensate for its low phytochemical content by growing at an alarmingly quick rate. Because of its vast roots, the hemp plant is currently considered to be one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, maturing in between 108 and 120 days and producing cannabis. This single characteristic makes it a useful raw material for use in the manufacturing business, but it also makes it unsuitable for use in the extraction of consumable terpenes, which is undesirable (a win-lose sitch).



Capital is one of the four components of production, and it is the most important. Finance is essential to every step of the manufacturing process, particularly in the agricultural industry, from tilling the soil before planting through the final packaging and distribution of refined products.


There’s no difference when it comes to hemp cultivation and terpene extraction; in fact, it’s even more critical because of its low phytochemical content, which translates to more seedlings, more arable landmass, and higher-grade equipment and inputs than would have been necessary with professionally-grown cannabis.



Another stumbling block to this procedure is the vast amount of biomass required for hemp terpene extraction, as well as the lack of appropriate tools to meet this need. However, despite the fact that technological advancements have made most agricultural activities easier, the fragility of cannabis plants, particularly in their early stages, implies that they may at some point necessitate manual handling and care. As a result, labor as an additional factor of production is critical to hemp usage in the manufacture of terpenes, and will only be marginally beneficial in locations where labor is inexpensive.



As a result, the cannabis plant is more advantageous in the synthesis of consumable terpenes since it has a reduced toxicity risk, a better flavor, a smaller carbon footprint, and a higher overall quality extract than other plants. While there is no doubt that the atmosphere surrounding legal cannabis is changing, the United States and the rest of the world will have to wait for full legalization before they can begin producing terpene-rich chemicals.