Even among strains of the same species, however, hemp and marijuana exhibit drastically different genetic profiles. Unlike marijuana, most industrial hemp has been bred to be very fibrous, typically characterized by long, strong stalks and very few flowering buds. Marijuana plants, on the other hand, are smaller, bushier, and full of flowering buds. Excitingly, newer industrial hemp varieties are now being bred to bear more flowers and to produce higher yields of cannabinoids and terpenes. The Colorado hemp we use for our products, for example, is rich in these healthy compounds!
Importantly, the two types of plant also differ significantly in their levels of THC and CBD. Most marijuana contains high levels of THC and very little CBD. Most hemp, on the other hand, contains very high levels of CBD and only trace amounts of THC. For this reason, the cannabinoid profile of hemp is ideal for people looking for the benefits of cannabis products without the psychoactive effects or ‘high’ produced by most marijuana.
Because of their differences, hemp and marijuana have some distinct uses. Hemp is used for making herbal supplements, food, fiber, rope, paper, bricks, oil, natural plastic, and many other health and material products. Marijuana does not have the same textural qualities and tends to be used exclusively for recreational, spiritual, and medicinal purposes.
In the USA, Section 7606 of the Agricultural Appropriations Act of 2014 provides a legal definition of industrial hemp: “The term ‘industrial hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
While many hemp and CBD companies boast about their supercritical CO2 extractions, supercritical extraction is actually just one approach to CO2 extraction, and may produce inferior results. Other approaches include subcritical CO2 extractions, which use a lower temperature and a lower pressure, and ‘mid-critical' extractions, which use temperatures and pressures falling between those used in subcritical and supercritical extractions.
Subcritical CO2 extraction takes more time and produces a smaller yield than supercritical extraction. This procedure, however, is better able to retain many of the important oils, terpenes, and other sensitive chemicals within the plant. Supercritical extraction, on the other hand, is a high-pressure, high-heat procedure that harms most of the plant’s terpenes and heat-sensitive chemicals. The advantage of supercritical extraction is its ability to extract much bigger molecules, such as lipids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), chlorophyll, and waxes.
A genuinely full-spectrum CO2 extract consists of an initial subcritical extraction, a secondary supercritical extraction from the same plant material, and the homogenization of the two resulting oil extracts into one. In the vital oil industry, an extract derived from this specific process is described as a ‘CO2 Total.’