There is much fear in the public consciousness that hemp crops will be used to conceal cannabis/marijuana grow operations. This is due to the popular misunderstanding that cannabis and hemp are the same plant, and ignorance about the methods used to grow these two crops. However, in reality, it is the total opposite. Illegal outdoor cannabis grow operations are rendered useless by industrial hemp.
Industrial hemp has been selectively grown for hundreds of years to produce a strong outer bast fiber and sturdy cellulose core. Cannabis has also been selectively grown, but it has been developed for it’s potent THC content, which has medicinal and psychoactive effects.
What is THC and CBD? They are molecules called cannabinoids that connect to cannabinoid receptors we have in our bodies. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring, and are even present naturally in mother’s breast milk. This natural CBD content is why babies become so relaxed after feeding. THC on the other hand causes the “high” effect that cannabis is known for. However, CBD has been shown to reduce the “high” effect. THC is a psychoactive, but CBD is not. THC does still have many health benefits though, and is known to relieve nausea, anxiety, and encourage appetite for those who need it.
Hemp plants can also be used to produce a non-psychoactive, non-addictive CBD medicine, which can be used to treat cancer, seizures, chronic pain, and hundreds of other conditions. This safe plant medicine is legal to use in many countries, but is still a Class B1 Scheduled Drug in New Zealand along with morphine and amphetamines. Weirdly, cannabis is a Class C, unless prepared as an extract, which make it also a Class B. The NZ law is confusing, as Class B drugs are defined as having a “very high risk of harm” yet the Ministry of Health’s own rules state that “CBD is a substance found in cannabis that has potential therapeutic value, with little or no psychoactive properties”. The rules are contradictory and confusing. You can read them by clicking here.
Marijuana is grown for the unfertilized flowers, which are covered in crystallized resin, which contains THC. The flowers of the cannabis plant are smoked or ingested both recreationally and medicinally. Conversely, there is no recreational value to hemp flowers, because the level of THC is so low.
So how does this relate to outdoor cannabis crops? Well, first you must understand that hemp and cannabis have separate male and female plants, instead of being hermaphroditic. The female plants develop flower buds which produce seeds, and the male plants produce copious amounts of pollen to fertilize those flowers.
Marijuana growers only want unfertilized female plants, while industrial hemp growers can use both male or female plants for fiber and cellulose.
If marijuana plants are grown near hemp, they will be fertilised by the male hemp plants. This will turn all of the potent cannabis flowers into useless seed heads. If the grower then attempts to grow these seeds, the potency of their crop will be dramatically reduced, providing a natural way to control the amount of illicit cannabis that is grown outdoors. This is great news for the tax payer, as it reduces the need for costly helicopter or ground searches.
While the ethics of cannabis are still hotly debated, it is clear that hemp is a net positive. It is not only a valuable food, fiber, cellulose, and medicine source, but it is also a simple way to control outdoor cannabis grow operations.