We recently had a question from someone who wanted to use hemp seeds for cooking, but was leery of doing so because they produce the cannabis plant, otherwise known as marijuana.
This is a good question. I did some digging and learned that hemp is the name of a number of varieties of the cannabis plant which are used to produce products such as fuel, fiber, paper, seed, food, oil, etc.
The type of seed used to grow marijuana is cannabis indica and certain strains of cannabis sativa.
Believe it or not, all forms of hemp were illegal in the U.S. in the early part of the last century even though it was being used in many of the prescription drugs sold in America at the time.
However, according to the Arizona Industrial Hemp Council, there is a huge difference between industrial hemp and marijuana, mainly in the potency of the plants. The active or psychotropic ingredient in hemp is known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or, more commonly, THC. Another ingredient, known as CBD, which is an anti-psychoactive ingredient, is also present.
“Marijuana is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and low in the antipsychoactive cannabinoid, CBD,” the Council explains. “The reverse is true for industrial hemp; when hemp was or is bred for its desirable industrial qualities, the percentage of THC is minimal, while the percentage of CBD is high.
“While marijuana has a potency range of 3 percent to 20 percent by dry weight of THC, industrial hemp is generally defined as having less than 1.0 percent THC, and the normal range is under 0.5 percent. These THC levels are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand.”
However, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. “Hemp, it turns out, is not only not marijuana; it could be called ‘antimarijuana’,” the Council reports.
Therefore, the moral of the story is that it’s perfectly alright to use hemp seeds in cooking!