CANNABIS,  PLANTS,  FUNGI,  AND  INSECTS

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Hemp at Odds with Sensimilla

Blog Post #3, October 4, 2019

Photo: Indoor hydroponic crop of Triangle Kush beginning to flower. 

It's often mistakenly referred to as a different plant than marijuana, but hemp is just another name for the same plant. In today's usage, the term 'hemp' is nothing more than a legal definition. In order to be legally considered hemp, Cannabis spp. plants must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. There are many uses for hemp, including production of fiber, seed oil, food, bird seed, and construction materials. The national legalization of hemp production in the United States via the

Farm Bill presents a great opportunity for farmers to return to growing the once popular crop, which was made illegal by marijuana prohibition. Hemp plants are bred for fiber production, seed production, or both, and they're now being bred for higher levels of CBD, and for desirable terpene (flavor) profiles for smokable flower. It's a common misconception that hemp doesn't produce much sticky resin. Although sometimes as resinous as THC-producing plants, hemp plants produce CBD in the resin instead of THC. Another popular misconception is that only sativa plants are useful for hemp production; while this is true for fiber hemp, sativa, indica, afghanica, and ruderalis plants can be used for seed hemp production. Dual purpose plants that produce fiber and seeds are also sometimes grown, but these plants aren't as productive for either specific purpose. 

A considerable portion of hemp grown in the near future will be for smokable flower and CBD production, and even for CBG production. Some breeders are now focusing on developing strains that mature (ripen) with high levels of CBG, a cannabinoid which is gaining public interest. CBG is the precursor cannabinoid which is converted to THC or CBD or both, within the trichomes of cannabis plants. Farmers growing cannabis for smokable flower remove male plants from the field, or use 'feminized' seeds, which in theory produce only female plants, although hermaphroditism is common and problematic. Avoiding growing male plants allows for 'sinsemilla' production. 'Sin - semilla' is Spanish for without seed.

Conflicting Interests

Photo: Closeup of trichomes on Triangle Kush flowers containing about 25% THC. "Hemp" typically produces CBD instead.  

While some farmers are growing sinsemilla hemp, many are growing hemp for fiber or seed production. These growers leave male plants in the field, to produce fibrous stems alongside female plants (which also have fibrous stems), or for the pollination required to produce seeds. This has the potential to create major problems for sinsemilla growers, even for those who are growing indoors. Unlike bee-pollinated crops, cannabis is wind-pollinated. Cannabis pollen has been documented traveling more than 25 miles, across the Mediterranean Sea, from Morocco to Spain to pollinate Spanish cannabis intended to be sinsemilla. Even with careful filtration of incoming air, pollen could make its way into grow facilities via doorways and workers, unless strict procedures and 'air shower' machinery are used. Although some lawmakers in the U.S. are examining this issue, it isn't receiving needed attention in every state. Zoning laws may need to be established for outdoor hemp crops, and in highly populated areas, hemp production may not be possible without clashing with sinsemilla.