Cannabis Confusion: International Hemp Definition

In the ever-evolving landscape of cannabis legalization and the booming hemp industry, there exists a pressing need for a universally recognized international definition of hemp that unequivocally sets it apart from its THC-laden counterpart. As countries worldwide grapple with legalizing cannabis and hemp, the lack of a clear distinction between the two poses significant challenges for regulators, businesses, and consumers alike. 

In this blog, we delve into the crucial reasons why establishing a definitive global definition of hemp is a paramount step towards fostering responsible growth, supporting sustainable industries, and ensuring public safety in the cannabis domain.

What is Hemp?

what is hemp?

Hemp is a versatile and multi-purpose plant belonging to the Cannabis sativa species. It has been cultivated for thousands of years for various industrial, nutritional, and medicinal purposes. What distinguishes hemp from its close relative, marijuana, is its low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" associated with marijuana use. 

Hemp is grown and utilized for a wide range of applications, including the production of fibers, textiles, paper, biodegradable plastics, biofuels, food products like hemp seeds and hemp oil, as well as extracts for health and wellness purposes, like CBD (cannabidiol) products. Hemp's environmentally friendly nature, rapid growth, and diverse applications have garnered significant interest and support, making it a crucial player in sustainable industries and agriculture.

Differing Hemp Definitions

There are different definitions of hemp in different countries, which can lead to varying regulations and guidelines for its cultivation, sale, and use. The primary distinction revolves around the allowed THC content in the plant.

In some countries, like the United States, hemp is legally defined as Cannabis sativa with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less on a dry weight basis. Any cannabis plant exceeding this THC limit would be classified as marijuana and subject to stricter regulations.

In other countries, the THC threshold for hemp may differ. For example, in Canada, the limit is set at 0.3% for the flowering heads and leaves but extends to 0.9% for hemp grain. European countries often follow similar guidelines, with THC limits varying from 0.2% to 0.3% depending on the specific nation.

The differences in hemp definitions are crucial as they impact the cultivation methods, access to markets, and legal status of hemp-related products within each country's jurisdiction. Harmonizing international definitions for hemp is essential to avoid confusion, promote trade, and facilitate a responsible global hemp industry while distinguishing it from THC-heavy cannabis.

Universal Hemp Definition

The differing definitions of hemp are behind the paper presented by the Federation of International Hemp Organizations (FIHO). The FIHO believes creating a common language for hemp can unlock innovation and ease the incorporation of hemp products into global supply chains.

What is the FIHO?

international hemp organization logo

Established in 2022, the Federation of International Hemp Organizations unites 20 prominent global hemp organizations representing 50 countries. Their overarching mission is to address vital industry concerns on a global scale and to connect with influential international bodies such as the United Nations (UN) Committee on Narcotic Drugs, the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization. Through these concerted efforts, FIHO strives to pave the way for a sustainable and thriving hemp industry that transcends geographical boundaries.

Lack of Clarity

The paper highlights how lingering confusion surrounding hemp has discouraged farmers from embracing hemp production, thus hindering the plant's full potential as a lucrative cash crop. With its diverse applications in animal feed, textiles, bioplastics, building materials, soil regeneration, and carbon credits, hemp presents abundant opportunities for various industries. However, the lack of clarity between high-THC marijuana and low-THC hemp, both derived from the Cannabis sativa L plant, perpetuates misconceptions that originated from the Drug Wars of the 20th Century. 

The paper emphasizes the urgent need to inform and educate political policymakers and professional regulators as hemp production and regulated markets for cannabis uses resurge globally. Unlike marijuana, which involves concentrated and isolated cannabinoids for therapeutic and recreational purposes, hemp products do not carry the same health considerations, further underscoring the necessity for an international distinction between the two.

Defining Hemp

creating an international hemp definition

The FIHO has released recommendations aimed at aiding individual jurisdictions in formulating clear regulations that distinctly separate marijuana from hemp while considering country-specific variations. The proposed definition of "hemp products" encompasses all derivatives of hemp that comply with the respective marketing jurisdiction's regulations, taking into account existing frameworks for food, feed, and materials, as well as considerations for farmers' rights, access, and benefit-sharing for traditional and indigenous varieties.

In the context of these recommendations, "hemp" is defined as a variety of Cannabis sativa L., encompassing both marijuana and hemp. This definition includes any part of the hemp plant where the concentration of THC in the flowers and leaves does not exceed the maximum level set by local authorities. While many countries commonly adhere to a THC limit of 0.3% for hemp crops in the field, some have recently adopted or increased the threshold to 1.0% THC.

One noteworthy aspect of the recommendations is the distinction between hemp crops and hemp products. The proposed THC limits would be based on the concentrations found in the final products rather than the harvested plant itself. If stakeholder concerns make this approach unfeasible, the paper suggests implementing a regulatory system that differentiates crops based on their specific use or purpose, such as fiber, grain, and the flowers and leaves of the inflorescence. This approach would relieve pollinated hemp, grown for agricultural purposes, from unnecessary testing burdens, providing a more practical and scientifically sound approach.

Trade Codes

The FIHO's initiative extends beyond the cultivation of hemp as it seeks to clarify hemp-related terminology in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code—a crucial system utilized for categorizing goods in international trade. This code serves as the foundation for determining customs duties, taxes, and other charges related to imports and exports. To address this matter, FIHO is diligently developing specific recommendations under the HTS, acknowledging its significance in streamlining global hemp trade.

Now, having formulated these recommendations, FIHO is poised to engage with national and international policymakers. The aim is to foster a unified understanding and application of common hemp terminology across all regions and countries worldwide. This collective effort demonstrates the hemp sector's ability to collaborate and speak cohesively on critical matters. Daniel Kruse, the Vice Chairman of the FIHO board of directors and President of the European Industrial Hemp Association, emphasizes the importance of policymakers embracing this unified position, underscoring the need for consistency in terminology.

The Future of Defining Hemp

In conclusion, the imperative for an internationally recognized definition of hemp, distinct from THC-heavy cannabis, cannot be overstated. As we witness a resurgence of hemp production and exploration of its vast potential across the globe, the need for clarity and uniformity in regulations becomes increasingly apparent. By establishing a clear definition for hemp, we can foster a responsible and sustainable hemp industry while ensuring public safety and consumer confidence. With the dedicated efforts of organizations like the FIHO and the collaboration of global actors in the hemp sector, we now stand at a pivotal moment to create a harmonious and thriving hemp economy. 

Embracing a common terminology and informed policymaking will not only empower farmers and entrepreneurs but also pave the way for a greener, more innovative future where hemp can flourish as a multifaceted solution to various global challenges. Let us unite in our advocacy for a well-defined hemp industry, and through this collective endeavor, unlock the boundless potential that this remarkable plant holds for our planet and its inhabitants.

E1011 Labs and Hemp

hemp in E1011 Labs stelo

Here at E1011 Labs all of our stelo™ and Ari53™ products are classified as hemp and contain 0.3% or less THC as per the 2018 Farm Bill. The flower in our stelo are predosed and prefilled with full spectrum CBD-rich flower, while our Ari53 come prefilled and predosed with infused flower. On the back of each 10-count pack there is a QR code that when scanned will take you to a page where you can enter the batch number located next to the QR code and find the certificate of analysis for each product. The COA will confirm the potency of each stelo or Ari53, so users can rest assured they are using a true hemp product.

The stelo and Ari53 flower pods are designed to work with our elon® device. The elon uses heat-not-burn technology to quickly heat the flower in our specially designed paper sticks to the optimal temperature for consumption. Our device allows you to avoid the grinding, packing, and ashy aftermath of traditional smoking methods, while benefiting from the release of cannabinoids and terpenes. New users can order a Starter Bundle to try out our device along with stelo and Ari53 at a fraction of the cost. Explore the world of hemp products, and the future fo flower, with E1011 Labs!