If marijuana is illegal in Kansas, why are hemp seeds and oil sold in McPherson County?

Editor’s Note – This article addresses the misconceptions and differences between strains of the Cannabis plant, which is used to make both hemp and marijuana. The Kansas legislature is currently reviewing changes in legal status for the substances and the economic effects of producing these items, which will impact the textile, agriculture and medical industries.

If marijuana is illegal in Kansas, why are hemp seeds and oil sold in McPherson County?
Hemp and marijuana look the same — they both have the characteristic leaf shape — but are derived from different strains of the same plant, Cannabis sativa L., and are used for different purposes. Currently, both strains are illegal in Kansas, though one is a drug produced in neighboring Colorado and the other is a food and textile commodity imported from Canada or Mexico.
“In my opinion, the public has been misguided,” said Nick Reinecker, an Inman resident who encourages organic, chemical-free living. “When people see that green leaf, they immediately have that perception and fear.”
Reinecker explained that cannabis has many uses, and negative perceptions toward the plant prohibit consumers from understanding its benefits.
What consumers should know that the substance in hemp lotion or oil and the substance used as a drug are of different strains. For example, field corn and sweet corn are both corn plants, but the different strains create different outcomes.
The North American Industrial Hemp Council reports that this difference is molecular.
The key substances that researchers address are THC and CBD.
THC, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is what causes the marijuana high. Higher percentages of THC cause different highs or have various medical uses, depending on its preparation, reports the North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. Less than one percent of THC is in industrial hemp, which makes using hemp as a drug nearly impossible.
On the other hand, CBD, cannabidiol, is the substance that counteracts the effects of THC. High levels of CBD are found in hemp, but not in strains of marijuana.
Hemp began as a staple crop that ancient populations used for textiles, food and other commodities. It is a bast fiber plant similar to flax, jute and ramie, which are characterized by their long fibers on the outside of the stalk. Hemp is easily grown annually from seed in a range or soils, but does best in areas that also produce high yields of corn.
Dan Sutton of Tantulus Labs, a Canadian company that specializes in cannabis cultivation technology, reports that the strains can be recognized as the male and female plants of the same species — marijuana comes from the female plant and hemp from the male.
“Hemp and marijuana are grown for different uses, and therefore require different growing conditions. Medical cannabis has been selectively bred over generations to produce female flowering plants that yield budding flowers at the flowering stage of their life cycle,” Sutton explained in the report. “Hemp plants are primarily male, have relatively low concentrations of THC, and tall, fast growing plants optimized for higher stalk harvests.”
Hemp fibers can be spun and woven to a linen-like fabric and used for clothes, home furnishings and carpet. Antimildew and antimicrobial properties make them useful for sails, tarps and floor coverings.
Today, hemp cannot be grown in the U.S. but can be imported as a processed product. Industrial hemp growing was legal before the 1980s, reports David P. West, who holds a Ph.D in plant breeding from the University of Michigan. Because hemp is useful for making ropes, uniforms and sails, U.S. growers supported the war efforts by growing hemp from 1942 to 1945. Narcotics conversations in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s shifted the public view, and the Controlled Substances Act of 1987 firmly regulates cannabis practices.
Reinecker believes that legalizing the cannabis plant will allow producers in Kansas access a budding market.
“I don’t think there’s been fair analysis or research yet,” Reinecker said. “The government has allowed research to manipulate plants to create medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so we’re now looking for consistency between policies.”
Kansas’ legislature is currently addressing House Bill 2049, which would amend and create laws related to criminal possession of marijuana, industrial hemp and legalize certain medical preparations.
Current laws make smoking or possessing marijuana illegal, but items like hemp seed, hemp oil and related products are still fine for Kansas consumers.