Grassroots Expo: CannaReps expert delves into differences between hemp and cannabis that gets people high

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At this weekend's Grassroots Expo, one of Vancouver's foremost experts on cannabis answered a simple question from a member of the audience.

Adolfo Gonzalez of the consulting company CannaReps was asked about the differences between hemp and cannabis plants.

"First of all, the hemp plant is a cannabis plant," Gonzalez replied during his seminar at SFU Harbour Centre. "That's the first thing we need to get clear. They can interbreed."

He went on to say that hemp is merely a tall cannabis plant with a very small cola and a highly undesirable flavour.

Secondly, he noted that hemp won't get people high like other cannabis plants.

That's because the psychoactive compound in the plant, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), tends to be below one percent hemp that's allowed to be grown in North America and Europe.

"Hemp was bred by humans—primarily to use it for fibre," Gonzalez explained. "Our ancestors have been using it for fibre for 12,000 years at least, probably longer."

There are more than 100 cannabinoids, including THC, in cannabis plants. One of those cannabinoids, CBD (cannabidiol) tends to range between six to 12 percent in hemp plants, according to Gonzalez.

Modern cannabis plants, on the other hand, have been bred to include up to 35 percent THC. The highest CBD content is about 32 or 33 percent, he added.

In his presentation, he also demolished a widespread myth that there are never side effects from CBD capsules, which are used to treat pain and inflammation.

In fact, Gonzalez revealed that a close friend once took a 2.5-milligram CBD capsule and ended up in the hospital suffering from extreme anxiety.

That's because there were trace amounts of THC mixed in with the CBD.

"The CBD modulates the THC content, even in trace amounts," he said. "Most of us wouldn't get the extreme anxiety this person got. This person just has an insanely sensitive system."

However, he added that a 2.5-milligram CBD capsule would make most people feel drowsy, which is also a psychotropic change.

"It's not that CBD is not psychotropic," Gonzalez emphasized. "CBD is not an intoxicant."