Hemp plants



I have always been, and will always be, a fan of “whole plant.”  To me, “whole plant” means having as many of the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, lipids and other molecules included in a clean extraction and preserved as much as possible during decarboxylation.


“Whole plant” involves the buds as well as the sugar trim, or just the trim alone, all rich in terpenes.  Leaves add little to the extract, not to mention they create a tincture with a bitter taste.  The current whole plant cannabis tinctures carry the scent of raw cannabis and are rich in terpenes.  If it smells like cannabis, it was probably made from cannabis.  If it has no scent, it is probably produced largely from industrial hemp, or isolates or distillates.


These isolate and distillate products are pure (or nearly pure) CBD and even come in crystalline form, but are stripped of the hundreds of molecules present within the whole plant extract.  The tremendous benefit that these molecules have upon one another, as well as upon our internal endocannabinoid system, are lost.  The current industrial hemp or isolate/distillate molecules are weak medicines requiring a much higher dose for efficacy than that of dosed CBD derived from whole plant extracts.  Additionally, we might possibly begin seeing more drug interactions with these very high doses of CBD.  The resulting larger dose may very well trigger more drug interactions thru the P-450 metabolic process in the liver.


Following the passage of the “Hemp Bill” earlier this year, it became legal to sell any

cannabis/hemp product defined as having THC levels of 0.3% or less.  Several of the so-called 20:1 CBD:THC strains have THC levels as low as 0.4% at harvest time.  Because of that, some growers have even picked the plants 3 weeks early to reduce the THC levels down to 0.3%, therefore still qualifying as hemp.  However, as the THC is reduced, along with it all of the beneficial terpenes and other molecules are reduced.


These new strains generally all test THC at 0.3% at 8 weeks of flowering.  What if the CBD plants with 0.4% THC are bred for another generation or two in search of the magical 0.3% THC?  (By the way, it is only magical for legal and financial reasons, as the current strains at 0.4% or 0.5% make the same medicine.)


There is legitimate concern that these growers and manufacturers will eventually get themselves into trouble.  There’s a lot of grey area here.  I honestly don’t believe that these prematurely harvested CBD strains are a solution. 


So up until now, it has been easy for me to be in favor of whole plant and opposed to isolates, distillates or single molecule hemp CBD extractions.  It made sense.  However, the story is evolving and becoming more complicated, and surprisingly, I believe this may potentially be good news.


On the plus side, seeds for these new strains are available most specifically as feminized seeds, meaning that every single seed will produce a flowering female plant with THC of 0.3%.  These strains appear to be good producers, as many of them test out at over 18% CBD.  Being able to use low cost feminized seeds will save a lot of money and hassle with cloning. 


As a result, in the not so distant future, we just might be using the word “hemp” in a more favorable view. 

Allan Frankel, MD

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