Trending / August 2020

Setting the Record Straight:

The Difference Between Hemp and Weed

Hemp Plant close up shot

Getting dressed shouldn’t feel like a moral dilemma. That’s why we’re introducing more sustainable textiles and practices into everything we make and do. One new material we’re using a lot of is Cottonized Hemp. Why hemp? Because it uses less water than cotton and leaves behind cleaner, healthier soils. Plus, our revolutionary “cottonization” process softens the fibers without weakening them. The end product is soft to the touch like cotton and super durable like hemp. 


With all this talk about hemp around the office (we use “office” loosely since moving into the virtual space), it’s only natural that someone brings up the question of how its related to marijuana. If you’re like a lot of us were here, that’s all you know—that they’re related. But you don’t know how or why. No worries. We took the nuggetiest parts of what we’ve learned over the last couple of years and boiled it all down to four factoids worthy of a dinner-party.

1. The Token Difference

Mariujuana. Weed. Pot. Mary Jane. Ganja. Lime Pillows. Righteous Bush. Whatever you call it, marijuana produces a high. Hemp can’t. That’s because of one very magical ingredient: THC.

2. THC: The Highness Component

Technically, hemp and marijuana come from the same plant genus: Cannabis. A slight difference in their chemical composition is all it takes to turn one into a “green rush” goldmine and the other into your new favorite earth-friendly jeans.


In the United States, the hemp plant is defined as having 0.3 percent or less of THC — making it totally legal and technically smokable but a total bummer if you’re trying to get baked. That’s because THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical composition in cannabis that alters your cognitive state and makes a pint of ice cream look like an appetizer — or gets you high. Anything more, even a plant with 0.4 percent, is strictly classified as a drug. 

3. The Farm Bill Makes Hemp Legal

Cannabis hasn’t always been a hot topic of legal debate. Before the Marihuana Act of 1937, both plants were legal and widely grown and used without regulation. After the Act passed, cannabis was so heavily taxed, it wasn’t even profitable to grow anymore. And by 1970, all cannabis was illegal under the Congressionally enacted Controlled Substances Act. Stoners everywhere were majorly stressed and the shady dime-bag shuffle was born.   


It took all the way until the Agricultural Act of 2014 (more commonly known as the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill) for legalities to loosen up, allowing for limited hemp production and research. And it wasn’t until the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 that growing hemp became legal in all 50 states. Hence the introduction of Cottonized Hemp in our 2019 WellThread x Outerknown collection.

Hemp and Weed Images
4. The Eye Exam

Just look at them side by side. Hemp plants (left) are taller and skinnier. Marijuana (right) is shorter and bushier. A result of 1000s of years of what scientists call “selective breeding.” Basically, us humans figured out a way to enhance two distinct benefits by treating the plant differently. They bred one to grow more stalk for its hardy, sustainable fiber used in textiles and the other to grow more flowers for medicinal use. Flash forward thousands of years and we’re applying the same perks harvested in hemp way back then to create brand new styles like our Stay Loose for him and High Loose jeans for her.

And that, friends, is the difference between weed and hemp. At the center of it all: humans! The way we live, the way we use our resources, makes a difference to the planet we live on and take from. Even a shift in how we make our jeans and how you choose them is a move in the right direction. To learn more about Cottonized Hemp and a bunch of other cool sustainability projects we’re working on, check out our Off The Cuff blog.

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