In order to understand what classifies a plant as hemp and where cannabinoid rich hemp comes from, it is important to know the structure of the phylogeny. Phylogeny takes into consideration evolutionary lineage, as well as the characteristic relationships that exist amongst organism groups. The main seven taxonomic ranks (in order) are domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. In the plant kingdom, under the order Rosales, is the family Cannabaceae. The family falls under this order due to their flowering nature.¹ Under this family is the genus, Cannabis.
The genus, Cannabis, is historically broken down into three species (although these classifications are evolving in recent years); C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. This is an area of classification that mainly has to do with the height of the plant, appearance of the leaves, and the region it is native to. Under these species falls lower classifications of the well known varieties, including countless individual strains. In these lower levels, variety classification includes the chemical makeup of the plant as well as its intended use.
Traditionally speaking (as in for the last several decades), cannabis plants classified as ‘hemp’ exclusively included oilseed and fiber varieties. This deemed drug varieties as ‘cannabis,’ or more commonly in the last century ‘marijuana’. Cannabis plants which are being grown for oilseed and fiber production tend to be more stalky. They have less flowers and little, to no cannabinoids at all. These varieties of the cannabis plant are much different in appearance than the varieties of high-cannabinoid hemp we are familiar with today. It is within the drug varieties that cannabinoids play a major role. Several sub-classifications exist based on chemical (cannabinoid) makeup with Type-1 & 2 varieties having high amounts of THC. Then there are the Type-3 varieties which have high amounts of CBD, but very little THC at all.
2014 Farm Bill
Up until 2014, ‘hemp’ was strictly classified as oilseed and fiber varieties sourced from other countries that had little to no cannabinoid content in the plant. Hemp was finally defined by the U.S. government in the 2014 farm bill. This bill defined it not by intended application, but instead by cannabinoid percentage – specifically limiting the THC content in the plant. This opened the door for cannabinoid rich (type-3) drug varieties.These varieties, according to their low amount of THC (but high amounts of CBD), could finally be legally cultivated and researched by U.S. farmers. Now, instead of using the oilseed and fiber hemp varieties from other countries, the Cannabis genus can legally be bred to achieve full-spectrum and cannabinoid rich extractions under the classification of ‘industrial hemp’, thereby creating a category of cannabinoid rich hemp!
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to classify a plant or plant derived product as industrial hemp, it must be under 0.3% THC. Industrial hemp plants are now used for either for the extraction of CBD or for its age-old use in oilseed and fiber production. With time and meticulous cultivation techniques, varieties of the cannabis plant have been bred to meet these demands. There are varieties now which yield far less THC while yielding higher amounts of other cannabinoids, like CBD. Varieties have also been bred to yield more oilseed and fiber. All of these varieties, while defined by our government as industrial hemp, still fall under the botanical genus Cannabis.
Extraction of cannabinoids like CBD and THC start with quality raw plant material. This makes it very important to understand where your products are made and the source of the raw material. A customer should always be able to request a certificate of analysis to verify the quality and potency of the product they are purchasing.
The bar was set high for Colorado, as one of the first states to implement a robust hemp pilot program. Elite Botanicals was one of the first certified businesses in the state to hit the ground running. They successfully exceeded expectations by creating some of the highest quality products on the market today. Along with pushing forward regulations, the work and research done by pilot programs opened the doors to standardize the industry. Now customers can make sure they are receiving the highest quality products and cannabinoids possible, in all 50 states.