One of the primary differences between hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC in each plant.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently sent out a public notice asking for leads on a device that can differentiate between marijuana and hemp, since hemp was made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, while marijuana remains banned at the federal level.
Hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis, different special of the same plant. Despite this similarity, the plants have very different effects. Marijuana has a much higher THC content and is used to get high and for medicinal purposes, while hemp has a lower THC content and is used for manufacturing everything from oils to fabrics to CBD products, according to CBD Origin.
The 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow and manufacture hemp, but because the plants look similar at first glance this has made enforcing marijuana laws difficult for DEA agents. That’s why the agency is looking for a device that can test plants in the field to determine whether they are marijuana or hemp.
“It must be portable and rugged enough to be used in non-laboratory environments or ambient conditions. All products shall be the most current and up-to-date model/revision(s) available at the time of delivery.
Anticipated maximum quantities to be purchased will be based on evaluation results and agency need,” the agency wrote, according to Marijuana Moment.
The notice emphasized that federally the THC content level is what distinguishes marijuana from hemp.
“[A]ny Cannabis sativa L. plant material with a THC concentration above 0.3% is considered marijuana (AKA marihuana) and is still federally controlled,” the agency wrote.
Businesses who are interested in providing a device for testing cannabis plants can put in an application for consideration before March 15.
The DEA has been put in a tough position as cannabis laws around the country continue to evolve and the agency is still tasked with enforcing the federal prohibition. In addition to scrambling to differentiate between marijuana and hemp, the agency has also been working to give more approvals for marijuana grown for research purposes.
Marijuana Moment reported that the agency plans to increase the amount of marijuana that can be grown for research from 1,000 pounds to more than 5,000 pounds this year, but it has been slow to approve applications from growers.
“The DEA increased the production quota for marihuana based solely on increased usage projections for federally approved research projects,” the agency said in December. “The DEA continues to review applications for registration and registers the number of bulk manufacturers of a controlled substance that is necessary to produce an adequate and uninterrupted supply.