For the past year, small jars of cannabis flowers have been flying off the shelves of Italian specialty shops: a phenomenon that’s described as a “green gold rush”.
The hemp flowers – with names like K8, Chill Haus, Cannabismile White Pablo and Marley CBD – are sold under the tag “cannabis light” because their level of the psychoactive compound that makes people high is a tiny fraction of that typically found in cultivated marijuana.
But there’s a catch. The aromatic hemp flowers must not be smoked or eaten. Seeds, should there be any, must not be cultivated. As the jars’ labels sternly specify, the products are for “technical use” only and “not for human consumption”. Instead, they are sold – as countless salesclerks will explain with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink smile – as “collectors’ items”.
In the past century, marijuana and cannabis became associated with the word drug, effectively wiping out generations of tradition, said Gennaro Maulucci, the main organiser of a hemp-based trade fair in Rome. “We want to dismantle that defamatory reputation,” he said.
The level of tetrahydrocannabinol – or THC, the compound that makes people high – is less than 0.2 per cent in cannabis light, a small fraction of the 15-25 per cent or more that is typically found in cultivated strains of marijuana, whose street-level quality can be significantly lower in Italy. It has varying levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, which proponents say has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, without the psychoactive effects.
CBD does not appear to have any psychoactive (“high”) effects such as those caused by ∆9-THC in marijuana, but may have anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic effects. As the legal landscape and understanding about the differences in medical cannabinoids unfolds, it will be increasingly important to distinguish “medical marijuana” (with varying degrees of psychotropic effects and deficits in executive function) – from “medical CBD therapies” which would commonly present as having a reduced or non-psychoactive side effect profile.
Various breeds/strains of “medical marijuana” are found to have a significant variation in the ratios of CBD-to-THC and are known to contain other non-psychotropic cannabinoids. However it is only the amount of ∆9-THC that chemically gives a legal determination as to whether the plant material(s) used for the purposes of extracting CBD are considered hemp, or considered marijuana.
Any psychoactive marijuana, regardless of its CBD content, is derived from the flower (or bud) of the genus Cannabis. Non-psychoactive hemp (also commonly-termed industrial hemp), regardless of its CBD content, is any part of the cannabis plant, whether growing or not, containing a ∆-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) on a dry weight basis. Certain standards are required for legal growing, cultivating and producing the hemp plant.
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