Wild Hemp: What It Is and What You Should Know About It

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines wild hemp as “wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing, or tending.” Also known as “feral hemp” or “ditch weed,” the wild hemp plant has proliferated throughout rural parts of the U.S. since farmers were encouraged to grow hemp during World War II. 

Can You Smoke Wild Hemp Plant?

There are three main chemotypes of Cannabis sativa plants:

  • Chemotype I contains high amounts of THC and almost no cannabidiol (CBD). Chemotype I is the variety of cannabis typically consumed by recreational users. 
  • The second chemotype typically contains an approximately 1:1 THC-to-CBD ratio. While Chemotype II remains prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act, patients in states where medicinal marijuana is legal are increasingly finding benefits from the flowers.
  • Chemotype III cannabis plants contain high levels of CBD and relatively low concentrations of THC. Industrial hemp plants belong to this third category. Contemporary cannabis strains grown for high-CBD hemp flower are hybrids of different chemotypes with less than 0.3% THC, which is the legal limit for hemp strains in the U.S.

The wild hemp plant contains no detectable delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis, so smoking wild hemp is not very rewarding. Additionally, consuming ditch weed may be dangerous to your health. 

Feral hemp plants absorb heavy metals and contaminants from the soil. While wild hemp’s ability to remediate the soil may be excellent for the environment, the plants aren’t suitable for human consumption.

America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Hemp and the Wild Hemp Plant

The U.S. government’s relationship with industrial hemp has been a history of contrasts. Humans have been cultivating hemp for over 10,000 years. Early American colonists, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, cultivated hemp for rope, paper, textiles, and fuel for oil lamps.

Reefer Madness and the Marihuana Tax Act

Pressures from powerful industrialists in the 1930s sparked a propaganda campaign against hemp and cannabis. Wealthy entrepreneurs from the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, cotton, and paper industries, seeking to squash the competition from hemp manufacturers, backed a racist misinformation campaign colloquially referred to as “Reefer Madness.” In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act put such difficult restrictions on farmers that the law effectively banned hemp production in the United States.

Hemp for Victory

During World War II, the U.S. government temporarily lifted the regulations and encouraged farmers to grow hemp with the video known as “Hemp for Victory.” Unfortunately, the government suppressed hemp production again soon after its usefulness to the war effort waned. However, hemp cultivation during the war allowed pockets of wild hemp plants to proliferate throughout rural America. 

Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program

In 1979, the U.S. government began an aggressive, multi-decade program to eradicate all cannabis plants. Since then, the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression program has spent over $175 million in taxpayer revenue to destroy 4.7 billion wild hemp plants.

Where Can You Find Wild Hemp?

Despite the government’s extensive campaign to eradicate feral hemp plants, wild hemp still thrives in several U.S. states (it’s called ‘weed’ for a reason…). Wild hemp is difficult to eradicate completely as the seeds can lie dormant for years. Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Minnesota have the highest concentrations of wild hemp.

Positive Effects of Wild Hemp 

The DEA not only sought to eradicate existing wild hemp plants but also launched a wide-scale program to destroy all cannabis seeds. Wild hemp may provide a way to recover some of the lost genetics from America’s original industrial hemp strains. Feral hemp may also allow cultivators to take advantage of genes that thrive in different locations. Scientists such as Dr. Shelby Ellison at the University of Wisconsin and Professor Win Phippen of Western Illinois University have launched campaigns to collect wild hemp seeds for study.

Negative Effects of Wild Hemp

While some hemp breeders search for lost hemp strains through wild hemp, other hemp farmers are concerned that wild hemp plants may contaminate modern high-CBD hemp fields. Veteran breeders Oregon CBD backed legislation to ban outdoor cultivators from growing male plants in areas where wild hemp has been eradicated. 

As you can see, America’s relationship with wild hemp has had multiple twists and turns. Only time will tell what impact wild hemp will have upon today’s rejuvenated hemp industry. For the time being, you can keep browsing our amazing collection of high-quality hemp flowers.

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