Just a few years ago, most people would give you a strange look if you suggested smoking hemp. I remember hearing things like, “What’s the point?,” or “You would have to smoke a telephone pole-sized blunt just to get high,” and other such dismissals. The dismissals were valid, too, assuming that the only purpose of smoking cannabis was to get high on THC.
I took a long hiatus from cannabis after college in the late 1990’s. This was primarily driven by the standard motivations of an aspiring 20-something: increasing levels of responsibility in life as I embarked on my career, drug tests for work, a loss of contact with the underground network in those prohibition era times, etc.
But, there was more to it, as well. As medical marijuana laws started to be passed, with California’s Prop. 215 in 1996, and many other states following suit in subsequent years, cannabis breeders and growers began to develop much more THC potent strains of cannabis.
According to one NIH study, the average THC concentration of confiscated cannabis went from 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014. The experiential effect of this increase in THC concentration was a much stronger high from much less material. The quality of the high shifted, as well, due to a drop in CBD concentration, as the plants shifted their overall cannabinoid production into THC alone.
In my personal experience, this actually detracted from the experience of cannabis smoking. I had less and less time to spend stoned, and more and more need for relaxation. I didn’t find the pure THC high very relaxing at all; quite the opposite, I would experience a great deal of anxiety and paranoia. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2004, then moving from Georgia to California in 2006 to work in Silicon Valley, I had great expectations for legal medical marijuana to help me manage my condition. Unfortunately, my first purchases from caregiver cooperatives ended up blasting me into space, rendering me mentally useless. I didn’t find benefit in the newly developed, super potent strains. My subsequent requests for “lower THC” strains were met with confused looks-“What’s the point?” I shrugged and gave up on cannabis for several years, and I explored other natural anti-inflammatories and adaptogens instead to help manage my stress-exacerbated disease.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one interested in cannabis for reasons other than a THC high, though. The Stanley Brothers in Colorado famously bucked overall cannabis market trends in the early 2010’s by developing a high CBD, low THC strain of cannabis they named Charlotte’s Web. The strain was specifically bred for use by children like Charlotte Figi, who suffered from a rare seizure disorder, to treat their condition without getting them high. I first found a relatively high CBD, lower THC strain of cannabis at a dispensary in Colorado around 2015. It was a strain called Harlequin, and it had a roughly 2:1 CBD to THC ratio. It soothed my Crohn’s flare very quickly, and the psychoactive effects were manageable enough that I could use it in the evenings after work and wake up clear headed the following morning.
Within another couple of years, those strains and others had been bred to the point that they qualified as legal industrial hemp under the 2014 Federal Farm Bill because their flower contained less than 0.3% delta- 9 THC. As states began to implement industrial hemp pilot programs, hemp growers suddenly had the opportunity to grow a federally compliant hemp crop in the same style as marijuana: all female plants, cultivated for cannabinoid content, and the buds/flowers harvested, cured, and trimmed. Beyond that, consumers had the chance to consume cannabis in a familiar form, but for effects other than THC psychoactivity.
As it turns out, many people have found that consuming hemp flower isn’t crazy after all. We’re now discovering a whole host of beneficial compounds in the cannabis plant, and it is liberating for many to be able to access them without needing to consume THC along with them. Furthermore, humans have been consuming cannabis in a variety of preparations for thousands of years, and the availability of modern hemp flower opens this ritual up to a much wider group of people than just those consumers who enjoy the effects of high THC cannabis.
At Lux Botanics, we have been working closely with our dear friend and medicinal herb grower extraordinaire, Amy Hamilton of Appalachian Seeds, for the hemp that goes into most of our products. Last season, on her biodynamic farm in Sandy Mush, NC, Amy lovingly grew three strains of USDA certified organic hemp flower from seeds developed by Shakti Seeds: Chardonnay, Sweetgrass, and AC/DC. While we typically focus on extraction, distillation, and refinement of medicinal concentrates at Lux, we were so enamored with Amy’s hand-trimmed and slow-cured flower that we kept finding ourselves smoking it and sharing it with friends. This flower is beautiful and artisanally crafted, and we decided we should offer it as it is, the full natural expression of the plant that underlies the majority of our products.There are countless ways of working with this flower, from smoking it in joints and bowls, to creating herbal smoking blends, to making preparations and extractions in your own kitchen laboratory. We will be sharing more of our explorations of techniques both modern and ancient in future publications. And we genuinely hope this plant can bring you as much relief and serenity as it has given us.