Industrial Hemp Vs. Medical Hemp

Industrial hemp can be used for its fibers, seed (soil or food), oil and in the medical cannabis field. Each method has infinite applications but in this article, we will be focusing mainly on CBD flowers and CBD oil.

Whether processing hemp for industrial use or for CBD products, we follow the same stages and techniques in the post-harvest stages.

Although industrial and medical hemp are both considered Cannabis Sativa, they are grown and handled differently.

Hemp processing equipment, techniques, and practices depend on the Hemp strain genetic, growing and cultivation method and facility design. For example, hemp can be grown outdoors as well as in greenhouses using soil or hydroponics.

Hemp which is cultivated for seed or fibers will be characterized by more plants per square meter in comparison to CBD hemp. In this cultivation technique, the Hemp plants will be competing for the light and as a result will grow taller and look longer, with straight stems and abundant seed production. Male hemp plants are a very good source of fibers and are desirable in the field to maximize seed formation. Industrial hemp needs to be seeded with roughly 8-15cm spacing.

Usually, industrial hemp is grown outdoors and so will be exposed to uncontrolled conditions in terms of temperature, humidity, light, wind, hail, frost or drought. Medical CBD hemp will require more controlled cultivation conditions in order to increase the yield and to meet the new regulatory requirements.

High CBD Hemp strains are industrial feminized hemp plants that were selected and cultivated in order to produce large amounts of CBD, especially for its medicinal properties. CBD is produced in the trichomes of hemp flowers.

When we cultivate hemp for medical CBD products, we try to maximize both the CBD concentration (low THC) and the yield. In practice, most high-CBD hemp strains are bred from a cross of industrial hemp and high CBD strains.

Many customers consume CBD flowers by smoking or vaping. Premium hemp flowers that taste, smell and look the same as regular Cannabis buds may cost 4-8 times more than hemp flowers that will be sold specifically for the extraction of CBD.

Hemp Harvesting

Industrial hemp is harvested by cutting the hemp from the plant’s base and trimming the bud heads using industrial harvesting equipment such as combines. The stalk can be separated for fibers processing and the heads for seeds.

On the other hand, Medical hemp for CBD will usually be harvested manually, in order to maintain the flowers physical structure, to minimize contamination, to prevent the loss of trichomes or other important ingredients.

Hemp Post Harvesting

After the different growing stages are complete, the flowers and seeds offer many opportunities to create an array of different products. There are several post-harvest stages that should be followed and controlled in order to achieve a high-quality CBD product.

The Hemp post-harvest starts with the wet plant material and continues with dried herbal material that can be used for several different applications such as industrial, food or medical.

The technology behind hemp has already existed for over 100 years and the hemp industry remains dynamic, in spite of a messy and unregulated cannabis industry. But today many hemp processing facilities still lack a proper design based on GACP, GMP and GDP principles, and do not have the utilities and processing equipment that will enable efficient and controlled processes that assist in achieving a high-quality product that meets the new regulatory requirements.

Hemp Drying and Storage

The drying process of the Hemp flowers is a critical stage that has an important impact on the final product’s overall quality. Improper drying process and conditions will support undesired microbial proliferation, especially yeast and molds and high toxin levels. The drying process should occur at a specific temperature and in relatively humid conditions with good ventilation and for a defined time period.

Hemp Processing for Fibers

When producing hemp for fibers, the harvesting stage begins when hemp plants are between early bloom and seed-set.

The process is important and has an impact on the quality of the fiber. The retted fiber should have a water content of 10-15% for effective processing.

New technologies enable one to work with freshly harvested hemp material and to remove resins and gums from the hemp fibers.

Hemp Processing for Seeds

Hemp seeds have a very high nutrition value. For example, hemp seeds contain more Omega-3 than fish oil.

Hemp which is being cultivated for seeds is harvested 6-8 weeks after flowering or when the seeds have ripened.

Hemp seeds can be harvested with a combine harvester or other industrial technology.

The following principles should be implemented as part of the hemp seed harvesting:

  • Seeds should be at the required maturity level
  • Plant material should meet the required humidity level (dry)
  • Seeds should be carefully separated from the flower
  • Seeds should be stored and transported in the required relative humidity and temperature conditions
  • Prevent using equipment that can mechanically/physically damage the seeds

Hemp for Medicinal CBD extraction

When hemp strains are cultivated for CBD extracts for medicinal purpose, the process is very similar to THC extraction.

High CBD hemp is from female plants only. Usually, the gaps between hemp plants for CBD is 1-2 meter.

CBD hemp plants are typically individually irrigated and handled. Self-stacking strains are obviously easier to use.

CBD hemp flower harvesting is initiated when flowers are fully mature and even beginning to ripen and dry. This is about 10 weeks into the flowering stage. Due to legality issues regarding the THC concentration in hemp, flowers are not usually more than 0.3% THC. Hemp is harvested before the flowers are fully matured.

After harvesting, the CBD hemp plants should be dried within a limited and appropriate time period in order to minimize the microbial burden, to preserve the terpene content and to prevent trichome deterioration.

Drying is usually performed in temperature and humidity controlled drying rooms. These rooms should be clean, sanitized and sealed in order to meet GMP standards.

The chosen CBD buds trimming technology will depend on whether the plant material will be used for flowers for smoking, vape, or extraction.

The CBD harvested buds after drying will be tested for CBD and THC content as well as for moisture levels, pesticides, heavy metals, toxins, microbial levels and more.

CBD is one of the most important cannabinoids and has many health benefits. CBD products can include CBD oil, CBD isolates, CBD buds, CBD semi-solids – both cream and paste, CBD soft-gels, CBD capsules, CBD inhalers, CBD tablets.

As the hemp industry is becoming more medically oriented and regulated, hemp cultivation and processing should meet GACP, GMP and GDP standards. It is the business’ owners responsibility and our expertise to remain within the frame of the regulation. We will be happy to help your business grow at any stage it finds itself and offer our services and knowledge to the industry.

About Cannabis GxP consultancy

Cannabis GXP is proud to stand at the forefront of the Cannabis industry in Israel and worldwide thanks to many years of experience in these areas.

Our team is compelled to spread the message of the importance of cannabis science, regulation and standardization as the world enters a new era of cannabis legislation.

We aim to position our clients with their best foot forward when it comes to anything and everything cannabis related.

Our vast expertise allows us to assist companies in a wide range of services and needs: Anything from Cannabis R&D, growing and manufacturing, new products development, facility design, technology, Quality Assurance, Good Practices (GAP/GMP/GLP/GDP/GCP), staff training, local and global regulations.

Cannabis GxP is a subsidiary company of Bio-Chem Ltd. (2007), a consultancy firm for the Pharmaceutical field, Medical devices, Cosmetics and food supplements industry based in Israel.

Our cannabis consultancy services include:

  • Product development, delivery system & clinical trials
  • Growing, Manufacturing and Lab Facilities Design
  • Quality Assurance and Good Practices (GxP)
  • Cultivation & Product Manufacturing Technology
  • New product Regulations and Submissions
  • Qualification & Validation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Staff training

If you need one or several of our services, we will be more than happy to assist.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.