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Pharmacology of Fiber Hemp

Source: Schaffer Library

Possibly the most closely guarded secret in North America today is the difference in THC content between fiber hemp and drug-type hemp. The secret is so well guarded in the US that the enforcement officers at the State, Federal, and local levels are mostly ignorant of it. Whenever anyone points out this obvious discrepancy the keepers of orthodoxy point to some sinister plot involving legalization. The following
articles address this issue.

The important points are:

1) Fiber hemp is extremely low in THC.

2) Cannabidiol, CBD, a precursor chemical in the bio-synthetic pathway of Cannabis sativa L., tends to exist in an inverse relationship with THC. In fiber hemp where THC levels are very low, CBD levels are high. There is a third type of hemp, intermediate, where THC and CBD levels are both high.

3) The THC/CBD levels are genetically controlled factors. Although environmental, soil, and plant density conditions can effect the THC level to a certain degree, the genetic factors are most important. [It is now believed that the conversion from CBD to THC is controlled by a special enzyme. It is of course still a genetically controlled factor.] French monoecious cultivars used for paper such as Fibrimon 56 even if grown in optimal resinous drug producing conditions would still be useless for smoking or drug use. (You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!)

Gilbert Fournier has said even if fiber hemp were...."abundantly widespread, gone wild, naturalised, it still would pose no danger." (Fournier, 1979)

International agreements and standards recommend a level of THC in the fiber strains of less than 0.3% THC. (DeMeijer 1992) Most varieties are even less than this. The Le Mans Hemp Institute has even developed a Cannabigerol, CBG, dominant strain with 0.001% THC. Fournier, 1987) (Recent evidence indicates that the Le Mans research team has successfully eliminated THC from this strain.) By contrast notoriously weak U.S. government supplied 'marijuana cigarettes for the nine current legal medical recipients range in potency from 2.1-2.7% THC. (Randall, 1991) Average 'marijuana' seized by authorities in the U.S. is about 3-3.5% THC. (Potency Monitoring Project, 1993) Some indoor strains rank as high as 10% THC. While this selective breeding for high THC Cannabis was going on by many illicit growers,European Fiber Research Stations were breeding THC contents lower. (Le Mans Hemp Institute, France, All-Union Bast Fiber Institute, Gluckhov, Ukraine)

How much fiber hemp would a person have to consume to get a psycho-active high?

Gilbert Fournier quotes L.E. Hollister (1971) as saying it would take at least 10 mg. of THC in order to get...." a minimal inebriant effect, one would have to smoke all at once 50-100 cigarettes of fiber hemp in order to obtain this effect." (Fournier, 1979) (This would be from the leaves and flowering tops of French monoecious hemp gathered at anthesis.) There is essentially no THC in the stalk, seeds, or roots. (Beutler, 1978) There is usually less THC in the leaves and flowering tops of these fiber hemp cultivars than there is alcohol in non-alcoholic beer.

Cannabidiol, CBD, is a very interesting substance. According to Karniol (1974) it tends to block the psycho-active effects of THC. This would make fiber hemp doubly useless for drug effects. CBD as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid appears to be helpful for many medical an anti-convulsant for Epileptics, (Cunha, 1980) Dystonic movement disorders, ( Consroe, 1986) Huntington's Disease, (Sandyk, 1986) as an anti-inflammatory, (Formukong, 1988) as an aid to chronic insomnia, (Carlini, 1979) and as an anti-psychotic in rats with no adverse side effects, (Zuardi, 1991). Karniol (1973) has found that CBD tends to enhance some of the effects from THC and block others in rats. It seems to enhance some of the medical uses of THC, which explains somewhat why the synthetic THC pill taken alone is of such marginal use compared to 'marijuana' the whole plant substance. (Randall, 1991) Formukong and Evans reveal...."our results would suggest that cultivation of Cannabis plants rich in CBD and other phenolic substances would be useful not only as fiber producing plants but also for medicinal purposes in the treatment of certain inflammatory disorders." (Formukong, 1988)

Much of the research and development into the medical uses of 'marijuana' usually conclude with its unacceptable psycho-active side effects. Many drug companies in their research have tried unsuccessfully to separate the medicinal from the psycho-active effects of Cannabis. (Mechoulam, 1987) Here is a 'low-tech' way of doing this: grow low THC high CBD fiber hemp. The possibility of using the leaves and flowering tops from fiber hemp as a useful medical by product should be investigated. If CBD turns out to be therapeutically useful, this could provide added economic benefit to the development of fiber hemp.


Beutler, John A., and Der Marderosian, Ara H., 1978. Chemotaxonomy of Cannabis I. Cross-breeding Between Cannabis Sativa and C. Ruderalis, with Analysis of Cannabinoid Content. Economic Botany Vol. 32 (4) 387-394.

Carlini, E.A., Masur, et al, 1979. Possivel Efeito Hipnotico do Cannabidiol no ser Humano. (In Portuguese) Ciencia E Cultura 3l (3) 315-322.

Consroe, et al, 1986. Open Label Evaluation of Cannabidiol in Dystonic Movement Disorders. International Journal of Neuroscience. Vol. 30 277-282.

Cunha, J.M., et al, 1980. Chronic Administration of Cannabidiol to Healthy Volunteers and Epileptic Patients. Pharmacology . 21 175-185.

De Meijer, E.P.M., et al, 1992. Characterisation of Cannabis accessions with regard to cannabinoid content in relation to other plant characters. Euphytica. 62 187-200.

Formukong, E.A., Evans, A.T., and Evans, F.J., 1988. Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory Activity of Constituents of Cannabis Sativa L. Inflammation. Vol 12 (4) 361-371.

Fournier, G., Paris, M.R., 1979. Le Chanvre Papetier (Cannabis Sativa L.,) Cultive en France: Le Point sur ses Constituants. (In French). Plantes Medicinales et Phytotherapie. Vol 13 (2) 116-121.

Fournier, Gilbert, et al, 1987. Identification of a New Chemotype in Cannabis sativa: Cannabigerol dominant Plants, Biogenetic and Agronomic Prospects. Planta Medica. 53 (3) 277-280.

Hollister, L.E., 1971. Man and Marijuana. Science. 172. 21-29.

Karniol, I.G., Carlini, E.A., 1973. Pharmacological Interaction between Cannabidiol and Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. Psychopharmacologia. Vol 33. 53-70.

Karniol, I.G., Shirakawa, I., et al, 1974. Cannabidiol interferes with the effects of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in man. European Journal of Pharmacy. Vol 28. 172-177.

Mechoulam, Rafael, and Feigenbaum, 1987. Towards Cannabinoid Drugs. Progress in Medicinal Chemistry. Vol. 24. 159-207.

Randall, Robert, ed., 1991. Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, Vol. II.

Sandyk, Consroe, et al, 1986. Effects of Cannabidiol in Huntington's Disease. Neurology. Vol.36 (Suppl. 1) 342.

Zuardi, A.W., et al,1991. Effects of cannabidiol in animal models predictive of anti-psychotic activity. Psychopharmacology. 104. 260-264.

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This page last updated on 17 April 1999.