Natural Foods Merchandiser
NFM Secret Shopper: Can I get high from eating hemp?

NFM Secret Shopper: Can I get high from eating hemp?

Each month, NFM’s secret shopper heads incognito into a natural products store with a question. The employee’s answer—and our expert’s evaluation of the response—is reported here. Our aim: to help you improve your store’s customer service.

NFM: Can I get high from eating hemp?

Store: Absolutely not! That’s crazy! 

NFM: Really? Why is that crazy? Don’t hemp foods have THC?

Store: No. All the THC has been taken out, so you’re left with only the good stuff like omega-3s. You’re safe.

NFM: Great, because I have to take periodic drug tests for my job, and I wouldn’t want to test positive for marijuana because I ate hemp seeds. I’ll be O.K., right?

How did this retailer do?

Our expert educator: Greg Hottinger, MPH, RD, author of The Best Natural Foods on the Market Today (Huckleberry Mountain Press, 2004) and Coach Yourself Thin (Rodale, 2012)

The retailer was correct in saying that it’s not possible to get high from consuming hemp foods. While it’s true that hemp is the same species of plant as marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.), it is a different variety with significantly different properties. Also, hemp foods are derived primarily from the seeds whereas marijuana is procured from the flowering tops.

He also said that the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is removed from hemp foods. A more accurate statement is that hemp foods are derived from a variety of plant that has very low levels of THC. By law, industrial hemp plants must have less than 0.3 percent THC whereas the THC content of marijuana is 3 percent to 20 percent. One manufacturer of hemp foods has estimated the THC levels of its products to be 0.001 percent, dispelling any notion that eating hemp foods could trigger a false positive drug test reading.

The retailer was right in saying the shopper wouldn’t be sorry she ate hemp. Hemp seeds have twice the protein content (6 to 7 grams per 2 tablespoons) of most other seeds and are a good source of healthy fats, including the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid and the omega-6 fat gamma-linolenic acid, both of which exhibit anti-inflammatory properties in the body.

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