The History of Hemp in the United States


The history of hemp, as well as what it is and where it originates from, is not well known among the general public. Many people identify hemp with its more notorious relative, marijuana, based on their initial impressions of the two plants. They are, nevertheless, diametrically opposed to one another. When you begin to read about the intriguing history of hemp, you will immediately realise that it is one of the world’s oldest crops, having been in use for more than 12,000 years according to historical records. As you learn more about this commodity’s domestication, you will begin to understand its worth and appreciate its sustainability and flexibility, which is particularly important in these environmentally sensitive times.

The history of hemp

Hemp is one of the few businesses in the world that can claim such a long and illustrious history. Hemp is said to have originated in Central Asia during the Neolithic period, as shown by the discovery of hemp fibre impressions on pottery going back to the 5th Century BC. Later on, the Chinese made use of this hemp to manufacture ropes, shoes, clothing, and a rudimentary type of paper, all of which are still in use today. While the use of hemp would grow and spread throughout the Northern hemisphere during this time period, Professor of Archaeology Elizabeth Wayland Barber “strongly suspects that what catapulted hemp to sudden fame and fortune as a cultigens and caused it to spread rapidly westwards in the first millennium B.C. was the spread of the habit of pot smoking…where the drug-bearing variety of the plant originally occurred.” Since then, the history of hemp’s use and cultivation has been well chronicled.

Hemp was also grown by a number of American presidents. President Washington and President Jefferson, two of the Founding Fathers of the United States, both farmed hemp, although there is no indication that they were aware of its psychoactive characteristics. Hemp was mostly used for industrial purposes at the time. For most of the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States, hemp was a common material for rope and fabric production.

Things, on the other hand, would change. The Marijuana Tax Act, as it was called at the time, was passed by the United States Congress in 1937. Those who engaged in commercial marijuana, cannabis, and even hemp trade would be subject to a tax under this groundbreaking legislation. Several academics believe that hemp was added in order to damage the American hemp industry, since the major proponents were businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family, as well as the Du Pont family. The reasoning for this was that, with the creation of the decorticator, hemp was believed to be a relatively inexpensive alternative for paper pulp, posing a danger to Hearst’s wood holdings as well as Mellon’s investment in Du Pont’s nylon fibres, which were considered to compete with hemp fibre. The hemp business in the United States would eventually be forced to close its doors as a result of this levy.

It would be during World War II when industrial hemp would experience another spike in popularity. In response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which limited the amount of foreign hemp supplies that could be imported from Manila, the USDA produced a film entitled “Hemp for Victoria” to encourage the growth of hemp in order to aid in World War II efforts by increasing the production of rope, canvas, and other uniforms, among other things. However, according to several accounts, the hemp industry would be extinguished once again when the war was won, since the hemp processing factories would be closed down.

The Difference between Hemp and Marijuana

Other countries such as Canada have recognized the difference between marijuana and hemp and thus have allowed the cultivation of hemp by farmers for industrial use. This historic act occurred in 1998. The main active ingredient responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana is known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is produced naturally in almost all of the hemp cultivars. The difference is that hemp must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, whereas the marijuana cultivars will contain 25% or higher. As such, these plants are distinctive and grown in a different way. Smoking hemp will not produce the same psychoactive high as smoking marijuana.

What is the situation like today with hemp?

Although the benefits of hemp are widely known and widely utilized in the United States, the manufacturers must import raw hemp products from foreign countries such as Canada, Europe, and China. For the large part, hemp is still considered to be prohibited to be grown in America by farmers.

In 2012, the U.S hemp industry was estimated to be about $500 annually as estimated by retail sales. Currently, there is a growing movement to legalize the growing of hemp for industrial use, with some added success in the state of California.

In 2012 the U.S industry for hemp was said to be about $500 million as far as yearly retail sales were concerned as well as growing for various hemp products. This is all according to the Hemp Industries Association, which is a nonprofit trade organization comprised on hundreds of different hemp businesses.

There is still a long fight ahead; however, the benefits of hemp make it extremely attractive to continue this fight as hemp can be grown in a variety of climates, and soil types. It also can resist pests and also grows in a tight space environment. It can also be used in place of cotton, or wood fiber. These are just a few of the benefits of the hemp crop.

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