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Hemp History

on August 17, 2020

hemp history

Hemp History. 

Until only recently, hemp was a critical crop serving a multitude of purposes from paper to textiles. For many historians, it’s hard to believe the transformation of a once abundantly harvested plant has gone through and how misunderstood it is in modern times. Hemp is thought to be one of the oldest forms of industry with cloth remnants from archeological discoveries dating back to ancient Mesopotamia in 8,000 BC. It was some years later in 1,200 BC that hemp was brought to Europe and began its emergence throughout the rest of the western world. It played a pivotal role in the early settling of North America, but because of its labor intensive harvesting practices, it took a backseat to cotton. Overtime countries have taken different paths harvesting hemp, with China having had over 6,000 continuous years of cultivation. 

Hemp and It’s Complicated History. 

Where it gets complicated is in the 1930’s in America when new textile businesses were emerging and newspaper and lumber behemoths were feeling threatened by the hemp industry. Hemp was experiencing a growth period because of increased efficiency with new machinery advances making harvesting easier and cheaper. Industries were also looking at the byproducts of the plant as possible revenue streams. However, in September of 1937 the United States was lobbied by big companies like DuPont, who had patents on synthetic fibers, to impose an excise tax on hemp sellers. By the end of the year hemp was banned completely in America and Canada under the Opium and Narcotics Act. 

With the Japanese invading the Philippines in 1942, this left the U.S. with nearly no options for importing hemp. This gave way to loosened restrictions and the release of “Hemp for Victory”, a movie from the USDA stating, “In 1942, patriotic farmers at the government’s request planted 36,000 acres of seed hemp, an increase of several thousand per cent. The goal for 1943 is 50,000 acres of seed hemp.” 

It’s amazing to think there have been 25,000 documented uses for the hemp plant and yet we are just now seeing its re-emergence. Here’s a timeline of some of the notable moments in the history of hemp:

  • 1533: King Henry VIII, king of England, requires hemp production of farmers
  • 1616: Jamestown, first English settlement in the Americas, grows hemp for ropes, sails, and clothing
  • 1776: U.S. Founders write early drafts of The Declaration of Independence on hemp paper
  • 1840: Abraham Lincoln uses hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps
  • 1942: Henry Ford builds an experimental car body made with hemp fiber (10x stronger than steel)
  • 1942: USDA’s “Hemp for Victory” program – hemp production in WWII
  • 1970: The Controlled Substances Act classified hemp as an illegal Schedule I drug.
  • 1957: Last commercial hemp fields planted in Wisconsin in the U.S.
  • 2007: Two North Dakota farmers are the first to receive hemp licenses in 50 years. 
  • 2014: The Farm Bill was signed allowing institutions to conduct research into hemp. 
  • 2018: After failed attempts to pass hemp-specific laws, an amendment to the  “Farm Bill” legalized hemp in the U.S.

Hemp has seen a roaring comeback with over 500,000 acres licensed to be planted in the United States in 2019 alone. As of now the majority of hemp is planted and harvested for the use of making CBD oil which has turned into its own billion dollar industry. There’s a lot still at stake still for hemp farmers. The fight for control over the hemp landscape continues, with the USDA indicating the DEA would like to retain control over hemp. A ruling from the FDA has not yet been issued as of this writing, making it harder for hemp-based businesses to perform critical business functions like work with banks, merchant processors and many tech companies. We are with the cultivators and activists of the modern day hemp revolution as a premier hemp farmer in Colorado.