A Brief History of Hemp in The United States

Hemp harvesting on Rhine bank. Created by Lallemand, published on L'Illustration, Journal Universel, Paris, 1860

Hemp harvesting on Rhine bank. Created by Lallemand, published on L'Illustration, Journal Universel, Paris, 1860 (Yes, we realize the irony of a blog post about American history featuring a drawing of France)

Hemp refers to strains of the Cannabis sativa plant with 0.3% THC or less, but high quantities of CBD (Cannabidiol) and other Cannabinoids.

Unlike strains of Cannabis with high levels of THC (Tetrahydracannabidol) known as Marijuana, Hemp has no psychoactive or intoxicating side effects.

Actually, Hemp Has a Long History and Many Uses.

The Hemp plant is the oldest known cultivated crop, with a fabric relic made from Hemp dating back to 8000bc.

In the US during the colonial and early American eras, Americans were legally required to grow Hemp as the governing bodies knew the value it had to the health, wealth, and growth of this nation.

Industrial Hemp has been well known to have multiple benefits and uses throughout history including: textiles, food, plastics, paper, construction materials, fuel, health and beauty products, animal feed and bedding, and more.

Hemp Began To Be Negatively Portrayed Alongside Marijuana.

Unfortunately, the success and continued use of industrial hemp in the US was hindered by government intervention and the growing public perception that Hemp and Marijuana were one in the same.

The Marijuana tax act of 1937 instilled a hefty tax on anyone wanting to grow any form of Cannabis, including industrial hemp. This discouraged local farmers from cultivating the crop and they converted their land to other uses.

In the early 1940s, a film renamed ‘Reefer Madness’ used exploitation tactics to portray Cannabis as a dangerous, psychosis-inducing drug.

The film made its way into the newsreels at theaters worldwide, thus creating a false stigma and a negative perception of Cannabis in the minds of a generation and their children.

Hemp Was Valuable to the US Government.

Regardless, the US government continued to recognize the value of Hemp’s uses.

After the battle of Pearl Harbor, Asian supplies of Hemp used for rope, clothing, and other products for the military were shut off.

Over a million acres of Industrial Hemp were grown in the southeastern US as part of the “Hemp for Victory” campaign.

However after the war, these farms were quickly shut down as the interests of oil, timber, and other industries with government interests prevailed.

All Cannabis Is Considered a Schedule 1 Drug (Like Heroine) and Made Illegal.

Although the product uses for Industrial Hemp and the differences between Hemp and Marijuana were well known in much of the developed world, the 1970 Controlled Substances Act classified them as one in the same as one in the same, and the Industrial Hemp industry died in the United States altogether.

For the next 48 years, Hemp products were legally imported from other countries, but cultivation in the US continued to be a crime.

The Differences Are Once Again Defined, and Hemp Is Made Legal.

In 2018, the US Hemp farm bill removed Hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and defined it as Cannabis sativa having 0.3% THC or less.

The US is now able to produce one of the fastest growing, most environmentally friendly, and valuable commodities known to man.