General Hemp Policy

Going Back to its Roots: A Brief History of Hemp

What is hemp?

For thousands of years, dogs have been man’s best friend in the animal kingdom, and hemp has been our best friend in the plant kingdom.  Defining hemp is somewhat tricky. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that is technically a member of the species sativa.   Sativa generally grows around 10-15 feet tall, and has a very fibrous trunk to support its weight.  To be defined as hemp in the United States and elsewhere, cannabis plants must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. It's ok, because the history of hemp is filled with MANY more uses than just getting you high.

From crafting tools and structural materials, to weaving clothes and twine, to feeding and healing both animals and people, hemp does it all.  Literally since the time before language or history itself, hemp served a broad range of daily purposes for people all over the world.  So why is it regulated in such a strange way, and what is its modern day value?  Read on…

A brief history of hemp

  • Hemp cord combined with pottery was found in Taiwan dating back over 10,000 years.
  • A piece of hemp fabric from the eastern mediterranean region endured nearly 8000 years.
  • Many native American tribes used hemp as part of their healing practices, utilizing the cannabinoids found in hemp, most likely other than THC.
  • The Chinese recognized its medical value 3000 years before the height of the Roman empire.
  • Around 900 BC, Arabs discovered a method for creating paper out of hemp, leading to the dawn of
  • It is widely presumed that the sails which pulled Columbus to the new world were made of hemp fiber.
  • Hemp was the 3rd largest crop grown in the American colonies at the time of the American revolution.
  • The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are both written on hemp paper.
  • Hemp is the top cash crop in America until the turn of the 20th century when laws regulating drug use begin to appear.
  • The moguls of big industry in the US, specifically Rockefeller (oil), Hearst (paper), and DuPont (chemicals/medicines) all lobby against the free use of hemp.
  • Henry Ford designed a car made from hemp which was 10 times stronger than a comparable car having hemp parts replaced with steel parts.
  • In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which criminalized the drug.
  • In 1941, the U. S. Pharmacopoeia removed Cannabis, thus eliminating any recognized medical value in cannabis.
  • In 1957 Hemp is fully banned in the U.S. and in 1958 the last hemp crop was harvested.

Throughout the next 50 years, the “war on drugs” was waged against the American people for the prophet of big industry.  Countless studies proved the efficacy of cannabis as a medicine and as an essential raw material for endless applications, and each was ignored by policy makers.  Finally over the last decade, hemp has made a comeback.  In 2011, the US was still the only developed country in the world that had outlawed industrial hemp.

Current Hemp Policy

In 2014, after several attempts by congress, President Obama made limited hemp farming legal by signing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 into law, opening the door for future expansion.  In July of 2017, the legal definition of hemp was modified to raise the permitted amount of THC to .06% from .03%.  Industrial hemp is key to the CBD market, because CBD derived from industrial hemp which therefore has no THC present is 100% legal no matter what in all 50 states.  Many of the therapeutic applications of “medical marijuana” are achieved by CBD-rich hemp oil, but without the stigma or prosecution.

About the author

Evan Gregorius

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