Early History of Hemp
Let’s take a look at the little-known history of hemp. Its uses date all the way back to 100 BCE China where they made paper out of hemp. In the U.S., it has been present for our entire existence. Hemp was one of the most important crops that was grown in early U.S. and colonial history. In 1619, it was actually against the law not to grow hemp in Jamestown, Virginia and other places around the colonies. This proves how much of an impact this crop had. The government then started to subsidize the crop in the 1700s in certain colonies and states because of its many uses. During the 1800s, the U.S. was not only growing hemp but also importing it from countries like Russia and Great Britain. Fast forward to the 1900s and we can see where hemp became less and less sought after.
In 1937, the Marihuana Act (not a typo, google it) put a tax on the sale of cannabis. The intention was to slow the sale of marijuana. There were even false claims made about the negative effects of marijuana which ended up hurting the hemp business as well. A slow turn around occurred in the 40’s when the Department of Agriculture(USDA) started to encourage the growth of hemp. They even made a 13-minute video called “Hemp for Victory” which pushed people to grow hemp during the war. Then, in 1970, President Nixon made Marijuana a Schedule 1 drug of the Controlled Substances Act claiming that it could be abused. This started a “war on drugs” that is still in existence today, which took down marijuana and hemp. It all comes from a big misunderstanding of the difference between marijuana and hemp. Ignorance may be the main reason for the downfall of hemp and the rise of other materials such as cotton.
Hemp vs. Others
Cotton and Hemp can be used to create very similar products like clothing, sheets, paper and even food that you can eat. Hemp, however, is a more energy efficient crop.
- Cotton takes about twice the amount of land as hemp per ton. Hemp needs half the amount of water per season.
- Hemp requires no pesticides to grow. Cotton uses about 25% of all pesticides used in the world.
- The hemp fiber is stronger than cotton and it is able to stay softer for a longer period of time when it comes to clothing.
In addition, it is better than trees for creating paper.
- Just one acre of hemp is equivalent to more than 4 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle.
- Hemp can have up to 85% cellulose while trees usually have only about 30%. The cellulose is what is turned into paper.
- It takes chemicals to make wood paper and those chemicals eventually turn the paper yellow and musky over time. Hemp does not need the chemicals and can last for years on end
- Almost all paper in 1883 was made from hemp fiber
Just Hemp Facts
- Drafts of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written on paper made from hemp
- The Betsy Ross American flag was made from industrial hemp
- There are over 25,000 uses for hemp
- Henry Ford’s Model-T was partially made with hemp and was made to run on hemp bio-fuel
- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other early U.S. leaders grew hemp
- There were over 16.5 million acres of hemp grown in the U.S. in 1850
- The burning of hemp bio-diesel has virtually no effect on global warming compared to burning fossil fuels
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Many people have heard of hemp but have misconceptions about what it actually is. Hemp is not Marijuana. You cannot smoke hemp or your hemp backpack. Hemp is not marijuana and marijuana is not hemp. However, the two have one similarity. They both come from the cannabis sativa plant. That is where the commonalities stop. Marijuana has THC which temporarily alters neuron receptors and gives the feeling of being “high.” Hemp has very trace amounts of THC if any at all. Smoking hemp will not get you high and has none of the same effects as marijuana.
The thought process usually is that hemp is weed, weed is a drug, drugs are bad, so let’s not grow hemp. As mentioned above, this claim is riddled with misinformation. Hemp is NOT weed NOT marijuana NOT mary jane NOT pot NOT 420 NOT dope or whatever you want to call it. It simply is not the same thing. The U.S. specifically needs to understand these facts so that citizens can start utilizing this incredible plant. Hemp is more efficient and more sustainable than cotton. In addition, it has the ability to create paper, clothing, nutritional products, rope, etc. Its uses are widespread and should not be overlooked. Let's remove the stigma and create the positive environment around hemp that it deserves.