History of Hemp in America: The Most Interesting Facts and Detailed Timeline

The history of hemp and our society are tightly connected. Hemp was probably one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. The earliest recorded use of hemp was 8500 years ago. Back then, hemp was harvested in China for its fibers for textiles and paper.

Cannabis seed traces were also found at an archeological site in Japan dating back to 8000 BC. These facts suggest that hemp was present across Asia during this period. The Chinese character Má (), the first recorded word for hemp, portrays two plants under a shelter. There are many interesting hemp history facts currently known.

Hemp later spread to the Mediterranean and into Europe during the Middle Ages. In Europe, it became a food staple of the peasant class and a malt used to make beer. Commercial production began in the U.K. in the 1500s. It took off across Europe in the 1700s when colonial expansion increased the demand for naval rope. For most of the early history of hemp use, textiles and food were the main hemp products.

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Hemp Around The World


History of Hemp in America

The history of hemp in America reportedly began with early Spanish expeditions. Hemp’s first recorded appearance in the Americas was in Chile around 1545. The plant was brought over by Spanish explorers for cultivation.

Other expeditions to Latin America also tried to cultivate hemp. They planted in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. Ultimately, Chile proved to be the most fertile ground for hemp production. 

Hemp Origins in the United States

The history of hemp in the U.S. starts in 1605, with the first records in North America. Native Americans in the Cape Cod and Plymouth Bay area harvested hemp for clothing. Down the coast of Virginia, the Powhatan tribe was cultivating hemp in 1607. Following the wisdom of the native residents, Puritan settlers also began to grow hemp by 1645. 

Hemp History Timeline: From Glory Days to Prohibition

By the mid 18th century, hemp had climbed its way to the top of the public radar. Former U.S. President, George Washington, was a vocal advocate for hemp production. As also were the following presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and many others. Before the Civil War (1861–1865), hemp was a major cash crop in the American South. Hemp farms were tended and harvested by slaves.

Temporary Prohibition

The passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 was a significant hit to the U.S. hemp industry. This legislation imposed hefty taxes on hemp traders. Back then, many lobbyists felt threatened by hemp as a competing resource. It is rumored that they were the ones behind the passage of the Act. However, the hemp history timeline would have significant changes soon.

Tax Lifted Because of WWII

A few years later, the tax was lifted to stimulate hemp production in support of World War II. The U.S. was cut off from its previous naval rope suppliers in Southeast Asia. Thus, the Navy needed locally grown hemp to keep their fleets well stocked. Hemp was used to make uniforms, canvases, and rope. The campaign succeeded in increasing national hemp production by twentyfold in one year.

Cannabis: A Controlled Substance

Hemp production came to an end with the classification of Cannabis as a drug. It was classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance in 1970. After this, the cultivation or processing of any cannabis product was illegal. The law made no distinction between hemp and marijuana varieties.

Present Days: Back to Hemp Origins

Now, with the 2018 Farm Bill, it is legal to grow hemp in the United States. Thus, the potential of hemp farming is a glimmer of hope for many farmers. A 2019 survey found out that many farmers are considering adding hemp to their crop rotation. They see it as an opportunity for sustainable revenue. Hemp is an uplifting trend to stimulate farmers who suffer from shrinking lands and decreasing prices. It is also a refreshing possibility for the economy and the environment.

So, are you convinced about getting
into the hemp industry?

After reading and understanding more about this booming industry, how do you feel? Are you excited as we are? The possibilities with hemp are endless!

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