Hemp: A Brief History
The Early Days in America:
- Industrial hemp has been grown in the U.S. since the first European settlers arrived in early 1600’s.
- The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.
- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp and actively advocated for commercial hemp production.
- Hemp was a staple crop of 1800’s American agriculture, reflected in town names like “Hempfield” and “Hempstead.”
Prohibition (Part I):
- During the 1930’s hemp was lumped under the umbrella of “marihuana” and made effectively illegal under the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, a law that required farmers to register their hemp crops with the Fed’s and purchase an exorbitantly expensive tax stamp.
- The very next year Popular Mechanics named hemp The New Billion Dollar Crop for its multitude of uses.
World War II:
- During World War II, hemp was of such necessity to the war effort that the USDA produced an educational video and accompanying literature to encourage farmers to grow hemp for the war effort.
- More than 150,000 acres of hemp were cultivated as a part of the USDA’s “Hemp for Victory” program.
Prohibition (Part II):
- In 1970 industrial hemp was classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act despite decades of government funded agricultural research that identified industrial hemp varieties as unique in structure and function.
- Hemp farming in the U.S. became illegal as the rise of synthetic fabrics and fibers skyrocketed, and many other countries followed suit.
- U.S. manufacturers currently import raw hemp from Canada, Europe, and China while domestic farmers miss out on this profitable opportunity to grow hemp.
- Hemp not only nets up to 2.5-times the value of U.S. corn and soy, it also has wide-reach environmental benefits including soil remediation, prolific pollen production for our bees and beneficial insects, and no synthetic pesticides nor fertilizers necessary to grow.
- Progress is being made. In 2014, Kentucky, Vermont and Colorado became the first states to grow hemp in decades and did so under Section 7606, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill. Amendments to Congressional Appropriations bills have also been passed to prohibit DEA and DOJ from spending tax dollars to deter hemp farming for research in states where it is legal.
- Hemp farming is now legal in 33 states. In 2017, 24,841 acres of hemp were grown in 19 states.
- As recognition of hemp’s excellent nutritional profile grows, along with the demand for regenerative agricultural practices and advancements in plant-based innovations, hemp stands to once again be a vital and viable crop in the United States and around the world.
*Information sourced by our friends at Hemp History Week.
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