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A History of Hemp

In this Article we will discuss the truncated history of the Hemp Plant. We will encompass a brief history of this treasured plant, from Ancient Times to Colonial Times, to the Civil War through the 20th Century. More specifically, we will talk about hemp and legality issues, uses, stereotypes, and miscellaneous information pertaining to all things hemp.

The tragedy comes from ignorance and stereotyping of Hemp alongside Marijuana. Nothing could be further from the truth. Going forward, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, Hemp is making a comeback as the plant with a thousand uses!


Defining Hemp

According to Britannica.com Hemp is defined as; (Cannabis sativa), also called industrial hemp, plant of the family Cannabaceae cultivated for its fibre or its edible seeds. Hemp is sometimes confused with the cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. Although all three products hemp, marijuana, & hashish contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp has only small amounts of THC relative to that grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.

For CBD to be legal in America today, CBD products can be derived from Hemp that contain only 0.3% or less of THC. More importantly, most reputable brands will even strain out this minuscule amount to make their product 100% THC Free.

Ancient History

Various Documented Hemp Histories dates Hemp cultivation back anywhere from 10-20,000 years ago. And many suggest further back.

In ancient India, cannabis was called bhang and ganjha (twisted rope). Their pharmaceutical texts (ca. 1600 BCE) prescribe the plant for treating anxiety, among other common ailments. It was likely an ingredient in Soma (ritual drink) and appeared in their Vedic texts.

ancient egyptIn Ancient Egypt, Cannabis was first mentioned during the New Kingdom (ca. 2300 BC). The hieroglyphic symbol shemshemet indicated cannabis and hemp. Other terms were employed in Egyptian medicine. It was used in their pharmacy up to the 1800’s AD.

In Ancient Judaea, cannabis appears as one of the ingredients in holy incense and anointing oil under the name kaneh bosm in Exodus (30:22-25), dating to around the 8th century BC. The Talmud also contains a recipe for wine infused with myrrh and cannabis.


Colonial Times

Commercial production of hemp in the West took off in the eighteenth century, but was grown in the sixteenth century in eastern England. Because of colonial and naval expansion of the era, economies needed large quantities of hemp for rope and oakum. 

In Great Britain, hemp cultivation dates back to 800AD. In the 16th Century, Henry VIII encouraged farmers to plant the crop extensively to provide materials for the British Naval fleet. A steady supply of hemp was needed for the construction of battleships and their components. Riggings, pendants, pennants, sails, and oakum were all made from hemp fiber and oil. Hemp paper was used for maps, logs, and even for the Bibles that sailors brought on board.

  • In 1632, the Virginia Assembly issued a decree that forced all colonial farmers to grow hemp.
  • The British demand for hemp became so insane that from 1763 to 1769, Virginia imprisoned farmers who refused to grow it. 
  • As many of you already know, Washington, Jefferson, and a number of other Founding Fathers grew hemp. Jefferson even invented a device for processing the fibers.
  • George Washington pushed for the growth of hemp as it was a cash crop, whichgeorge washington was commonly used to make fabric and rope. Washington noted in his diary in May 1765 about the sowing of seeds each day until mid-April. He then recounts the harvest in October which he grew 27 bushels that year.
  • George Washington also imported the Indian Hemp plant from Asia, which was used for fiber and, by some growers, for an intoxicating resin production.

Civil War Era

hemp cultivationIn 1850, the U.S. Census counted over 8,000 hemp plantations. Kentucky and Missouri (both slave states) produced over 70 percent of the nation’s hemp. Americans loved the plant, but so too did other countries, which bought tons of it from the U.S.

Just prior to the American Civil War (1861), Britain was busy getting the Chinese addicted to Chinese-grown opium (during the Opium Wars). So the British needed lots of hemp, which they used to get from Russia until Napoleon Bonaparte basically banned Russia from selling the plant to Britain.

20th Century History

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed in the United States, levying a tax on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. The passing of the Act to destroy the U.S. hemp industry has been disputed to involve businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst and the Du Pont family.

While the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 had just been signed into law, the United States Department of Agriculture lifted the tax on hemp cultivation during WW II. Before the war the U.S. Navy used Jute and Manila Hemp from the Philippines and Indonesia for the cordage on their ships. During the war, Japan cut off those supply lines. America was forced to turn inward and revitalize the cultivation of Hemp on U.S. soils.

HEMP FOR VICTORY WWIIHemp was used extensively by the United States during World War II (WWII) to make uniforms, canvas, and rope. Much of the hemp used was cultivated in Kentucky and the Midwest. During World War II, the U.S. produced a short 1942 film, Hemp for Victory, promoting hemp as a necessary crop to win the war. U.S. farmers participated in the campaign to increase U.S. hemp production to 36,000 acres in 1942. This increase amounted to more than 20 times the production in 1941 before the war effort. Up until 1989 the Government denied the film was even made!

In the early 1940s, world production of hemp fiber ranged from 250,000 to 350,000 metric tonnes, and Russia was the biggest producer.

Unfortunately after the War, hemp was dropped back to illegal status, which it will stay for the next 70 odd years.

2018 Farm Bill

As of December 2018, hemp is legal to grow in the United States under federal law. The Hemp Farming Act was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The bill changed hemp from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity, legalizing hemp federally, which made it easier for farmers to get production licenses, get loans to grow hemp, and allowed them to get federal crop insurance. Some states still consider it illegal to grow hemp, but as of 2019, 47 states have enacted legislation to make hemp legal to grow at the state level. This subsequently made CBD derived from Hemp legal in all of the United States, now classified as an agricultural product like corn or soy.


hemp clothingHemp’s uses are endless. Industrial Hemp is used hundreds of ways. Such as building materials, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, food, paint, clothing, water/soil purification, weed control, paper, and rope. These are just a few uses of this amazing plant. Not to mention the newest – CBD Oil!

The world-leading producer of hemp is China, which produces more than 70% of the world’s output. This is why you see the CBD Market flooded with cheap products for $19.99 on Amazon and other sites. These brands outright lie and say their hemp is grown in America and organically farmed. Please stay away from these brands. Remember, you only get what you pay for. A low milligram cbd American product should be around $30.00-$40.00, and up to a few hundred dollars for high mg strengths. That is just the costs involved with producing a high quality Organic American product.

hemp ropeHemp as always been treasured for its adaptability and versatility. Industrial hemp has a huge market for everyday household uses, as well as an industrial staple. Today, the commercial market for hemp products is booming worldwide because hemp is considered extremely durable, eco-friendly and long-lasting. CBD made from Hemp is just the latest product to be manufactured from this amazing plant.                                  



In conclusion, hemp has had a storied past. The uses and advantages to humans, animals and the environment are positive and many. And because of a few selfish billionaires in the 1930’s whispering in the ears of lawmakers (with anonymous voting back then, and hidden lobbyist donations) making hemp synonymous with drugs and criminalizing this wonderful plant. It is now coming back to center stage as the Amazing and Miraculous Plant that it is.


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