It’s the single plant that can feed us, clothe us, house us, heal us, protect the environment and support human health. With over 60,000 uses, hemp has the ability to support humankind on almost every level. So why is a plant that’s so multidimensional so misunderstood? Here, a look at the fascinating — and oftentimes rocky — history of hemp:
The first traces of hemp are found in Asia. Soon after, hemp is found in Europe, Africa and South America, with hemp seeds and oil used for pottery and food.
2000 BC-800 BC
Hemp is considered a gift, referred to in Hindu religious documents as “sacred grass,” one of the five sacred plants of India.
The use of hemp continues across northern Europe, with hemp rope found in southern Russia and Greece and hemp seeds and leaves found in Germany.
China begins to use hemp to make paper.
The King of England, King Henry VII, prioritizes hemp by fining farmers if they don’t grow it.
North America discovers hemp as a key ingredient to make clothes, shoes, ropes, paper and food.
American farmers are required by law to grow hemp as a staple crop, with many of America’s founding fathers advocating for its benefits.
Some believe that Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
Abraham Lincoln uses hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps.
USDA publishes findings that show hemp produces 4 times more paper per acre than trees.
Hemp becomes an excuse to search and deport Mexican immigrants. As a result, the word “marijuana” replaced “cannabis” as a way to directly associate the plant with the Mexican population.
Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the United State’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who was previously on record stating that cannabis use was “not a big deal,” changes his position when the ban on alcohol is lifted and tells the public that cannabis is a “devil drug” that “turned men into wild beasts that would attack women.” Anslinger contacts thirty scientists requesting evidence that cannabis is dangerous, and twenty-nine say they can’t find any valid proof. Only one expert agrees with him.
Many prominent American businessmen, including Anslinger, decide that cannibas, with no distinction between marijuana and hemp, poses a threat to their businesses. Anslinger joins forces with William Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, and the DuPont family to draft the Marihuana Tax Act to make cannibas illegal.
The U.S government realizes they need hemp for the war effort and the United States reverses its stance on hemp, encouraging its production.
Henry Ford builds an experimental car body made from hemp fiber, which is ten times stronger than steel.
The U.S. government releases a pro-hemp documentary called Hemp for Victory, encouraging farmers to grow hemp to support the war. The U.S. Department of Agriculture promotes hemp and publishes articles sharing its benefits, leading to over 400,000 acres of hemp planted throughout the Midwest and Southeast.
The last U.S. commercial hemp fields are planted in Wisconsin.
The United States returns to its original anti-hemp position and bans hemp with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, classifying marijuana, with no distinction from hemp, as a Schedule 1 drug and grouping the plant with heroin and LSD. This results in many countries doing the same, preventing research and production.
The U.S. Government approves a synthetic form of cannabis for the pharmaceutical industry. Marinol, made with a synthetic form of THC, is approved by the government as a legal drug to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer, HIV/AIDS, and anorexia patients. To this day, Marinol brings in more than $150 million in annual sales for the pharmaceutical industry in the United States.
The U.S. begins to import food-grade hemp seeds and oil for use
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services successfully files a patent
A court case between the Hemp Industries Association and the DEA permanently protects the sales of seed-based food and personal care products in the U.S.
The first hemp licenses in over 50 years are granted to two farmers in North Dakota.
President Obama signs the Farm Bill into law, allowing research institutions to start piloting hemp farming programs. The Farm Bill legally separates hemp from marijuana and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes, defining industrial hemp as cannabis sativa L. plants 0.3 percent concentration of THC or less(the psychoactive cannabinoid).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves Epidiolex, a cannabidiol (CBD) oral medication
The 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act
We are just beginning to unlock hemp’s potential. Though we can’t go back in time and rewrite hemp’s history, we can take action now to ensure a better future for one of the most therapeutic and versatile natural resources on earth.