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HEMP HISTORY

... a Place to Understand the Past

The history of hemp is a lengthy one. However, before getting started into the history of hemp we need to examine briefly the meaning of hemp. 

 

Hemp, as defined by the Merriam-Webster: a tall widely cultivated Asian herb (Cannabis sativa of the family Cannabaceae, the hemp family) that is cultivated for its tough bast fiber and edible seeds and oil and that is often separated into a tall loosely branched species (C. Sativa) and a low-growing densely branched species (C. indica) Note: Cultivated hemp is often distinguished from cannabis by possessing very low levels of the psychoactive substance THC(1)

 

The best way to think of hemp is as a cannabis plant with little to no THC levels best used for fibers, food, or oils. So now that we defined hemp from Marriam-Webster we can now understand hemp let’s look at its history. 

 

The first evidence of hemp was dated back to 8,000 BC in Asian regions. We now recognize that area as modern-day China & Taiwan. The oldest remnants discovered to date were hemp cords used in pottery. Also, studies show that hemp seed & oil were utilized as food in China (2). Looking at how long farming has been around researchers can date agriculture back to the Neolithic period or approximately 10,000 years ago. One could then plausibly conclude that hemp was one of the original crops grown (3).

Now let’s move forward several thousand years!

Hemp was first introduced to North America in the 1600s, and since then American farmers produced hemp that was utilized across multiple different products. It is worthy to note that in 1619 it was illegal NOT to grow hemp in Jamestown, Virginia. Massachusetts and Connecticut had similar statutes on their books, and through the 1700s farmers were legally required to grow hemp as a staple crop (4)

 

It was also publicly known that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, & John Adams all produced hemp and actively promoted commercial hemp production. Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that is believed to make hemp paper. Historians say that the first American Flag in 1776 was made from industrial hemp. In 1776 there was no other fiber durable enough to endure the salty air on naval ships (5). In Virginia, people were authorized to pay taxes in hemp, along with other cash crops (6). The historical influence of hemp can be recognized in dozens of American towns that still carry its name, including Hempfield, PA, Hemphill, KY, Hempstead, NY, Hempfork, VA, and more (7)

So, what happened? With so much going for it why did the US abandon hemp? Well in 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed by the United States Congress which required that certain special drugs, including cannabis, be accurately labeled with contents (8). This was because medicine was not labeled with the contents, and was creating a public hazard. Also, cotton was becoming more popular and hemp’s lag of inventions in machinery. Gave competing for industries the ability to start a smear campaign against hemp. Since hemp resembles marijuana competing industries put together a smear campaign against the crop. Which it seems the smear campaign must have worked because during the 1930s hemp was lumped under the umbrella of “marihuana” in the Marihuana Tax Act. The law aimed at regulating the narcotic varieties of cannabis, but due to being lumped together, the hemp industry was effectively regulated out of existence (5).

 

However, during WWII the Allies needed more ropes, cloth, and other products in a short timeframe. Well, the United States government turned to hemp as a solution for their needs. The United States government demanded the production of hemp to fulfill its needs. So, the USDA’s Hemp for Victory campaign was used to persuade farmers to embrace hemp again. Hemp was needed for fiber for the war effort so much so that the USDA even created brochures and produced an educational video for further encouragement to the growers. Before becoming widely adopted again, the war ended and so did the large demand for domestic hemp fiber. Many farmers were left high and dry with partial crops and canceled hemp contracts (5).

As we all know history has a tendency to repeat itself and it did in the 1970s when again industrial hemp was classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act despite the decades of government-funded agricultural research, once again making it an illegal crop (5)

This leads us to 2014 when Congress passed a 2014 Farm Bill which authorized a wide range of federal agricultural programs. Tucked away in that legislation (Section 7606) was an amendment allowing states and universities the right to research a plant that has long been banned from cultivation in the United States…hemp. This is all without a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration (the “Hemp Pilot Programs”) (9). With the 2014 Farm Bill expiring at the end of 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill at the end of December 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill establishes a new federal hemp regulatory system under the US Department of Agriculture which aims to facilitate the commercial cultivation, processing, and marketing of hemp, and essentially treat hemp like any other agricultural commodity. The 2018 Farm Bill also allows the transfer of hemp and hemp-derived products across state lines provided the hemp was lawfully produced under a State or Indian Tribal plan or under a license issued under the USDA plan (10)

The USDA is currently working on its federal hemp cultivation regulations and expects to have them in place Fall of 2019. Then it will begin to approve state programs. The goal is to have regulatory programs in place for the 2020 planting season. Until then, any current hemp farming will have to operate under the more restrictive 2014 Farm Bill (10).

It is an exciting time to get into the hemp farming industry. This is one of those few moments in history that come along that one could seize the opportunity to make a huge impact on their family & economy. We at HempConsultants.com do ask that you read up on your state’s legal requirements to make sure that you follow them, or contact us and we will be able to guide you through the process. 

The history of hemp is a lengthy one. However, before getting started into the history of hemp we need to examine briefly the meaning of hemp. 

 

Hemp, as defined by the Merriam-Webster: a tall widely cultivated Asian herb (Cannabis sativa of the family Cannabaceae, the hemp family) that is cultivated for its tough bast fiber and edible seeds and oil and that is often separated into a tall loosely branched species (C. Sativa) and a low-growing densely branched species (C. indica) Note: Cultivated hemp is often distinguished from cannabis by possessing very low levels of the psychoactive substance THC(1)

 

The best way to think of hemp is as a cannabis plant with little to no THC levels best used for fibers, food, or oils. So now that we defined hemp from Marriam-Webster we can now understand hemp let’s look at its history. 

The first evidence of hemp was dated back to 8,000 BC in Asian regions. We now recognize that area as modern-day China & Taiwan. The oldest remnants discovered to date were hemp cords used in pottery. Also, studies show that hemp seed & oil were utilized as food in China (2). Looking at how long farming has been around researchers can date agriculture back to the Neolithic period or approximately 10,000 years ago. One could then plausibly conclude that hemp was one of the original crops grown (3).

Now let’s move forward several thousand years!

Hemp was first introduced to North America in the 1600s, and since then American farmers produced hemp that was utilized across multiple different products. It is worthy to note that in 1619 it was illegal NOT to grow hemp in Jamestown, Virginia. Massachusetts and Connecticut had similar statutes on their books, and through the 1700s farmers were legally required to grow hemp as a staple crop (4)

 

It was also publicly known that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, & John Adams all produced hemp and actively promoted commercial hemp production. Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that is believed to make hemp paper. Historians say that the first American Flag in 1776 was made from industrial hemp. In 1776 there was no other fiber durable enough to endure the salty air on naval ships (5). In Virginia, people were authorized to pay taxes in hemp, along with other cash crops (6). The historical influence of hemp can be recognized in dozens of American towns that still carry its name, including Hempfield, PA, Hemphill, KY, Hempstead, NY, Hempfork, VA, and more (7)

So, what happened? With so much going for it why did the US abandon hemp? Well in 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed by the United States Congress which required that certain special drugs, including cannabis, be accurately labeled with contents (8). This was because medicine was not labeled with the contents, and was creating a public hazard. Also, cotton was becoming more popular and hemp’s lag of inventions in machinery. Gave competing for industries the ability to start a smear campaign against hemp. Since hemp resembles marijuana competing industries put together a smear campaign against the crop. Which it seems the smear campaign must have worked because during the 1930s hemp was lumped under the umbrella of “marihuana” in the Marihuana Tax Act. The law aimed at regulating the narcotic varieties of cannabis, but due to being lumped together, the hemp industry was effectively regulated out of existence (5).

 

However, during WWII the Allies needed more ropes, cloth, and other products in a short timeframe. Well, the United States government turned to hemp as a solution for their needs. The United States government demanded the production of hemp to fulfill its needs. So, the USDA’s Hemp for Victory campaign was used to persuade farmers to embrace hemp again. Hemp was needed for fiber for the war effort so much so that the USDA even created brochures and produced an educational video for further encouragement to the growers. Before becoming widely adopted again, the war ended and so did the large demand for domestic hemp fiber. Many farmers were left high and dry with partial crops and canceled hemp contracts (5).

As we all know history has a tendency to repeat itself and it did in the 1970s when again industrial hemp was classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act despite the decades of government-funded agricultural research, once again making it an illegal crop (5)

This leads us to 2014 when Congress passed a 2014 Farm Bill which authorized a wide range of federal agricultural programs. Tucked away in that legislation (Section 7606) was an amendment allowing states and universities the right to research a plant that has long been banned from cultivation in the United States…hemp. This is all without a permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration (the “Hemp Pilot Programs”) (9). With the 2014 Farm Bill expiring at the end of 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill at the end of December 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill establishes a new federal hemp regulatory system under the US Department of Agriculture which aims to facilitate the commercial cultivation, processing, and marketing of hemp, and essentially treat hemp like any other agricultural commodity. The 2018 Farm Bill also allows the transfer of hemp and hemp-derived products across state lines provided the hemp was lawfully produced under a State or Indian Tribal plan or under a license issued under the USDA plan (10)

 

The USDA is currently working on its federal hemp cultivation regulations and expects to have them in place Fall of 2019. Then it will begin to approve state programs. The goal is to have regulatory programs in place for the 2020 planting season. Until then, any current hemp farming will have to operate under the more restrictive 2014 Farm Bill (10).

It is an exciting time to get into the hemp farming industry. This is one of those few moments in history that come along that one could seize the opportunity to make a huge impact on their family & economy. We at HempConsultants.com do ask that you read up on your state’s legal requirements to make sure that you follow them, or contact us and we will be able to guide you through the process.