Hemp is a very ancient plant.
Being used by mankind for over 8000 years as carbon dating has suggested. The plant is very versatile with having a reported over 30,000 uses. So what is hemps history? It is the original source of canvas and the name derives from cannabis. Ship sails, clothing, tents, rope, paper, oils, soaps, medicines, fuel, biodegradable plastics, cement blocks and the list goes on. It seems that it is one of the most used plants in History. Every known empire used hemp in one way or another. The Romans made clothing, the English made sails and America used it as currency. That’s right in the 1700’s you could pay your taxes with hemp. It is very important for us to know what is hemp’s history.
Great Britain has used the hemp plant since 800AD
In the 16th century Henry the VII encouraged farmers to grow hemp to supply his fleets with canvas, rope and paper. It is still widely believed that hemp paper is far superior to that of trees. Many Bibles are still produced with hemp paper as it lasts much longer. Hemp became one of the first international trade commodities. In colonial America farmers were required to grow hemp. Our forefathers like George Washington were hemp farmers. By 1850 the US census bureau recorded more than 8400 hemp plantations with over 2000 acres. At one point hemp was the no 1 commodity in the U.S.
Wars were fought over trade routes for hemp.
The most famous being the war of 1812 with Great Britain. This war came about over hemp trade routes through the North Atlantic to Russia. In WW2 despite a prohibition on hemp the U.S. government instituted the “Hemp for Victory” program encouraging farmers to grow industrial hemp to help in the war effort. The government formed a private company called War Hemp Industries to subsidize hemp cultivation. One million acres of hemp were grown across the Midwest as part of this program. As soon as the war ended, all of the hemp processing plants were shut down and the industry again disappeared. However, wild hemp may be found scattered across the country.
“There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for one hundred years.” – Henry Ford
In 1896 a man named Diesel invented a famous engine that could run on a variety of different fuels. Bio-fuels were his main focus. Henry Ford saw the potential and opened a successful Bio-fuel conversion plant in Michigan. He even promoted making plastics from hemp and produced a car in the 1930’s made completely from hemp product and powered by a hemp bio fuel diesel engine. In 1937 a successful campaign to prohibit the use of hemp was run by Henry Anslinger. He was influenced by big corporations like Dupont that were in direct competition with the hemp industry. A smear campaign confused the american public and lawmakers with ruses like “Reefer Madness”. They were successful and the prohibition and eradication of hemp began. Imagine what a different world we would be living in if this did not happen. America would not be dependent on fossil fuels. The pharmaceutical industry probably would not have the clout it does and natural medicine would have advanced exponentially. In 1971 the “Controlled Substances Act” made it worse and classified marijuana as a schedule 1 narcotic and did not differentiate between the different strains of hemp.
In the 21st Century we are realizing the advantage of using hemp again. The most used product now is clothing. Hemp clothing is softer, warmer, more durable and more breathable than cotton. It has been said that its lifetime is 4 times that of cotton. Paper is becoming a major product of hemp again. An acre of hemp can produce 5x that of wood and can be harvested 3 or 4 times a year compared to once every ten years for trees. The big hurdle for these industries are the corporate giants that run the competing industries. They were the originators of the prohibition and have reaped enormous profits through the last 80 years. Many laws are being passed today to invigorate the hemp industry and it could only be good for our nation. Hemp provides the three F’s of survival, Fuel, Food and Fiber.
We are seeing massive movements to repeal the prohibition of marijuana which hemp is classified as. Besides the industrial hemp movement we are seeing large gains in the Medical Marijuana movement and even the legalization movement. The fall of 2016 will see many changes as 20 states will be voting on some kind of change in the status of marijuana. The federal government is being pressed to change the status of marijuana away from a schedule 1 drug. The end of the prohibition may be nearer than we think.
We can look at the guinea pig states like Colorado and Oregon to see that it is a healthy and economically feasible way to deal with marijuana. Legalization will lead to more taxes, lower crime rates, increased innovation and better medical choices for all our population.
I hope this answers the question “What is hemp’s history” or at least sheds some light on the subject. Keep your eyes and ears open to more advancements in this industry in the near future. If you have money to invest this is a natural phenomenon that you should not pass up. There are investment opportunities in farming, production, retail and many of the services in support of these industries.
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Thanks for stopping by, Dennis Darragh