News & Education July 27, 2020

The History of Hemp

Hemp is a variety of Cannabis Sativa plants categorized by its durable fibers and high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp is cultivated and used for various purposes in different industries today, such as making textiles, oils, bioplastics, insulation, biofuel, and CBD production. The recent federal legislation excluded hemp from the list of Schedule I substances under the US Controlled Substances Act. This is because hemp plants contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, which is found in marijuana. This has allowed many industries to explore more potential benefits of hemp and CBD.

The History of Hemp

Hemp has been used for various needs for over 10,000 years. Studies found that it was an important source of food and fiber in ancient China and Mesopotamia. The first traces of hemp are reported to have been found in 8000 BCE in Asia. It is also considered one of the first agricultural crops in human history. Earlier, its use was limited to making ropes and fabric, and it gradually evolved to paper and sailcloth. Ancient records also show that hemp seed and oil were used as food in China. Later, the medicinal benefits of hemp were discovered, and it was used to provide comfort for different ailments from 2700 BCE to the Roman era.

It is believed that hemp was used across civilizations even before the Roman period. Pieces of evidence have shown that hemp products were commonly used in Europe, Africa, and Asia in the early days and later in South America. Many of the original religious documents in Hinduism and ancient Persian religions also refer to hemp as a “Sacred Grass” or “King of Seeds.” It seems that even these ancient people were aware of the rejuvenating effects of CBD that you can find today in products like Skara Harmonize THC-Free CBD Oil. Hemp was a common ingredient in day-to-day life and was used in many daily essentials. Yet hemp arrived in North America only by the early 1600s.

Researchers found that American farmers first cultivated hemp in the year 1606 when they realized its potential uses for manufacturing multiple products. Hemp soon became a widely grown crop in Colonial America for different purposes like making lamp fuels, ropes, paper, sailcloth, and textile. During the 1700s, farmers were even legally mandated to cultivate hemp plants as a staple crop. Many of the founding fathers of the US also advocated the wide uses and benefits of hemp. In the 1760s, George Washington said that hemp could be a more profitable crop than tobacco and planted it across his estate.

Hemp in the US

During the early 1900s, the Ford Motor Company built the Model T automobile to revolutionize the industry facilitating affordable transportation for the common man. Henry Ford’s vision extended beyond that, and he even conceived the idea of a car fueled by hemp oil that would have the potential to change the environment. By the late 1930s, Ford produced a prototype of the vehicle built with bioplastic, which could run off hemp fuel. The car was featured in Popular Mechanics Magazine and The New York Times. In 1938, Popular Mechanics also published an article that stated hemp as the “new billion-dollar crop” and highlighted “over 25,000 uses for the plant ranging from dynamite to cellophane.” However, it was too late by then.

In 1937, the 75th United States Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which deemed growing hemp illegal because of its association with the cannabis family. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics noticed the growing trend of marijuana smoking and asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to take action against it. Even though the American Medical Association showed strong opposition to the act, it was passed by Congress to regulate selling, acquiring, dispensing, and possession of marijuana. This made it impractical for Ford to manufacture vehicles that would need a steady supply of hemp oil.

The United States briefly revised its stance on hemp cultivation in 1942 to provide supplies of hemp material for rope and canvas production for the war effort. This was because the usual supplies of jute from the Philippines were interrupted due to the Japanese invasion. At that time, the US Department of Agriculture promoted hemp strongly and even published articles on the various benefits of hemp plants. This included findings that reported that hemp produces around four times more paper when compared to trees per acre. A pro-hemp documentary, called “Hemp for Victory,” was also released by the US government to encourage farmers throughout the Midwest and Southeast to cultivate hemp in order to support the war efforts.

From 1942 to 1945, more than 400,000 acres of hemp were cultivated across the country. However, soon after the end of the Second World War, the US government re-instituted the regulations on hemp production, and the industry saw a downfall. At the same time, alternative sources like plastic and nylon were encouraged across different industries. This further led to the decline in hemp cultivation, and many hemp processors even declared bankruptcy. The last recognized commercial hemp cultivation was in 1957 in Wisconsin.

Hemp Becomes Legal Again

The United Nations drafted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in the year 1961 to outline the standards for universal coordination over the regulation and use of narcotic drugs, as well as international agreements on illegal activities. As hemp was a part of the cannabis plant family, industrial hemp production was also included in the control measure. However, hemp was identified as excluded, and the UN said, “The Convention shall not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes.” Nonetheless, the UN also stressed the need for governments to enforce appropriate control measures “to prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, the leaves of the cannabis plant.”

By the year 1970, growing hemp was officially banned after the Controlled Substances Act was passed by the 91st United States Congress, which categorized hemp as a Schedule 1 drug alongside other psychoactive drugs like LSD, cocaine, and heroin. In 2004, after around 30 years since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, the US government permitted businesses to import dietary hemp products from other countries. Gradually, the application of hemp extended to more industries as businesses started importing hemp fiber for clothing and textiles.

In 2007, two farmers were granted hemp cultivation licenses in North Dakota. This led to the drafting of the Farm Bill, which was signed into law in 2014. This allowed more states and a few businesses to start cultivating hemp for research purposes and understand how the crop can be restored to American culture. Ultimately in 2018, the Agricultural Improvement Act, or the 2018 Farm Bill, was passed by the Senate and the House. This removed “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” from the Controlled Substances Act.

The Comeback of the Hemp Industry

Ever since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and its derivates, the industry has seen a massive boom, and more and more businesses are showing interest in the crop and its products. This is more evident in the CBD oil industry as studies are being carried out to discover its health benefits for humans. Initial animal tests have found CBD greatly helpful for managing a wide range of ailments, and many CBD users advocate its potential therapeutic benefits as well. CBD extracted from hemp plants are also found to have great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and pain-relief properties. One of our favorite pain-relieving CBD products is Seabedee’s CBD Full Spectrum Muscle and Joint Relief Cream.

In 2019, over 500,000 acres of hemp plants were cultivated across 34 states in the US, and around 50% of the hemp harvested was used for producing CBD oil. The CBD market saw more than $1 billion in sales driven by consumers in 2019. Many of the US states are actively monitoring the cultivation of hemp plants within their borders and looking to pass laws to facilitate the production and sales of CBD products further. However, the US Department of Agriculture regulations say that the Drug Enforcement Administration is looking to retain control over many aspects of the hemp industry. 

More and more entrepreneurs and farmers are entering the hemp industry to serve their consumers. A recent poll even suggested that around 14% of Americans use CBD products every day. This means that the hemp industry will see many more changes in the future and make history once again.