A History of Hemp: Step Back in Time and Learn the Origins of Hemp

history of hemp

Why are we all talking about hemp, all of a sudden?

Here’s a better question: why did we ever stop talking about hemp? Hemp has been with humanity for literally thousands of years. Hemp’s blacklisting in the modern US is an aberration, not the status quo.

Let’s take a closer look at the history of hemp.

Hemp in the Old World

Hemp is one of the oldest crops known to mankind. Evidence for its use dates back to Neolithic times, and there’s a strong chance it was in use even earlier.

No surprise, when we look at the laundry list of uses hemp offers humanity. Along with providing a source of strong textile material, it also provides fun.

It’s hard to separate the history of hemp from its use as a drug, after all. It’s likely to have helped the plant spread through the Eurasian continent throughout antiquity. 

In the Americas

The Spanish brought Eurasian hemp to the new world, beginning the modern history of hemp in the Americas. Native Americans already had their own indigenous species that they used for medicine, textiles, and recreation, but most hemp grown in the Americas now comes from Eurasian strains.

The Spanish managed to grow successful hemp cultivations in Chile, though attempts to bring it to other areas of south and central America weren’t as successful.

By the mid-1600s, hemp plantations were a fact of life among colonies of the future United States of America.

The Washington Pot

Hemp in the US goes right back to its foundation. George Washington grew vast amounts of hemp for industrial purposes, due to its high value as a cash crop.

The jury is out on whether Washington enjoyed a little recreational aside, but he knew what he was talking about when it came to hemp cultivation.

He was far from the last president to cultivate hemp. Others include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Pierce.

At this time, the country still separated the industrial value of hemp from its recreational usage.

Hero or Villain?

Everything changed with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. In the rich tradition of American lobbyists, it’s believed by some that this Act was an almost direct product of business interests trying to launch hemp-alternative products.

The US pulled another 180 in World War II, when hemp became a key material for wartime resources. The government gave legal exemptions for hemp-growers to encourage domestic hemp growth.

The War on Drugs

But the about-faces don’t stop there. Once World War II resolved and the War on Drugs began, hemp became a renewed target for demonization, thanks to its close association with recreational drug use.

Despite that, hemp’s core uses haven’t changed. It’s still an excellent provider of textile materials at low cost.

With green issues now becoming key to the future of developed nations, we might be about to see the next evolution in the history of hemp in the US.

The History of Hemp Uncovered

We’ve uncovered the history of hemp, but what does the future hold? The past might provide some clues: hemp’s recent prohibition is a blip in an otherwise accepting history. Perhaps it’s time for the pendulum to swing back again.

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