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The term hemp gets thrown around quite a bit in our culture, with many people still being unsure of it’s actual definition. Hemp is a species of the Cannabis sativa plant, legally defined as having less than 0.3% THC. Although marijuana and hemp both come from the same species of plant, they are different varieties of Cannabis all together. First, hemp has low levels of THC and a high CBD concentration. Conversely, marijuana typically has high levels of THC and low levels of CBD.

Hemp is one of the oldest industries on earth, dating back 10,000 years to the origins of pottery in Central Asia.  It was also one of the first plants to be spun into functional fiber and made its way to North America in the Colonial Era. The founding fathers wrote early drafts of the Declaration of Independence on hemp. Moreover, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, while all Americans farmers were legally obligated to grow as a staple crop. President Abraham Lincoln was also known to use hemp seed oil to fuel his lamps. During this time Irish doctor, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, published findings in regards to how hemp helped with cholera and digestive issues. The medical field then began using hemp seed oil as a medical treatment in the United States, India, and parts of Europe. 

In 1916, the USDA officially published discoveries showing that hemp produces 4x more paper per acre than trees. Hemp was being recognized as necessary commodity with numerous uses.  This all changed in 1937 with Congress passing the Marihuana Act, beginning an era of hemp prohibition. The newly enacted licensing and tax regulations made hemp farming extremely challenging for Americans. In addition, the government began to push anti-marihuana ideals toward the public, resulting in misnomers for years to come.

By 1942, World War II had prompted a resurgence of American hemp production. The attack on Pearl Harbor closed “manila hemp” fiber production in the Philippines, sparking a world-wide shortage. The USDA’s film “Hemp for Victory” pushed for American farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. The government then established the War Hemp Industries Department and financed hemp farming. American farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of the effort, but the government then shut down production after the war had ended.  Throughout the 1937-1960s, the government recognized the obvious  differences between industrial hemp & marijuana. Unfortunately, the government went back to its original stance with the passing of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, categorizing hemp as an Schedule 1 drug.

As the late 1990s and early 2000’s approached, the United States government began allowing businesses to import hemp products for cosmetics, clothing & textiles.  Barack Obama’s signing of the Farm Bill in 2014 helped paved the way for the hemp industry today. Section 7606 of the statute “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research” gave pilot states and higher learning institutions the right to cultivate hemp under the guise of research.  Hemp (defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) and its derivatives were removed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance through the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act (Farm Bill) of 2018.  The Farm Bill differentiated hemp from marijuana, creating a legal distinction. As the hemp movement grew, farmers had licensed over 500,000 acres of hemp across 34 states by 2019. Today, countries such as China, Canada, and various European nations are ahead of the United States in terms of hemp usage and production. For example, China has a massive hemp textile business, while Canada is a major exporter of hemp derived goods to the American market. Here in America, the hemp industry continues to grow at a rapid rate, as more states are now allowing for hemp cultivation.

What daily products do you use that are hemp-derived?

Hemp History
History of Hemp in the US

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the great information. I’ve been trying to gather CBD information, and have gone to several websites. The information that you provide is more and better than the other sources combined. I tried it for about 6 weeks, and it worked. But I didn’t know enough about it to keep using it until now. Thanks.

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