What is hemp?
When it comes to plants, hemp has been one of mankind’s most revolutionary and useful plants. Defining hemp is somewhat tricky, but in a nutshell, hemp is a variety of cannabis that is technically a member of the species sativa. Sativa generally grows around 10-15 feet tall, and has a very fibrous trunk to support its weight. To be defined as hemp in the United States and elsewhere, cannabis plants must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight.
Hemp has been used to craft tools, build structural materials, weave clothing and twine, feed and heal both animals and people and so much more. Historically, hemp has been cultivated, and used, by humans for thousands of years.
A brief history of hemp (from Hemp.com)
- Hemp cord combined with pottery was found in Taiwan dating back over 10,000 years.
- A piece of hemp fabric from the eastern mediterranean region endured nearly 8000 years.
- Many native American tribes used hemp as part of their healing practices, utilizing the cannabinoids found in hemp, most likely other than THC.
- The Chinese recognized its medical value 3000 years before the height of the Roman empire.
- Around 900 BC, Arabs discovered a method for creating paper out of hemp, leading to the dawn of books.
- It is widely presumed that the sails which powered Columbus to the new world were made of hemp fiber.
- Hemp was the third largest crop grown in the American colonies at the time of the American revolution.
- The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were both written on hemp paper.
- Hemp was the top cash crop in America until the turn of the 20th century when laws regulating drug use begin to appear.
- The moguls of big industry in the US, specifically Rockefeller (oil), Hearst (paper), and DuPont (chemicals/medicines) all lobbied against the free use of hemp.
- Henry Ford designed a car made from hemp which was ten times stronger than a comparable car having hemp parts replaced with steel parts.
- In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which criminalized the drug.
- In 1941, the U. S. Pharmacopoeia removed cannabis, thus eliminating any of its recognized medical value.
- In 1957 Hemp was fully banned in the U.S. and in 1958 the last hemp crop was harvested.
Over the next fifty years, the “war on drugs” was waged against the American people for the profit of big industry. Countless studies proved the efficacy of cannabis as a medicine and as an essential raw material with unlimited applications, and each was ignored by policy makers. Finally, over the last decade, hemp has made a comeback. In 2011, the US was still the only developed country in the world that had outlawed industrial hemp.
Current Hemp Policy
As of this writing, industrial hemp policy is evolving at the federal and state levels. States may opt to support hemp cultivation under the auspices of Sec. 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, and thirty-five states have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp production. Federally, the 2018 Farm Bill, yet to be passed, contains The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 which would remove industrial hemp’s designation as a controlled substance.