The Controversial History of Hemp

hemp seeds and oil

Hemp's contentious legal status in the United States over the last century has received pushback from advocates and lawmakers across the nation. Once considered a versatile cash crop, hemp has been framed as a hazardous plant. Understanding the history of hemp can help dispel some of these myths and restore the good hemp name

Early History of Hemp

hemp plants

Hemp is considered one of the earliest and most notable crops for human consumption, and hemp foods are still popular today. Unlike its current stigma as a plant that gets users "high," hemp was widely used for textile fibers at first. Archeologists uncovered hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Iran) dating back approximately 8,000 BC. Needless to say, hemp's had a long history.

References to hemp exist in Sung dynasty texts in China (500 AD) detailing how farmers cultivated hemp for textiles. The Chinese used hemp to make the world's first hemp paper (approximately 150 BC), but previous Buddhist texts also contained hemp among other mixtures. Apart from textiles, hemp has also been used by ancient cultures as medicine.

It's believed that hemp reached Europe in approximately 1200 BC, spreading across the globe. Hemp cultivation produced much of the world's fiber and food during the Middle Ages, as well as some herbal remedies. Hemp could produce rope stronger than other material and more resistant to ocean water. Hemp became such a major crop in the U.K. that in 1535 Henry VIII ordered farmers to sow hemp or risk getting fined.

Hemp in North America

lots of hemp seeds

Hemp made its first appearance on North American soil in 1606 by French botanist Louis Hebert. The French government went so far as to subsidize hemp production. By the time English settlers landed in Plymouth Rock, hemp had taken root in North America. The Spanish had also introduced hemp cultivation to their colonies in Mexico and South America. In New England, English settlers cultivated hemp to make clothing, sails, and rope.

Hemp had made such a splash that even the first U.S. president, George Washington, grew hemp at Mount Vernon for industrial purposes. By this time, hemp was a major crop, but faced stiff competition from other crops like cotton and their cost-saving methods. Although decorticators, the machine used to strip bark, had already been invented, inventor George W. Schlichten received a patent for improvements on the decorticator, which didn't get the financial support he expected.

Hemp Gets a Bad Rap

hemp growing

The history of hemp is marked with great success until the 1930s in the United States. Anti-cannabis propaganda from competing industries and paranoid politicians stigmatized hemp and cannabis and labeled both cultivars as dangerous drugs. In 1937, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act that imposed an occupational excise tax on cannabis and hemp cultivators.

The tax on hemp severely restricted hemp production despite the versatility and cost-effective nature of hemp production. The act effectively banned hemp production unless producers paid taxes.

Hemp Makes a Short-Lived Comeback

man standing in hemp field

While hemp production was relegated to the margins of society, World War II led to a shortage of hemp due to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, a major hemp source for the U.S. In order to compete, the U.S. lifted hemp restrictions to increase production of clothing, canvas, and rope. "Hemp For Victory" was a 1942 short film made by the USDA to encourage farmers to do their part in the war and grow hemp.

The U.S. created the War Hemp Industries Department and subsidized hemp production. The U.S. would go on to farm hundreds of thousands of acres and millions of pounds of hemp across the Midwest. After the war, however, hemp restrictions returned, and a declining hemp industry followed.

Hemp production came to a screeching halt when the last commercial hemp farm was planted in Wisconsin in 1957. It wasn't until 1970 that hemp cultivation was completely banned when the Controlled Substances Act was passed. Under the act, cannabis and hemp were identified as Schedule 1 drugs, along with other drugs like LSD and heroin.

Industrial Hemp Returns

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Despite hemp prohibition since the 1970s, advocates fought for looser hemp regulations with success. Although it took a long while, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that industrial hemp could be imported and sold in the U.S. This gave rise to hemp-derived food, body care products, clothing, textiles, and more.

Another legal success came in 2007 when North Dakota became the first state to issue licenses for industrial hemp cultivation to two farmers. The history of hemp's stigma turned around in 2014 when President Obama signed the Farm Bill allowing hemp growing for scientific research purposes. Since then, many states (21 and counting) have enacted pilot research programs. In 2015, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced to Congress. President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill in December legalizing commercial hemp production, albeit, with some restrictions on THC content.

Hemp-Derived CBD

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With bipartisan support, industrial hemp cultivation is set to make waves in the coming years. Today, companies are utilizing hemp to extract cannabidiol (CBD), a non-hallucinatory cannabinoid that has been used for recreational and medical purposes. CBD companies like Denver-based CBD Infusionz offer consumers high-quality CBD-infused products including edibles, topicals, capsules, soft gels, dog treats, and more.

CBD Dog Treats

Available in peanut butter, salmon, cheddar cheese, and bacon, these CBD treats for dogs are the perfect all-natural treat for your furry friend. Since pure CBD oil can be hard to give to a pet, CBD treats make the ideal alternative. For pets that can handle oils, CBD Infusionz has Pet CBD tinctures too.

CBD Gummies

CBD Infusionz offers gummies in a variety of flavors including banana, berry, cherry, peach, grapefruit, green apple, spearmint, and more. Not only do they satisfy your sweet tooth, but they're convenient and easy to take on-the-go.

Disposable CBD Vapes

Disposable CBD vape pens give consumers a user-friendly way to consume CBD without waiting for the effects to kick in. Available in lemon-lime, orange cream, pineapple, and strawberry flavors, these CBD vape pens provide portability and potency in a neat little package.

CBD Extracts

CBD Infusionz also caters to dabbing enthusiasts who prefer the high potency of CBD extracts like wax and terpene-infused sauce. These full-spectrum products provide consumers with high-quality CBD at affordable prices.

The history of hemp has been characterized by a gross misunderstanding of the plant and its uses. Consumers and politicians are becoming more aware of hemp's inability to get users high. Recent Farm Bills and future legislation are sure to push the hemp and CBD industry forward, making it accessible for recreational and medical consumers alike.

CBD Infusionz is a proud partner of Leafbuyer