Hemp, Hemp, Hooray!

In honor of Hemp History Week (June 5 – 11), we thought we’d offer a brief primer on the long and illustrious history of industrial hemp.

First thing’s first – humans have been cultivating hemp for a long, long time. It may actually have been one of the first domesticated crops known to mankind. Archeologists discovered 10,000-year-old hemp cord at the site of an ancient village in modern day Taiwan, and hemp has been consistently grown and utilized since then.

And what is it utilized for? The North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. estimates that “the products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000,” and include textiles (the word “canvas” actually derives from the word “cannabis”), paper, food, construction materials and biofuels.
Hemp is also environmentally friendlier than traditional crops. It requires much less water to grow, and it’s naturally resistant to most pests, so doesn’t require the use of harmful pesticides.

As for the United States, it was practically built on hemp. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp, and Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. And you know the Declaration of Independence? It was drafted on hemp paper.

One thing hemp can’t do is get you high. Industrial hemp, while in the cannabis family, has an extremely low (virtually nonexistent) amount of THC, making it non-psychoactive. Disregarding that important fact, the U.S. federal government classified all forms of cannabis – even hemp – as Schedule I, making it illegal to grow in the U.S.

Savvy farmers and industrialists have begun to lobby the federal government to reschedule industrial hemp, allowing the U.S. to once again cultivate one of the most useful and lucrative crops in history.