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A Brief History of Hemp: One of the Earliest Crops on Earth?

A Brief History of Hemp: One of the Earliest Crops on Earth?

History of Hemp

The hemp plant is one of the oldest mass-produced crops on the planet, with enormous benefits. There is so much to learn in this article, briefly describing the history of hemp. Although not new, there are many misconceptions about hemp, especially now that it’s increasingly popular. Here, you’ll learn about this plant and its fascinating history that got us to where we are currently.

What is Hemp?

Before providing details on the history of hemp, it’s best to answer the question, what is industrial hemp? Hemp is a variety of the cannabis Sativa plant. Also called Industrial hemp, it’s different from marijuana. Although marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants, they have significant dissimilarities. The primary difference between them is the level of THC present. While marijuana contains a high level of THC, enough to produce intoxicating effects, hemp doesn’t. The amount of THC in hemp plants is so little that it cannot cause those effects.

On the other hand, hemp produces a lot of CBD. Many manufacturers prefer to use this plant in making CBD oils and other CBD products that. There are numerous hemp uses aside from manufacturing CBD products. For instance, hemp fibers have been in use for years to make clothing and textiles. Others include the production of paper, plastics, building products, etc. Hemp seeds are rich in protein, dietary fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals. You can eat these hemp seeds raw, make hemp milk, or add them to different recipes. Furthermore, you can use CBD hemp seed oil in producing fuel, detergent, paint, and ink. The truth about the hemp plant is it has a thousand uses, some of which are unknown yet.

Hemp is an eco-friendly and sustainable crop with several practical uses. However, there is a decline in usage over the past period of years due to tight regulations. We’ll take a quick look at when and where it all started.

The History of Hemp: When and Where It All Began

The history of hemp dates back to human civilization, at 8000BC, to be precise. And the first evidence found of its cultivation was in Asia. Places like China, Taiwan, and India had artifacts made from hemp.

Hemp had a place in the production of many industrial and consumer products very early in society. Unfortunately, when they passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, it discouraged farmers, and production decreased. Also, as the years went by, restrictions got tighter. Hemp was included as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act.

Afterward, things began to work in support of hemp, and restrictions began to loosen. Finally, in 2018, the U.S. house removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Today, people grow hemp for various uses, from making textiles to CBD production.

Some Key Moments in the History of Hemp Use

Here are some notable moments in the history of hemp use and cultivation. This timeline starts from 8000BC to the regulations guiding its recent use.

8000BC: Archaeologists found the first traces of hemp in Asia. Afterward, they found hemp in Europe, Africa, and Southern America. These hemp plants were useful for pottery, natural medicine, food, paper making, and many others.

2000BC – 800BC: During this period, hemp was referred to in Hind as a sacred grass. It was considered a gift and listed among the five sacred plants of India.

600-200BC: People continued to use hemp across Europe. Hemp ropes were visible in Greece and Southern Russia. Also, the seeds and leaves in many parts of Germany.

100BC: In China, hemp became a popular resource for making paper.

1533: Henry VII, King of England, required all farmers to grow hemp. He fined those who didn’t consequently. As a result, hemp farming was consistent.

1606: In North America, people discovered hemp as a significant source for making clothes, paper, shoes, ropes, and food.

The 1700s: Farmers in America were required to cultivate hemp as a staple crop. Also, many of America’s founding fathers promoted its many benefits.

1776: Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.

1840: Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps.

1916: USDA published findings showing that hemp produced four times more paper than trees per acre.

In the early 1900s: Hemp became a reason to deport Mexicans from the United States. For that reason, the word “marijuana” substituted “cannabis” as a way to link the hemp with Mexicans.

1929: The first commissioner of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, changed his mind on hemp use. After the end of alcohol prohibition, he told the public cannabis is a ‘devil drug.’ There was, however, no evidence to support his statement.

1937: Harry Anslinger and other American businessmen drafted the Marijuana Tax, with no distinctions between hemp and marijuana. Taxation caused a decline in the hemp industry.

1942 1945 -: The U.S. government encouraged farmers to grow hemp when they noticed its need during WWII. They also lifted the taxation placed on hemp cultivation.

The government further released the Hemp for Victory documentary, which encouraged farmers to support the war by growing hemp. The Department of Agriculture also published articles promoting the hemp plant and hemp seeds benefits.

The 1950s: The Soviet Union became the world’s largest producer of hemp.

1970: Marijuana classified as a Schedule I drug, the same group with heroin and LSD. Hemp extracts, including CBD, were in this classification as well.

1985: The United States government approved Marinol, made with synthetic THC, as a legal drug in the pharmaceutical industry. Marinol is used to prevent nausea and vomiting in cancer, HIV/AIDs, and anorexia patients.

The 1990s: The U.S. started to import food-grade hemp seeds and oil.

2007: The first hemp licenses in more than 50 years were granted to two North Dakota farmers.

2014: President Barrack Obama signed the Farm Bill into law. The Farm Bill legally distinct hemp from marijuana. It also allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes.

2018: The U.S. FDA approved a CBD-derived oral medication, epidiolex. Moreover, the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and hemp-derived substances from the Control Substances Act.

History of Hemp

Glossary of Terms

Cannabis: Cannabis is a taxonomic term referring to a group of plants, including hemp and marijuana. The three species of the cannabis plant are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

Cannabinoids: Cannabinoids are compounds present in cannabis that interact with the endocannabinoid system in the human body. Researchers have found dozens, or even hundreds, of different cannabinoids.

CBD: Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a prominent compound in the cannabis plant. It works closely with THC and has many potential health benefits.

THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, is another well-known cannabinoid present in cannabis. This compound is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with the use of this plant. Hemp, by definition, contains no more than 0.3% THC.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS): ECS is a complex system in the body, composed of a series of receptors. The cannabinoids bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. And they affect changes in the body, throughout the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.

Hemp: Hemp is a plant variety of Cannabis Sativa L, with 0.3% THC or less. Also, it produces an enormous amount of CBD; and useful for production in different industries.

Industrial Hemp: Another term for hemp is industrial hemp. However, the latter is a more descriptive name for its many uses. Also, there are differences in the cultivation processes. Industrial hemp refers to the leaves, stalks, and seeds of the plant, rather than CBD-rich hemp flower.

Marijuana: By legal definitions in the U.S, marijuana refers to a variety of cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC.

Marijuana Tax Act of 1937: This law marked the official federal prohibition of cannabis in the U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

The Banning of Hemp

Individuals responsible for the banning of hemp are Richard Nixon, Harry Anslinger, and William Randolph Hearst. Most people assume the ban on hemp started with the War on Drugs. A dig into the history of hemp shows the fight against hemp began about fifty years before then.

In the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst, an American businessman, had the largest newspaper chain. He owned acreage of trees as well. W.R Hearst dreaded that the rise in the cultivation of hemp was a threat to his business. Hemp is a more sustainable and efficient way to derive paper than trees. Trees take many years to grow, while hemp crops yield in as little as four months.

Because of this fear, W.R Hearst began to publish anti-cannabis propaganda to discourage people from the plant. He also made the word “marijuana” popular, which linked to the Mexicans negatively.

Anslinger, a politician, widely known as a racist, shared the same views with Hearst. He went ahead to become Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – currently the DEA. With his position and allegiance with W.R Hearst, he smeared the minorities and their use of cannabis.

These men pushed the anti-cannabis propaganda ‘til they wrote and passed the Marijuana Tax Act to Congress. They enacted the Marijuana Tax Act on August 2, 1937. While it didn’t prohibit the cultivation of cannabis or hemp, the imposed tax made the production difficult. Richard Nixon used this Act as a basis to develop the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. Marijuana was a Schedule One substance.

What Does the Future Hold for Hemp?

The history of hemp, to an extent, is clear. Now, where do we see hemp in the future? The 2014 Farm Bill the Congress passed allowed institutions to grow hemp. In December 2018, this Bill progressed to The Agriculture Improve Act. This Act legalized the cultivation, distribution, and sales of hemp. Thanks to these laws, hemp is a source for the making of thousands of products.

Over 77,000 acres of hemp were cultivated in 2018. Also, different industries, including automobile and clothing, are embracing hemp as a viable source. The hemp industry is booming, and for the future, we can say it is bright and promising. According to estimates, the hemp industry will be worth $1.3 billion in 2022. The market value in 2018 was $390 million.

The Relation between Hemp and CBD

As mentioned while discussing the history of hemp and definitions, CBD is a cannabinoid present in hemp. This compound is more abundant than all the other cannabinoids the plant produces. CBD, like the hemp plant, is not a discovery. For instance, in 2737BC, Chinese emperor Sheng Neng infused cannabis plants in hot water to make CBD tea. This tea would help in treating different health ailments. Today, many companies process hemp to get oil and make various products.

The Bottom Line

We see that the history of hemp goes back to over ten thousand years ago. Not just that, it has long been a versatile and useful resource to human nature. People use hemp in making textiles, building materials, ropes, paper, medicine, food, and even fuel. Its earliest record goes back to Taiwan, in 8000BC, when people incorporated hemp cords in pottery.

Despite the plant’s usefulness, it had a rocky ride to get to this position in society. And from the look of things, hemp plants are here to stay. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. In the future, we hope to see more versatility and therapeutic benefits from the use of hemp. And environmental benefits as well, as this is only the beginning, with regards to experiencing its potentials.

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