The History of Hemp

History of Hemp

The History of hemp is long! China was the first to grow hemp for fiber, in 2800 BC. The Mediterranean countries of Europe were growing it early in the Christian era. During the Middle Ages, the popularity of hemp spread throughout the rest of Europe.

Key moments for hemp throughout history

  • 8000 BC: Proof of hemp cultivation is found in AsiaIt extended quickly throughout Europe, Africa and South America, where seeds and oil were used for pottery and food.  
  • 2000 – 800 BC: Hindu religious documents refer to it as ‘sacred grass’. India considers it 1 of 5 sacred plants and it often given out as gifts.
  • 600-200 BC: The popularity of hemp continues to grow across northern Europe, with hemp rope found in southern Russia and Greece and hemp seeds and leaves found in Germany.  
  • 100 BCChina uses hemp to make paper.  
  • 1533: King Henry VII of England makes hemp an essential crop by taxing farmers if they don’t produce it.  
  • 1606: North America realizes hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes, paper and food.  
  • 1700s: America’s founding fathers advocate the benefits of hemp, encouraging American farmers to grow the crop

The world’s production of hemp fiber increases

  • 1929: America ends prohibition. The first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, tells the public that cannabis is ‘devil drug’, but scientists can’t find any evidence of cannabis being harmful.  
  • 1937The Marihuana Tax Act is passed in the United Statestaxing anyone who deals with cannabis products. In Europe, the demand for artificial fibers increases so commercial cultivation  of hemp ceases.  

WWII has a huge impact on hemp production

  • 1942-1945:  During WWII, the tax on cultivation is revoked by the US government, who requires it to make uniformscanvas, ropes. The government promotes a pro-hemp documentary named Hemp for Victory, promoting hemp production in support of the war. The U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages the production of hemp and releases articles showing its benefits. Over 400,000 hectares of hemp is grown throughout the Midwest and Southeast.  
  • 1950sThe Soviet Union is the world’s greatest producer of hemp. 
  • 1960s: Following the ratification of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, cannabis – without differentiation between hemp and marijuana – is banned in most countries. In the US, it is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, grouping the plant with heroin and LSD. This results in many countries doing the same, preventing research and production.  
  • 1971: The UK issues cultivation licenses under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This allows hemp a cultivation for non-drug purposes and begins referring to it as industrial hemp 
  • 2007The very first hemp licenses in the US in +50 years are given to 2 farmers in North Dakota. 
  • 2014: President Obama signs the Farm Bill into law, giving way to research institutions to pilot hemp farming programs. The Farm Bill legally separates hemp from marijuana and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes. It defines industrial hemp as Cannabis Sativa L. plants with 0.3% concentration of THC or less.
  • 2018: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves Epidiolex, a cannabidiol oral medication. 

The 2018 Farm Bill revokes hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act. 

In Europe today, hemp is a niche crop, more than 33,000 hectares cultivated. France is Europe’s biggest producer of hemp, growing 8000 hectares. Cigarette papers and other technical uses accounts for most of the French production.

The word leading producer is China, with 70% of the world output. 2.5 million ha of wild hemp still grow in the Russian far East.

Hemp uses 

There are more than 50,000 different uses of hemp, that we can classify in 6 categories: 

  • Textiles: clothing, handbags, shoes etc. 
  • Industrial textiles : rope, canvas, tarps, carpeting etc. 
  • Paper: printing, newsprint, cardboard, packaging  
  • Food: hemp seed hearts, oil, protein powder, food supplements 
  • Building materials: oil paints, varnishes, fuel, solvent, coatings, insultation etc.  
  • Body care: soaps, shampoos, balms, cosmetics etc. 

Hemp is a remarkable plant that flows as food, clothes, house material, healing power, and environmental protection.  

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