Hemp’s popularity has exploded in recent years. However, it is unknown to the majority that its popularity goes back many millennia. Before cannabis was globally outlawed during the 1930s, hemp and its relationship with society flourished.
In the modern era, cannabis and its family members are an unknown entity to the vast majority. Cannabis has a reputation as a psychoactive drug, an illegal substance that makes people lazy. When it comes to hemp, many either consider it to be cannabis or have no idea what it is at all.
With growing information surrounding hemp, we are gradually beginning to understand hemp’s incredible and diverse value to our planet. It’s a source of fibre, possesses medicinal value, a biofuel, and could potentially eradicate the lumber industry.
The Early years of hemp
Abundant throughout Central Asia, hemp is indigenous to the region. Bountiful around Lake Baikal, Just north of the Mongolian border, the Himalayas, and across China.
Hemp has had a close relationship with the human race for centuries, with enough evidence to back up the claim. In Japan, hemp was widely used for its industrial value, that dates back to 8000 BC.
During these years, we do not know if the science behind hemp’s medicinal value was understood. But early evidence does suggest that hemp was used for its powers to heal. It was in Ancient Egypt where our ancestors left concrete evidence of cannabis being used as a medicine, found within their hieroglyphics. If a scientific understanding of cannabinoids was known back then, its reporting has been lost through time.
A couple of interesting facts worth mentioning: in 1450 Johannes Gutenberg, printed the first Bible on hemp paper. Hemp was first introduced to Europe as paper, in the 12th century, as hemp paper. Also, Christopher Columbus’s journey to the New World was achieved with hemp sails.
How hemp spread around the globe
It was King Henry, of the Great Britain who laid the foundations for the global distribution of hemp. In the early 1500s, he had ordered British farmers to allocate a certain percentage of their land for hemp cultivation. Shortly later, the British Empire distributed hemp seeds to its colonies around the globe. It was the British that introduced hemp to the United States. Hemp was considered so valuable, they exported seeds to plant in the New World, and returned a large percentage of the crop back to Europe.
During the 1600s in North America, hemp was a dominant crop, where farmers here were also obliged to grow hemp. Due to its versatility, the hemp was manufactured for a variety of purposes; including oils, clothing, sailcloth, and rope.
Hemp at the beginning of the 20th Century
During the 1900s, Henry Ford started his dream of developing a car produced and fueled by hemp, a truly revolutionary idea. In the 1930s his dream became reality as Ford created a prototype. With this concept, the plant was deemed the “billion dollar crop”.
At the time, more than 25,000 uses of hemp were outlined by Popular Mechanics in a popular published article. Hemp was becoming a dominant crop and a lucrative solution to a number of problems, both industrial and medical. However, in 1937 everything changed, with the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act. The new law made it illegal to produce cannabis plants. With hemp being a member of the cannabis family, despite being non-intoxicating, it too was outlawed.
Where did that leave Hemp?
The reasoning behind the Act was the controversy around smoking cannabis, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt perceived as inappropriate and unhealthy. In 1942, due to World War Two, the production ban was slightly relaxed due to hemp’s value. Under the new regulation, hemp supplies for rope and canvas were temporarily legalised due to the necessary war measures. Once World War Two was over, the full ban was implemented once more.
After World War Two, hemp remained nature’s concern for the next 60 years, with no production and cultivation of the plant. The plant continued growing in the wilderness and became known as a “ditch weed”.
In 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was announced by the United Nations. Hemp was officially exempt from the “drug” profile and was instead treated as an exclusion due to its industrial value, the requirement requested that the plant be well monitored and the production was to be controlled, in order to avoid misuse.
The Canadian Government demonstrated its liberal approach to hemp in 1998, when the country allowed the planting and manufacturing of industrial hemp. Still, the plant is highly monitored by Health Canada but for the first time, the plant was legally able to exit the Canadian borders.
The increased interest in hemp
The cultivation of hemp witnessed a new dawn. Its precious value resurfaced in the 1990s, with a mass revival throughout Europe and Canada. Due to increasing oil prices and increased attention towards the environment, hemp’s history provided us with a viable solution. Today, the United States imports hemp due to its industrial purposes. With the passing of the Hemp Farm Bill, in the US last year, hemp’s future will flourish.
CBD and hemp
With a more tolerant outlook towards hemp, CBD’s popularity has blossomed and is becoming a trusted alternative for a variety of medical conditions. The molecule is bountiful in the cannabis plant, more so in hemp. Most CBD products on the market today derive from hemp, due to its high CBD content and legal THC levels.
Today, CBD can be consumed in the form of CBD oils and tinctures, edibles, vaporisors, creams, and lotions. For those that have understood hemp’s value all along, it truly is exciting times. As Jack Herer, one of the biggest names in cannabis cultivation in recent years has stated, “I’m not saying that hemp can save the world, but it’s the only thing that can.