The history of the hemp plant dates back all the way to 10,000 BCE. Hemp has been used for thousands of years, from medicinal purposes to use in everyday items, like pottery or rope. As a matter of fact, hemp was so popular because of its versatility that throughout history, farmers were fined if they did not grow the beloved crop. Check out the history of hemp throughout the millennia, and how it’s played a role in American history.
The Beginnings of Hemp
Beginning in 8,000 BCE, traces of hemp were found in modern-day China and Taiwan, where archaeologists found a piece of pottery with hemp cord marks on it alongside a stone beater that was used for pounding hemp. With human agriculture started about 10,000 years ago, it isn’t hard to believe that hemp was one of the first fiber plants to be cultivated. Take a look at the timeline of hemp in early civilizations.
3,500 BCE: Hemp was used in Egypt as rope in the construction of the pyramids.
2,000 BCE – 800 BCE: Hemp is considered one of the five sacred plants of India, according to the Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda.
600 BCE: Hemp rope was discovered in southern Russia.
500 BCE: A jar of hemp seed and leaves are discovered in Germany.
100 BCE: China uses hemp plants to make paper.
570 BCE: French Queen Arnegunde was buried in hemp cloth.
1533: King Henry VIII of England fines farmers if they do not grow hemp plants.
1606: North America was first introduced to the hemp crop.
1700s: Early laws require American farmers in several colonies to grow hemp plants.
1740: Russia produced at least eighty percent of the hemp that was used in Europe for sails, rope, nets, and more.
The Hemp Plant And The U.S.
Hemp started booming in America after it started being cultivated in the 1700s, with The Declaration of Independence itself being written on hemp paper, and then President Lincoln using hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps. Fast forward to the 20th century and the hemp plant began its rollercoaster journey that followed into the 21st century.
1850: United States Census counts over 8,000 hemp plant farms, each of which is 2,000 acres or bigger.
1937: The Marijuana Tax Act is passed, placing a tax on all cannabis sales (including hemp), which led to heavy discouragement to the production of hemp.
1938: Popular Mechanics writes an article about how hemp could be used in 25,000 different products, from dynamite to Cellophane.
1942: USDA begins the “Hemp for Victory” program – this leads to more than 150,000 acres of hemp plant production.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act classifies hemp as a Schedule I drug. Strict regulations imposed on the cultivation of industrial hemp (and cannabis).
2004: Ninth Circuit Court decision in Hemp Industries Association vs. DEA permanently protects sales of hemp foods and body care products in the U.S.
2007: North Dakota issued the nation’s first licenses to grow industrial hemp.
2014: Passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, allows “institutions of higher education” and state agriculture departments to grow hemp under a pilot program as long as state law permits it.
2016: A Colorado farm earns the Organic certification from the USDA for its hemp plant.
2018: The 2018 Farm bill, or Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, was passed by Congress and signed into law on December 20, 2018, removing the hemp plant from the Controlled Substances Act.
Although this list doesn’t cover every milestone for the hemp plant for our human history, it does provide the key findings and touchpoints. Hemp plant cultivation in the U.S. has a long history – we look forward to seeing where we go next. Do you have any interesting fun facts about hemp? Let us know on social media!
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