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A History of Hemp in the US

Hemp has once again become a popular conversation topic in the United States. Interestingly, the hemp plant has long been a part of the United States’ history, and its history within the US is relatively well-documented. Records show growing hemp in the US first dates back to 1611 in a little town called Jamestown. It was frequently used for lantern oil, paper, and rope.

Early Days of Hemp

In the 1700s, as the United States was just starting to grow as a nation, the economy was primarily driven by agriculture. The majority of farmers preferred growing tobacco, but hemp was also a favorite. It was such a popular crop to grow in so many colonies that England had no choice but to mandate its cultivation legally. That’s what makes the history of hemp so interesting.

Although hemp was an essential crop for our nation early on, things started changing in the 1900s. One of the first things to bring about this change was the nation’s ability to get hemp fiber cheaper from foreign countries. The leader in this was Russia shortly after the end of World War I. This more affordable option caused hemp to grow out of favor with farmers, and Kentucky, who was the leading producer of hemp crops, seen a 75% decline in production.

Early 20th Century Prohibition

Another problem with hemp was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which directly responded to the federal government trying to fight the rise in drugs. This act placed a significant tax on cannabis sales and led to increased arrests for both dealing and possession as part of violating the Tax Act.

Thanks to Word War II, the United States federal government lifted the enforcement of the Marijuana Tax Act to raise more funds to support the cost of the war. During World War ii, the US Department of Agriculture not only encouraged Southwest and Midwest farmers to start growing hemp, but they also promoted the growth in all manners of advertising. However, once the war was over, hemp became illegal once again. And thanks to efforts of big tobacco and other anti-marijuana campaigns, the government passed the Controlled Substance Act of 1907, classifying THC, which is found in small amounts in hemp, a Schedule 1 substance, and now federally illegal to own or grow.

History of Hemp in the 21st Century

Hemp didn’t become popular again in the United States until 30 years after the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. In the history of hemp, the early 2000s were very influential. The US government lifted some of the restrictions and allowed businesses to import dietary products containing hemp. In 2007, two North Dakota farmers were granted a license by their state’s government, allowing them to grow industrial hemp. Sadly, though, those licenses were rejected by the federal government. The federal government claimed North Dakota hadn’t met the Drug Enforcement Agency’s logistical and security requirements.

But still, it was a step in the right direction and was vital to getting us where we are today. By building on these positive developments towards hemp, states could start making changes across the entire nation. It was the 2014 Farm Bill that ultimately made way for various pilot programs throughout the states.

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