The Origins of Hemp in the Context of the US

Hemp arranged as blocks

American farmers scattered throughout colonies were required by law to grow hemp in the 1700s. After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, things continued to remain positive for hemp because no one associated the sinister connotations with the crop. Every American household used hemp seed oil to provide fuel to their household lamps.

Then came the early 1900s and views on hemp took a turn for the absolute worse, as debates over the legalization of cannabis plant raged, encompassing increasingly disturbing overtones that included controversial themes rooted in racism and immigration. This sparked public backlash against hemp and American politics tried to look for just about any excuse to rule out hemp as a useful product.

Then, a factually incorrect article was published in an acclaimed medical journal claiming that marijuana caused users to lose their mental faculties, go mad, and grow an uncontrollable urge to kill ‘anyone’ they could get their hands on.

Despite the lack of evidence for this concerning statement, the article carried enough clout to inspire fear in the general public and lawmakers would seek to ban it. This happened with the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which cast a blanket rule on all derivatives of cannabis, including hemp.

Even the 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics wasn’t enough to restore the public’s faith in hemp. The research paper described in detail why hemp was a ‘billion dollar crop’, an amount that was unimaginably enormous to everyone, irrespective of how rich they already were.

The article argued that hemp has over 25,000 potential uses, ranging from cellophane, to fibers, to food, and of course, dynamite.

It wasn’t until 1942 when the US government briefly lifted the ban to accommodate a war act during World War II for supplies of rope and canvas grown from hemp, owing to the Japanese army cutting off supplies of jute from the Philippines. Once the war ended, the moratorium against hemp resumed once more.

The next few decades were some of the worst for hemp as it was shunned by all corners of society, with some people going so far as to label it with the derogative title, “ditch weed”.

In 1961, the United Nations felt the growing need for a new standard of outlines to govern the use and control of narcotic drugs. This led to them drafting the Single Convention on Narcotics Drug Act, classifying industrial hemp as a Controlled Substance.

The 1970 US Federal Government Act conflated the legal mess for hemp as it classified cannabis as a Schedule I illegal drug. This meant strict penalties for anyone who grew marijuana or industrial hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill

Things took a drastic change for the better when President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill. This allowed states to regulate research, production, and commerce for hemp products because the plant was no longer seen as a controlled substance. An era of unrelenting, pointless aggression against hemp had come to an end.

The new bill opened the doors to banks, credit card companies, merchants, advertising platforms, and e-commerce retailers to do business with hemp companies without the fear of the DEA interfering.

Legalized industrial hemp is now a booming agricultural segment that has spawned a market that is expected to become a billion dollar industry before 2020, all without breaking the law.

Even more unprecedented is the legalization of recreational of marijuana in 10 states, with medical CBD (derived from hemp) being legal in 23 states across America. Despite the legal pains the country had to cope with, the next decade looks even more promising for hemp derived products as they create new jobs, help medical staff treat debilitating diseases, and benefit the economy as a whole.

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