Hemp includes all varieties of the Cannabis genus that contain negligible amounts of THC, the chemical that makes marijuana psychoactive and gets you “high”. The Cannabis family has several different breeds, yet it is most infamously known for marijuana (“weed”). This is the main reason why people confuse the term hemp with marijuana. Hemp actually refers to the industrial, non-drug variant that is cultivated for its fiber, hurd, and seeds.
Hemp is typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
North America was first introduced to hemp in 1606. Ever since, American farmers grew hemp that was used across multiple different products, such as paper, lamp fuels, and ropes.Many of our founding fathers grew hemp and advocated its uses and benefits. Most notably, Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.In the 1700s, farmers were even legally required to grow hemp as a staple crop.
Although hemp was a big part of early US history, attitude towards the crop started to change in the early 1900s. When the US government increased its resolve to fight against drugs such as marijuana, hemp somehow got grouped with its cannabis cousin. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 started the major decline of the hemp industry, as all hemp sales started to get heavily taxed on. There has been some controversy over this bill, as some have argued that this policy was aimed to reduce the size of the hemp industry in order to help the emerging plastic and nylon industries gain market share.
The United States reversed its stance in 1942 when they realized they needed hemp for the war effort. The Department of Agriculture started to heavily promote hemp and started publishing various benefits that hemp offered (i.e. findings that hemp produces 4 times more paper per acre than trees). The peak of the hemp promotion was when the US government released a pro-hemp documentary called Hemp for Victory , which encouraged farmers throughout the Midwest and Southeast to grow hemp to support the war. This led to over 400,000 acres of hemp being planted during 1942-1945. Shortly after this program, the US government went back to its original stance on hemp again and the industry continued to decline.
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