For over 10,000 years the hemp plant has been an important part of many cultures. The surprising thing is that it has only been illegal for the last 80 years or so.
The hemp plant evolved from Northern China at the dawn of civilization, and is believed to be the first cultivated fiber plant. The earliest archeological record of the use of fiber from hemp plant was in China twelve thousand-years ago. An old Neolithic site was unearthed at Yuan-shan and the remains of coarse sandy pottery with hemp cord marks on it were found along with a rod-shaped stone beater, used to pound hemp.
The Pen Ts’ao Ching is the oldest pharmacopoeia in existence and was compiled in the first or second century BCE. The book mentions that hemp “grows along the rivers and valleys at T’ai-shan, but is now common everywhere”. This “common” hemp plant was used for its medicinal properties for centuries.
Hemp material was used by the masses in China for clothing, since most could not afford the luxury of expensive silk. Communities were encouraged to grow hemp so the people could have clothes. Later on, the Chinese invented paper to replace the heavy cumbersome tablets used to write on.
The hemp plant was also known in Egypt as early as the third millennium BC and was used for spiritual purposes and clothing. It was also common in India and was used widely for its medicinal properties, as well as for fabric.
There were three basic common uses of the hemp plant in every society throughout history, hemp fiber, hemp oil and hemp medicine.
The Hemp Plant is Valued in the New World
In America, cultivation of hemp was mandatory for farmers in the 1600’s. A number of colonies passed legal tender laws and hemp became so valued that it was used to pay taxes. By 1776 farmers were strongly encouraged to produce hemp or be fined.
The American paper industry flourished from the use of hemp. Many other products were also made from the hemp plant such as fabric, rope, and oil.
Hemp Production in the 19th & 20th Centuries
Hemp continued to be one of the most important crops through the 19th century. As the production swelled to an enormous volume, more states including Illinois, California, and Nebraska began to grow hemp. Farmers were rewarded well for growing hemp because of the rising price and demand.
Early in the 20th century, industrialization began and machinery did the work of many men. Not only did this save time and money, it allowed for more products to be made from the hemp plant.
In 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act HR6385 was enacted. This placed a very high prohibitive tax on cannabis and required people to purchase a tax stamp in order to possess it legally. Despite complaints from farmers that the hemp fiber and seed industry would be destroyed, and the medical community claiming that cannabis had been in the American pharmacopoeia since around 1850, Congress passed the law. Soon the legal hemp and medicinal cannabis industries disappeared.
Today, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act is an amendment that allows industrial hemp to be grown as research projects with universities. Its time America recognizes the value of the hemp plant and the 25,000 products that can be made from it. Let farmers grow hemp again. There are many things you can do to support the legalization of the hemp plant. Check the Vote Hemp website and vote, write to senators, congressmen and let your voice be heard.