The hemp plant has had a confusing background in relation to world policy. As a follow-up to our recent post explaining CBD’s history, understanding the turbulent history of hemp itself will help further flesh out why CBD is where it is today.
Cultivation of the hemp plant has been an integral facet of society, earliest findings tracing back to 150 BC. Originally acknowledged for its impressive strength, hemp was used for clothing, rope, textiles. As technology has advanced, this plant now has the ability to be used in food-grade products, biofuel, insulation- the possibilities truly are endless. Sadly, its usage is not widespread.
First, some definitions.
Distinctions between hemp and marijuana are vital in understanding what hemp is. Until the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, these two plants under U.S. policy, were virtually the same. However, this bill finally differentiated hemp versus marijuana, which was a big win for the CBD community. Hemp is defined as any cannabis plant that has under 0.3% THC, whereas marijuana will test higher than 0.3% THC.
Both are cannabis plants, but with vastly different properties. Hemp is always from the Sativa family, whereas marijuana can be from either Sativa or Indica.
The term ‘industrial hemp’ is a common phrase describing hemp cultivation on a large-scale. The stalk of the hemp plant is fierce and sturdy, making it a great material for the make-up of industrial products.
Green in color, the leaves of the Sativa cannabis plant are long and skinny. The Sativa plant grows the tallest in the family, reaching heights up to twenty feet. The Sativa plant also has the longest flowering time, taking upwards of three months until ready to harvest.
Originating in Central Asia, hemp was used for fiber as early as 2800 BCE. Making its way around the globe, hemp moved to Europe, then to South America in the 1500s, finally ending up in North America during the 1600s.
The Chinese appear to be the first group to recognize hemp’s capacity to be used in paper making. Buddhist texts from the second and third century are the written on papers made primarily from hemp.
Historically the most common utilization of hemp was for cordage- things like rope, twine, string- because of the plants durability. Dating back to 8,000, the hemp plant was likely the earliest to be cultivated for textile fiber.
Hemp was also commonly used as medicine and in ceremonies. Groups would use the leaves, seeds and roots of this plant as special healing remedies.
During the early twentieth century, hemp farming was imperative to the economic growth of the world. Hemp was used in countless manners, such as clothing, sustenance, equipment for ships- the world depended on the resilience of hemp.
A Turn for the Worse…
Despite the widespread hemp usage and its intricate part in society, hemp started to get a bad reputation because of its relation to marijuana, hemp’s sister plant. Marijuana contains the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is famous for inducing a euphoric feeling. Despite hemp containing little to no THC, as soon as marijuana was criminalized hemp was lumped in the same package.
The Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, which made any cultivation of the cannabis plant illegal. Hemp went from mainstream society to hidden in underground markets, starting the turbulent history of hemp.
Government rhetoric surrounded the illegality of this plant, insisting even industrial hemp farming was dangerous. The connection to marijuana was far too close, therefore hemp and marijuana were clumped in the same schedule of drug as substances like heroin and bath salts.
This idea persisted for the next sixty years, practically eliminating hemp based products from the public marketplace and allowing industries like lumber and cotton to thrive.
A Turn for the Better…
A breakthrough in the industrial hemp community came in 1998 when Canada permitted 257 farmers to grow hemp legally, effectively legalizing hemp production across the country. Laws started to be introduced state-by-state within the United States, and by 1999, a grand total of nine states had passed legislation regarding the large-scale production of hemp.
An overarching victory for the hemp community came when the 2014 Farm Bill was passed. This bill allowed for hemp cultivation under a government approved pilot program through specified research organizations as well as state departments of agriculture. Also included in this legislation was the blockage of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and state law enforcement to interfere with the cultivation of the hemp, ensuring these pilot programs could not be invaded and destroyed.
Finally, the 2018 Farm Bill was written and signed, stating that there is a difference between marijuana and hemp, and hemp products would no longer be criminalized. Hopefully, this bill signed the end of the turbulent history of hemp.
Hemp Products Far Superior
Individual health benefits directly correlate to hempseed consumption. With a wide variety of nutrients, protein, essential fatty acids, hempseed and its oil are an excellent diet boost.
Growing hemp is the most sustainable option. Because hemp is a weed, it requires little water and attention, does not need a significant amount of space to grow, and is biodegradable.
With today’s technology, hemp can reach nearly any market. This product can be properly used in agriculture, automotive, food and beverage, skincare industries; the versatility of this plant creates a place in many markets. This could potentially edge out more devastating methods, such as horrifying statistics of deforestation by the logging industry.
Fortunately these benefits have been realized, and the hemp industry is booming in the United States. Law enforcement is still catching up to the understanding, which is where the confusion can sometimes lie. Still, hemp is on an upward trajectory.