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A brief history of hemp

Although nowadays Cannabis is often frowned upon, it was possibly one of the first plants to be cultivated and it left a mark on history. Its use can be dated back to 5000 BC due to archaeological finds of pottery from the Neolithic Age in China. Over the last 7000 years it was a very popular source for fiber, which was in turn used for clothes, shoes, paper, and ropes for ships, including that of Christopher Columbus. Cannabis could even be found in cooked dishes such as soups or as fillings for pies and many rituals of our forefathers employed inhaling the vapors of the Cannabis flower. [1-7]

In the Americas, Cannabis was first cultivated in Chile after the Spanish brought it over around 1545. People in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru also tried to grow this crop but only Chile was successful with it. Over the next 100 years there were more and more reports by European sailors, such as Samuel Champlain and Samuell Argall, of Cannabis being used further north growing in Virginia, along the shores of the upper Potomac, and even all the way up in New England. [8-12]

George Washington himself grew Cannabis and noted in his diary in 1765 about the seeding of the hemp as well as the harvest. Washington was well aware of the industrial benefits this crop could bring to his country and pushed hard for Cannabis.  George Washington was not the only President to farm Cannabis. It is documented that Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce did the same. Betsy Ross used fabric made of industrial hemp to make the first flag. [13-15]

When the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed in the United States the Cannabis industry was basically destroyed since it heavily taxed anyone who had commercial dealings with any form of Cannabis, may it be industrial hemp or marijuana.  It is said that this tax act was created to preserve the business of some wealthy men in the timber industry. Their biggest fear was that Cannabis could replace timber as resource for paper since the Cannabis could grow significantly faster than trees. [16-19]

During World War II the Marihuana Tax Act was lifted briefly and the Cannabis industry underwent a renaissance. The fibers of the plants were used to manufacture rope, uniforms, and canvas. The US even produced a short film in 1942 called "Hemp for victory" in which they promoted Cannabis as a key crop to win the war. [20, 21]

[1]    "Information paper on industrial hemp (industrial cannabis)". Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-07-05.

[2]   Stafford, Peter (1992). Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Berkeley, CA, USA: Ronin Publishing. ISBN 978-0-914171-51-5.

[3]   Ethan Russo (August 2007). "History of cannabis and its preparations in saga, science, and sobriquet". Chemistry & Biodiversity. 4 (8): 1614–1648. doi:10.1002/cbdv.200790144PMID 17712811.

[4]   Barber, E. J. W. (1992). Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton University Press. p. 17.

[5]   Tengwen Long; et al. (March 2017). "Cannabis in Eurasia: origin of human use and Bronze Age trans-continental connections". Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. 26 (2): 245–258. doi:10.1007/s00334-016-0579-6.

[6]   HerodotusHistories. IV. 73–75.

[7]   Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe: A Book of Essays (2002), edited by Melitta Weiss Adamson, ISBN 0-415-92994-6, pg. 98, 166

[8]   Daryl T. Ehrensing (May 1998). "Feasibility of Industrial Hemp Production in the United States Pacific Northwest, SB681"Oregon State University. Retrieved May 15, 2016.

[9]   Champlain, Samuel, Henry P. Biggar. 1929. The Works of Samuel de Champlain, vol 1. Toronto: Champlain Society. p. 341-56.

[10]    Gabriel G. Nahas (31 December 1992). Cannabis Physiopathology Epidemiology Detection. CRC Press. pp. 210–. ISBN 978-0-8493-8310-6.

[11]   Gabriel Archer, A Relatyon of the Discoverie of Our River..., printed in Archaeologia Americana 1860, p. 44. William Strachey (1612) records a native (Powhatan) name for hemp (weihkippeis).

[12]   Proceedings of the Virginia Assembly, 1619 Archived 2003-03-04 at the Wayback Machine., cf. the 1633 Act: Hening's Statutes at Large, p. 218


[14]   Bear, James A. Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds. Jefferson's Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997, 1:383.

[15]   Robinson, Rowan. The Great Book of Hemp: The Complete Guide to the Environmental, Commercial, and Medicinal Uses of the World's Most Extraordinary Plant. Rochester, VT. Park Street Press, 2010. Chapter 5:129-135. Print

[16]   Sterling Evans (2007). Bound in twine: the history and ecology of the henequen-wheat complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, 1880–1950. Texas A&M University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-58544-596-7.

[17]    Earlywine, 2005: p. 24

[18]    French, Laurence; Manzanárez, Magdaleno (2004). NAFTA & neocolonialism: comparative criminal, human & social justice. University Press of America. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-7618-2890-7.

[19]   Peet, 2004: p. 55

[20]   Armagnac, Alden P. (1943). "Plant Wizards Fight Wartime Drug Peril" (September): 62–63.

[21]   "Hemp For Victory The True Story - The Institute for Cannabis"

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