With the passing of the Farm Bill, it is now legal at the federal level to cultivate industrial hemp in America. While many communities and their farmers will rush to cash in on this cash crop, some communities will face negative sentiment around hemp and its association with marijuana.
In an effort to help encourage communities and farmers to embrace industrial hemp farming, we put together this article to showcase hemp’s deep-rooted history in America, where the negativity came from, and why we should embrace hemp farming moving forward.
The History of Hemp in America
For more than 1,000 years, hemp was our planet’s largest agricultural crop and the most lucrative industry producing products and enterprises used around the world. Hemp’s history dates back to when the first drops of ink were placed on the Declaration of Independence.
Hemp and marijuana both come from the Cannabis family of plants, however, hemp comes from strains that are lower in THC, which is the part of marijuana that produces the mind altering effects. Hemp has always been grown for two types of fiber, hurd, the interior fiber, or pitch, and bast, the outer portion.
When the American Colonies were originally established, hemp was a very important product to the New World. Hemp was the main source of textile fiber. In 1619, Virginia passed a law requiring every farm to grow hemp. Hemp cultivation laws were enacted until the mid-1700s. Cannabis hemp was considered a form of currency for over 200 years. Both Geoge Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their plantations with seeds they imported (illegally) from China. In an effort to develop a free colonial press and to keep from begging for books and paper from England, Benjamin Franklin started one of the first Cannabis hemp papermills.
On the medical side, from 1842 to 1890, Cannabis products were the 1st, 2nd or 3rd most prescribed medication in America. Cannabis extract medications were produced by global pharmaceutical companies including Ely-Lilly, Parke-Davis, Tildens, and many more. Except for first time users that reported feeling light-headed or reserved, there were no reports of abuse or mental disorders.
The popularity of hemp began to decline with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 when hemp and marijuana were grouped together and both became heavily taxed under the new laws. After alcohol prohibition, J Edgar Hoover worked hard to make cannabis products a federal crime. The taxes collected from the Marijuana Tax Act were used to fund the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nylon materials were also patented and introduced to the market by DuPont.
In 1970, when Nixon passed the Controlled Substance Act, he declared both marijuana and hemp a Schedule 1 drug. This ended the hemp industry in America. Americans slowly switched from hemp-based products to synthetic prescription drugs, imported oil and fossil fuels, plastics, and cottons.
A light started to shine at the end of the long tunnel when Americans were allowed to start importing hemp from other countries in 1989. A few decades later, in 2013, Colorado was the first to legalize industrial hemp farming regardless of federal laws. This decision was backed by President Obama when he encouraged research institutions and states that passed pro-hemp laws to develop pilot programs and research hemp production. In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill that legalized the commercial production of hemp at the federal level. By 2025, the global hemp market is expected to jump to $10.6 billion. Everything from alcohol to automobiles will be reinvented with hemp.
How Hemp Farming Will Revolutionize Everything We Know
Hemp has been used around the world to make a variety of industrial and commercial products including biofuel, bioplastics, clothing, food, rope, textiles, shoes, paper, and insulation. There are more than 50,000 uses for the plant. It is one of the fastest growing plants, reaching full maturity in 100-120 days. Hemp is a high-yield crop that produces more fiber per acre than either cotton or flax. Since it is a hearty crop, it can be grown without the need for any chemical additives. It also uses 50% less water than cotton farming.
Here are just some of the exciting areas where hemp farming will thrive in 2019 and beyond:
Textiles and Fabrics
Hemp textiles and fabrics are made from the fibers and stalks in the Cannabis Sativa plant. Pure hemp has a texture similar to linen. Hemp was often used to make sail canvas. The word “canvas” actually comes from the word cannabis. You can buy hemp clothing online and in select brick and mortar retailers throughout the world. Hemp is naturally UV protectant. As fashion brands move from slow fashion to fast fashion, and consumers push for more products to be made in America, hemp farming will provide an affordable resource for brands to source materials stateside.
In 1916, the USDA reported that an acre of hemp produced as much paper as 4 to 10 acres of trees annually over a 20-year cycle. To make hemp paper, the hemp fibers are boiled, beaten, or shredded. Compared to wood pulp paper which can only be recycled 3 times, hemp paper can be recycled 7 to 8 times. As the world moves toward a more sustainable and greener future, hemp paper will be a product that more consumers will demand as they learn the benefits of hemp farming.
Energy and Biofuels
Did you know that in the early 1900s, Henry Ford, discovered that 90% of the world fossil fuels could be replaced with biomass such as cornstalks and hemp? At a fraction of the cost of oil, coal, or nuclear energy, biomass can be converted to methane, methanol or gasoline. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass comes from living hemp plants that through photosynthesis, remove carbon dioxide pollution from our atmosphere as they grow. Additionally, biomass fuels do not contain sulfur when hemp is grown for biomass and converted through pyrolysis (charcoalizing) or biochemical composting hemp into fuels to replace fossil fuel energy products. Since biomass is always available and can be produced in America, hemp farming would help reduce America’s dependency on foreign and non-renewable resources.
For thousands of years, cannabis products have been grown for their medicinal purposes. Marijuana, hashish extracts, tinctures, and elixirs have been prescribed to humans and animals. In modern hemp farming, the leaves and flowers are used to create Cannabinoidal (CBD) products. Due to the low THC properties (less than 0.3%), hemp derived products do not cause a mind-altering effect. The common conditions and ailments CBD products treat include, inflammation, pain, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, anorexia, seizures, and many more.
Food Products and Restaurants
Your first trip to a dispensary will have your taste buds watering from the options. From pineapple to birthday cake to root beer, you can get just about anything you desire made from hemp farmed here in America. Cannabis infused fine dining experiences are available in States with cannabis-friendly laws. Chefs are experimenting to better understand terpenes, the flagrant oils that give cannabis aromatic diversity. If it hasn’t already, it won’t be long before a dispensary or restaurant open in your area.
Building Materials and Housing
Hemp can be used to replace synthetic, petroleum-based and other building materials to produce high-performance products that are better for the environment and better for our health. The hemp stalks, fibers, and oils are used to create building and housing materials. Hemp hurd or shiv is mixed with a lime-based binder to form a rigid material that can be cast into walls, between or around structural supports. Hempcrete walls have low toxicity and good vapor permeability while maintaining air tightness, insulation, and stabilization. As more communities are offering tax credits and incentives for building smarter, more eco-friendly residences, hemp building, and housing materials will become more widely available.
How We Fit Into Hemp Farming
While we like selling our plant nutrients, we understand that our role in the Cannabis Community also involves helping bring awareness to the numerous benefits that cannabis products hold for Americans. As an influencer, it is just as important for us to support hemp farmers with our marketing efforts and educational content, as it is to sell high-quality plant nutrients that are better for the earth and better for the plants.
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Interested in becoming a Hemp Farmer or want to talk to one of our Grow Specialists about JEWEL and your hemp farming nutrition schedule? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Ministry of Hemp, History.com