The History of Hemp in America: From Ancient Times to the Present

Hemp is a plant that has been around for centuries, with its origins in Central and Southwestern Asia. It was first brought to North America in 1545 by Spanish colonists, and quickly became an important fiber crop in the New England colonies in the mid-17th century. Ancient records even refer to people using hemp for ritual and recreational intoxication as far back as 2,600 years ago. Before the American Revolution, many of the colonies were required by law to cultivate hemp and send it back to England, creating an industry around it and even using it as a form of currency and for paying taxes. Although hemp has no psychoactive effects like marijuana, agents from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics were unable to differentiate between the two, leading to the collapse of the hemp industry.

After World War II, hemp was cultivated very irregularly until 1957, when the United States saw its last commercial production. It experienced a brief resurgence during World War II when Japan cut off hemp supplies from the Philippines. Before European settlers arrived, Native Americans were already cultivating hemp in the New World. The terrible circumstances created by World War II caused a brief revival of domestic hemp cultivation. After another drying period, workers used a hemp brake - a wooden tool shaped like the jaws of a crocodile - to break and separate unwanted waste scales from long fibers.

Thomas Jefferson is even said to have written the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. John Adams' quote was actually a satirical version of hanging political dissidents on hemp rope, while George Washington's was an admission of an agricultural error, since hemp that becomes seed (after male pollen fertilizes the female flower) produces thicker and less valuable fibers. In fact, Congress passed a resolution requiring the United States Navy to buy hemp from American farmers for the production of ropes and sails. As tensions between Great Britain and the American colonies increased, more people began to turn to hemp as a way to make up for shortages caused by boycotting British imports. During the American Revolution (1775-1778), early versions of the Betsy Ross flag were made from hemp cloth. Today, CBD 101 packages on websites like Charlotte's Web allow people to stay up-to-date with the latest innovations in full-spectrum hemp extract.

Tamara Lutze
Tamara Lutze

General travel nerd. Incurable zombie ninja. Infuriatingly humble food fanatic. Freelance beer lover. Unapologetic travel specialist.

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