Hemp has been cultivated worldwide for over ten thousand years. It is a tall, woody, herbaceous plant that grows quickly and easily in almost any climate or soil condition. Botanically, it is a variety of Cannabis sativa L., but it is not the same as the marijuana plant. Industrial hemp contains 0.001% THC, the psychoactive ingredient, compared to 5-20% in marijuana.
Industrial hemp is recognized for its environmental and earth healing qualities. It is a rapidly renewable alternative to trees, petroleum, cotton, fiberglass, and plastic. While trees take years to grow, hemp can reach heights of 6 – 12 feet in a growing season of 120 days. It is also a carbon sink, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
There are more than 25,000 uses of hemp, which can be made into a wide range of products including textiles, paper, food, cosmetics, building materials, feed stock, plastic, and fuel. It is the Earth’s most versatile, natural resource.
- A remnant of hemp cloth was discovered in what was ancient Mesopotamia and is dated to 8000 B.C.
- Hemp rope was used to move giant limestone blocks to build the Egyptian Pyramids.
- Paper was invented in China during the Han Dynasty and was made with hemp.
- The Arabs mastered the triangular sail made of canvas, derived from the Latin word cannabis meaning hemp.
- The Gutenberg Bible was printed on hemp paper.
- Christopher Columbus sailed to America on ships constructed with hemp sails and rope, and carried hemp seeds.
- Henry VIII encouraged farmers to plant hemp to provide the British Navy with supplies for battleships and their components.
- Rembrandt and Van Gogh painted masterpieces on hemp canvas.
- Hemp was grown by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
- Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag on hemp.
- The first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper in 1776.
- Benjamin Franklin owned a hemp paper mill, allowing America to have a free colonial press.
- In 1937, the U.S. government banned hemp production due to misconception.
- In 1942, the ban was temporarily lifted to support the war effort. U.S. Department of Agriculture produced Hemp for Victory and subsidized hemp production for rope, fire hose, sails, parachutes, and uniforms.
- In 1942, Henry Ford built a plastic automobile from hemp fibers that ran on hemp ethanol.
- In 1957, hemp was banned again in the US.
- In 1998, hemp production is legalized in Canada.
- 2012, Colorado lifts ban on both hemp and marijuana, and farmers grow hemp commercially for the first time in almost 60 years.