History of Hemp


Hemp has been used as a medicine and as a source of food for centuries and historians speculate that it may have been one of the first agricultural crops cultivated. Ancient pharmacopoeias list the medicinal effects of flowers, leaves, seeds and even roots of the plant.  

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This sun loving plant flourished in Central Asia and Indian Subcontinent where it was used for fabric as far back as the neolithic period in China and Japan. Hemp began as an abundant source of fiber and food before it became a focus for its medicinal properties. One thousand years before Christ, hemp had become one of the largest agricultural crops in the world producing clothing, rope, lighting, oil, paper, incense, and medicines.

Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) is an extremely efficient, strong, and durable crop that can grow as high as 12 to 20 feet in a single growing season. This plant produces a beautiful chemical rainbow of over 200 bioactive cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. There are two subspecies of Cannabis Sativa, one we would consider medical cannabis and the other industrial hemp.


Hemp became a staple of the early American Colonial economy and by the end of the American Revolution, Virginia produced 5,000 tons annually. Hemp was even used as the paper for the Constitution. By the turn of the 20th century U.S. pharmaceutical firms sold cannabis cures like ready-made cannabis cigarettes for asthma.

1916 : USDA publishes findings that show hemp produces 4x more paper per acre than trees

Congresses’ ultimate Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 slowed the advancement of cannabis use as medicine and began the era of hemp prohibition. The tax and licensing regulations made hemp cultivation difficult for American farmers until foreign supplies became limited during World War II. The U.S. Government suddenly initiates a “Hemp for Victory” program which leads to more than 150,000 acres of hemp production across the Midwest. While Cannabis and Hemp have unique characteristics they became tied together in legal imprisonment in the 1970’s Controlled Substance Act which imposed strict regulations on the cultivation of industrial hemp.

After almost 30 years of being prohibited, the Ninth Circuit Court decided to allow hemp foods and body products to be imported. As hemp fibers are once again being used for clothing and textiles, a big win came in 2007 when North Dakota farmers were granted hemp license for the first time in over 50 years. The Farm Bill was signed in 2014 allowing for hemp cultivation which plays a large role in the accessibility you and I have of hemp today.

Magda Hjalmarsson