WHAT EXACTLY IS HEMP?
While hemp is a plant in the cannabis plant family, hemp is not marijuana. Hemp does not contain the THC that marijuana does, so it has no psychotropic effects. In fact, hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years by people around the world. Ancient civilizations used hemp to create fibers for cloth, fiber-pulp for paper making, oil for fuel, and they ground it into power to use for medicinal purposes.
HAS HEMP EVER BEEN GROWN IN THE UNITED STATES?
Hemp was brought to colonial America by the Puritans. They planted the hemp seeds in New England, so they could use their hemp harvest to make linen for sails and caulking for ships. Hemp was a mainstay in the maritime industry because of its natural resistance to decay. As the colonies grew so did hemp cultivation. Eventually, hemp was a valuable crop being grown in Maryland and Virginia as well.
EVEN THE FOUNDING FATHERS GREW HEMP.
Hemp was such an important crop for the colonial economy that farmers were compelled to grown hemp to show their patriotism to the fledgling country. George Washington grew hemp on his farm and Thomas Jefferson cross-bred hemp seeds to create new varieties. He also invented a unique tool that kept the hemp stems from being crushed while being processed. While the founding fathers were hammering out the details of the Declaration of Independence, they wrote their ideas down on hemp paper.
WHY WAS GROWING HEMP OUTLAWED?
Hemp cultivation got caught up in the "Reefer Madness" hysteria of the early 1900s. This was an idea widely circulated to the public that young people would become "insane" by smoking marijuana. An all-out assault on marijuana reached a crescendo and citizens pressured the politicians of the day to do something.
POWER AND GREED GOT INVOLVED.
Knowing the societal pressure over marijuana, greedy industrialist William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont Company also pressured them to include hemp in any ban on cannabis. As has been noted hemp was used to make paper and oils for plastics. Hearst had a huge financial stake in timber cultivation and paper mills and DuPont had just created cellophane and other plastic products from petroleum. Together they had a million reasons to want hemp cultivation and the products that could be made from it outlawed in the United States.