The history of hemp

The history of hemp

In December of 2018 Congress signed and passed the Farm Bill which lifted restrictions on the sale, transport, and possession of hemp-derived products, and allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for personal and commercial purposes. Or, as the consumer more commonly knows it, CBD. In order to understand the magnitude of this shift, one must first go back and understand the history of the hemp plant.

The cultivation of hemp for food and textile fiber dates back more than 10,000 years to ancient China and Mesopotamia where archeologists found remnants of hemp cloth dating back to 8,000 B.C. Works of the Sung Dynasty, circa 500 B.C., reference Hemp in accordance to Emperor Shen Nung, whose people cultivated hemp for cloth in 28th Century B.C. Research shows that hemp proliferated Europe in 1,200 B.C., allowing it to grow in popularity across the ancient world.

The functionality and uses of hemp has evolved drastically over the years. According to an article produced by the research team at MIT, “the oldest documents written on paper are Buddhist texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, composed of a mixture of bark and old rags, principally hemp.”

Hemp was also a critical crop in the middle ages, providing immense social and economic value in the capacity of food and fiber. Canvas sails and ropes on ships were made of hemp, and in 1535, Henry VIII passed a law requiring land owners to sow no less than ¼ acre of hemp to avoid being fined. The majority of clothing used to be made from hemp textiles, and by the time the Puritans arrived to plymouth rock in 1620 hemp was already growing in nearly every state across the country.

Hemp remained a staple crop until the 1920s when it was eclipsed by cotton. Hemp was labor-intensive to harvest, and the speed and ease of the cotton gin made harvesting the hemp plant obsolete. However despite these obstacles, the downfall of hemp ultimately didn’t occur until the 1930’s.

Despite a late 1930’s issue of Popular Mechanics coining hemp the ‘billion-dollar crop,’ the U.S. government fell influence to synthetic textile companies and proposed a series of taxes towards hemp dealers who were posing a threat to their business. Later that year hemp was banned altogether and made illegal under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, and eventually the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is defined in legislation as the cannabis plant that contains

< 0.3% of THC. Federal law previously didn’t discriminate hemp from other cannabis plants, but the Farm Bill now provides legislation on the discrepancy. What’s important to know is that the Farm Bill federally legalizes hemp as a highly regulated crop for both personal and commercial production. With this legalization comes the vast proliferation of CBD that we see today.

While still very much in the research phase, its important to know the benefits of hemp as it stands today. CBD is used for ailments and diseases such as epilepsy and anxiety, and everything in between. From depression to arthritis to cancer, consumers are finding ways to alleviate their illnesses with different applications of CBD. With limited research doctors are still hesitant to prescribe it. But with it now so readily available on the shelves, consumers are self-diagnosing and self-medicating at a rapid rate.

It seemed almost overnight CBD was offered in various capacities at restaurants, cafes, pet shops and salons. However with so many brands penetrating the scene it’s important for consumers to educate themselves on the quality brands providing hemp-derived CBD versus those putting “snake oil” disguised as CBD on the shelves. Important factors to pay attention to are supplemental ingredients, THC content, and pesticides used in cultivation and harvest. Before purchasing consumers should research brands and products alike before doubling down on consumption. As the industry grows and evolves, only the top brands providing quality products and ingredients to maintain the integrity of the industry will prevail.