American History of Hemp

The first U.S. President was a hemp farmer.

George Washington Hemp Farmer, by Aia Leu, 2013

According to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s first president, George Washington cultivated hemp for industrial uses at Mount Vernon. While the first President may not have been producing CBD oil, the hemp was used to make a variety of industrial products including rope, sail canvas, and clothing. As early as 1606 hemp was being grown in North America. Many other founding fathers grew hemp and advocated for its benefits and uses. According to the Ministry of Hemp, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence on paper made from hemp.

In 1937, the United States changed its stance on hemp when it passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was created to fight the war against drugs. Due to its close relationship to marijuana, hemp was included. This was the beginning of a major decline in the hemp industry.

In 1942, the United States changed its stance on hemp as it was needed for the war effort. Industrial fibers made from hemp were often imported from overseas, but were in short supply during this time, so the Department of Agriculture started to promote hemp, releasing publications reviewing the various benefits of hemp. During 1942-1945 over 400,000 acres of hemp were being grown. The U.S. government released a pro-hemp documentary called Hemp for Victory, which encouraged farmers in the midwest and southeast to grow hemp to support the U.S. Navy in the war.

Unfortunately, this new growth in the hemp industry quickly came to an end when the United States reversed its stance yet again. In 1970, hemp farming was banned altogether with the passage of the Controlled Substance Act in which hemp was included as a Schedule 1 drug, grouping this crop with drugs like heroin and LSD.

Almost 40 years later, the ban on hemp farming was lifted when President Obama signed into law the 2014 Farm Bill that allowed more states and businesses to begin experimenting with hemp, restoring this crop to its former popularity.

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed into law the 2018 farm bill that completely legalized hemp. It is now exempt from the definition of the controlled substance act. Additionally, the bill clarified the definition of hemp to include the entire plant, specifically the floral parts and cannabinoid derived from it. Thus, creating a huge influx of interest in the hemp industry and the products derived from hemp, especially CBD oil. More farmers, entrepreneurs, and consumers are interested in hemp every day. According to a Gallup poll published in 2019, 14% of Americans say they use CBD products. While the FDA is still researching the effects of CBD, users in the Gallup poll report relief from pain, anxiety, insomnia, and arthritis. As the hemp industry continues to grow rapidly, so does its wide variety of uses.

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