The Truth Behind the Ban on Hemp: A Historical Perspective

Federal policies, reinforced by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, effectively banned industrial hemp production in the United States. Two weeks ago, the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate approved a bill that would legalize industrial hemp production in the state.


is an incredible plant with a long and rich history around the world, but political ruse put an end to its use. What is the truth behind why hemp was banned? Hemp has a long and rich history around the world.

This humble plant served as a source of food and feed, of oil and fiber, in religious contexts, as a pillar of naval power and as an important global product. Such was its importance and usefulness that hemp is considered one of the first plants cultivated by mankind and one of the first sources of woven fabrics. But advances in metallurgy, textile processing, and materials science have not been kind to humble hemp. Despite all its uses, industrial hemp is a plant that requires a lot of labor for processing, is demanding on environmental conditions and requires fertile land to cultivate premium fields that could otherwise be used to grow food.

Nor did it help much that industrial hemp was subject to varying degrees of legitimation in different parts of the world because of its association with the drug, cannabis. However, in a world where automation and electricity are increasingly replacing workers and muscle strength, there is a lot of talk about the recovery of hemp. And, judging by historical sources, this is an area where everyone should be glad that robots are taking our jobs away. It should be noted at this point that industrial hemp strains show low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD), which effectively prevents any psychoactive use of plants (i.e. Medical cannabis is obtained from strains of cannabis plants that were specifically cultivated to contain high levels of THC and low concentrations of CBD.

Supporters of industrial hemp farms often try to draw attention to this point when discussing the legal framework surrounding the plant, as it invalidates much of the reasoning behind the regulation of hemp. Hemp's relationship with humans began sometime in the Stone Age in Asia, the plant's native area. Hemp seeds dating back to 8000 BC have been found on the Japanese islands. C., suggesting that the plant was already known to the locals and that they recognized its possible uses. The archaeological evidence for its processing and use, hemp rope fingerprints on pottery produced in the Taiwan area dates back to the 5th millennium BC.

Since string is a relatively refined product, this suggests that hemp already had a role to play in local economies and that people invested time and thought about processing it as a commodity and resource. While the plant was known to people in northern latitudes in the Neolithic Age, evidence of its processing and use in Europe only emerged around the Iron Age. Perhaps, ironically, this is probably due to the plant's ridiculous versatility. Hemp can be used as a base for a wide range of products. Initially, it was used as a food source in the form of plant parts and seeds, as an oil crop and as food for animals.

Hemp develops quite quickly and is happy to grow in wild or semi-wild groups (provided the soil and climate are adequate) with relatively little effort to care for it. It is likely, then, that its first uses consisted of people exploiting these naturally available plants and devoting relatively little effort to refining them. Where industrial hemp really picked up the pace was when people discovered that they could use it for fiber and textiles. As we have seen before, this occurred very early in Asia; in the third millennium BC, people living in present-day China and Turkestan were already using it as a raw material for textiles, and it is believed that it was the basis of the first forms of paper. But the final product is stronger than spun wool or linen, and it eventually prevailed in the West as a source of durable cords and fabrics. European ships would eventually sail through the known (and unknown, at the time) world, and hemp ropes made that possible.

In the Age of Sailing, hemp was considered a strategic resource, possibly on par with what crude oil is seen today, and governments did everything possible to ensure access to hemp ropes. In another curious parallel with today's world, many countries in Europe (including Great Britain) were heavily dependent on imports from Russia to meet their domestic demand for this strategic resource. Duval explains that the American hemp industry was first established because the British Empire desperately wanted to own its own supply of hemp but it turned out to be economically unviable. There were serious problems in establishing adequate production in the New World. Initially, it was tried in areas where the climate was not right so harvests failed spectacularly. Later on, governments made great efforts on their part to encourage its growth such as making hemp legal tender in most parts of America from 1631 until they declared independence.

This also failed spectacularly because hemp simply didn't make enough money for farmers to grow it due to government's intensive efforts by then. The association between drug-addicted cannabis and industrial hemp led to its ban across America in 1937 with passage of Marijuana Tax Act. This ban has been reinforced by Controlled Substances Act 1970 which virtually stopped industrial hemp production during war on drugs. However recently North Carolina House Representatives & Senate approved bill legalizing industrial hemp production within state. Hemp has been used since ancient times for various purposes such as food source & feed source; oil crop & food for animals; fiber & textiles; paper; ropes & fabrics; strategic resource & legal tender etc. But due to its association with drug-addicted cannabis & economic unviability it has been banned across US & other parts of world. Now with advances in automation & electricity replacing workers & muscle strength there is talk about recovery of hemp.

North Carolina House Representatives & Senate have approved bill legalizing industrial hemp production within state which shows positive sign towards recovery.

Tori Clar
Tori Clar

Subtly charming internet scholar. General music aficionado. Avid beer buff. Evil music expert. Lifelong food advocate. Award-winning beer practitioner.