History of Hemp
Hemp has been around for a long time, but for many people, the cannabis plant species remains shrouded in mystery. Though much folklore exists around its beginnings, there is archeological evidence that hemp was used as far back as 8,000 BC in Japan for clothing and nourishment. By 200 BC hemp rope appeared in Russia and Greece, with historical records pointing to the invention hemp paper in 100 BC China. By the year 100, physicians and spiritual leaders are writing about the medicinal and ritualistic uses of the hemp plant to the masses. Jumping ahead to the 1400’s, hemp was being consumed by some in the form of hemp beer, while many credit hemp sails with getting Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic. The United States’ relationship with hemp is forever memorialized as our founding fathers drafted the declaration of Independence on hemp paper. In fact, good old Abe Lincoln used hemp seed oil to run the lamps in his home.
Historically, the greatest friend of hemp has always been the farmer. During the 1800’s in America, cannabis plantations flourished and hemp was a beloved crop. In 1942, the US issued posters stating “I want you to grow hemp – nearest farm bureau” and Henry Ford developed a car that ran on hemp fuel. The love affair soon came to an end when the Controlled Substances Act is signed into law classifying industrial hemp as marijuana, rendering hemp-farming illegal. Though the late 20th century caused a disruption in the use of hemp in the worlds agriculture and textile industries, hemp is having a resurgence today. With the legalization of marijuana in many US states, entrepreneurs and marijuana advocates set there sights on continuing the ever-growing applications of the plant.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
With its history in the back our minds, we still have to discuss what the difference is between hemp and marijuana. Before we examine the differences, its important to note that they both come from the same cannabis species. From there its easy to see how they can be confused for one another. A closer look at what separates them clearly shows they are different on a genetic level as well as in cultivation environments. Marijuana is often associated with THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating substance found in cannabis plans. Some marijuana strains contain as much as 30% THC where as your run of the mill Hemp contains less than .3%. In other words, if you smoked a whole football fields worth of hemp, all you would get is irritated eyes and a sever case of dehydration. Another important chemical difference between hemp and marijuana is the amount of CBD or Cannabidiol, the cannaboid that reduces the psychoactive effects of THC, found in both plants. Hemp plants produce more CBD than marijuana distinguishing them even more from one another.
Besides from being different on various chemical levels, marijuana and hemp look and cultivate dissimilarly. Hemp leaves are skinnier than marijuana leaves and their stalks tend to be longer. Hemp growers over time have favored to breed long stemmed and fibrous plants while marijuana growers focused mostly on the THC content of their plants offspring. Hemp is grown traditionally outside and is given much less attention than the customarily indoor grown and closely watched marijuana plant.
Why Hemp got a bad rap?
Though clearly the make up and uses of hemp are different then marijuana, hemps reputation is wrapped up with the more well know cannabis plant. As public opinion for marijuana shifted considerably in the 40’s, hemp and all of its applications were soon forgotten. Hemp and marijuana were viewed as negative forces in an America trying to defend wholesome family values. Marked as a gateway and abused drug in the United States, marijuana became tied to the criminal justice system and impoverished communities. All across national media marijuana arrests linked to crime and social disobedience colored the publics’ perception on the once exalted plant.
Through religious and political pressure, research on the beneficial effects of marijuana and hemp has been difficult to carry out. With a lack of scientific data to counter the negative stigma of marijuana it has been very hard for its advocates to sway public opinion to their side. On the other hand, there is a rising tide of support to reshape America’s views on hemp and marijuana. As more businesses create jobs, products and commerce surrounding the marijuana and hemp industry in America, the perception of hemp is bound to exponentially improve.