Hemp’s Memory Lane: The Good Times and The Bad Times

Industrial Hemp Plant
Hemp Plant

Industrial hemp is not a new thing at all, this plant has a lot of history, dating back about 10,000 years. It may very well be the first plant grown and processed for textile fiber. This plant was adorned by many royals, and was used by all! Processing hemp is one of mankinds oldest forms of industry.

With agriculture not being “normal”, meaning that it was invented by mankind, and being a direct link to the start of civilization; in 1977 Carl Sagan proposed the idea that marijuana being one of the first agricultural crops, could very well be linked with the development of civilization.

Humans have been around for about 250,000 years, but agriculture is only around 10,000 years old. It is hard to believe we went that long without civilization! And to think that hemp/marijuana could be the start is really interesting, and quite astounding as to why or how it was ever considered a bad thing?

It was used for everything from food and medicine to ropes, sails, and paper. There was nothing this plant couldn’t be used for, and it quickly became a valuable trade commodity, as it was introduced worldwide.

To see a wonderful resource like that just die off, is a total shame. It makes you wonder, what happened? How could this plant possibly suffer such a downfall after being used so reliably for so many years.

China’s Real Ancient Secret

The very first use of hemp can be traced back to an ancient Stone Age Village in Taiwan, off the coast of China. A lot of evidence supports it’s use, it was referred to as ma. Being able to decipher the ancient findings tells us that ma was used for food, medicine, hemp products, and believe it or not, to get high.

Don’t think they were just a bunch of stoners that couldn’t function though, it was actually frowned upon to just get “high”, it had to be your medicine, or have a spiritual purpose to be approved of.

China was one of the only countries using hemp for bow strings. Everyone else was using bamboo which didn’t compare to the trajectory and accuracy of the arrows shot with hemp made string. Thus giving a clear advantage above the enemy.

Made from Industrial Hemp
Hemp Twine

While the emperor’s’s wore the expensive silk, the citizens required a more affordable and durable cloth. Hemp was the main fabric until around 1200 A.D., when cotton was introduced.

Also, in about 150 BC, the first paper made 100% from shredded hemp cloth and mulberry bark was made in China. Some of the oldest documents in existence come from a Buhdist Temple in China and are on handmade hemp paper.

Emperor Shen Nung, who was revered as the “Father of Chinese Medicine”, recommended using it for over 100 illnesses.

The seeds were used for food, while it was not a “mainstay”, like rice and mullet, the seeds were used like any other grain for years. Oils were also produced from the seeds to be used in cooking and other products as well.

Seeds From Industrial Hemp
Hemp Seeds

China’s history with hemp is definitely the oldest in history!

Russia

Russia adapted to growing hemp very well since it’s introduction to the plant from China in the middle ages, finding an actual date has been rough! Nonetheless, it became a major cash crop for Russia.

Made from Industrial Hemp grown in Russia
Russian Hemp Products

Russia was the top producer of hemp since the 18 century, in the mid 1700’s they produced about 80% of Europe’s sails, ropes, nets, and other hemp-made equipment and supplies need for the ships, British shipping was almost totally reliant upon Russian Hemp, which cause Napoleon to start a hemp war.

He signed a Peace Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, with Tsar Alexander I, with the condition that there would be no trade with Great Britain, of whom Napoleon despised! France was hoping to cripple Great Britain with this treaty, but in the long run all failed and 4 years later Russia was trading with Great Britain again.

UK

The history of hemp in the UK is almost as extensive as that of China, who introduced the UK to hemp. Cambri Formosa – a Celtic princess, who taught women how to weave and sew, is said to be the first mention of hemp in the UK, this was around 373 BC.

From the 16th century to the 19th century hemp flourished in the UK, due to its versatility of use. It was needed for outfitting ships with sails, ropes, nets, and more, and it was a very valuable trade commodity. The huge demand for hemp and the products made from it, created a boosted many coastal economies, and employed thousands!

Industrial Hemp product
Hemp Ropes on a Ship

This plant was grown in every single country in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, showing just how popular and in demand it was!

The huge demand for this crop eventually lead Henry VIII to enforce farmers to grow hemp. For every 60 acres of cultivated fields, a quarter was mandated to be hemp. It was in such demand that Britain’s American Colonies were mandated to grow hemp for the crown as well, which was later used against Great Britain.

As shipping costs declined the UK found it was cheap to buy hemp. Russia at the time had come up with better ways to harvest and process the plant, and provided it at a very affordable price, and the UK bought it. The Queen knew that even if the trade fell through, she could rely on her own farmers to keep up with the demand.

Eventually with new inventions, came new demands. There was less and less of a demand for hemp. With the growth of the cotton industry hemp took a major hit, as people wanted the softer feeling fabric that cotton provided. And cotton was easier and faster to process.

America made the price of cotton deceptively very cheap, using slaves to tend the fields. This was giving a cotton a head start on the competition with hemp, with cotton being so cheap, and people preferring the texture hemp was losing the battle. When slavery was abolished, cotton had already become known and preferred for everyday fabrics.

Hemp took the back seat with being used for uniforms, camping and military gear, and other such uses. But then was outlawed in 1928 when the war on drugs campaign began.

It wasn’t until 1993 that the UK legalized the growth and production of hemp.

North America

Brought to the British Colonies in the early 1600’s, with the intentions of supplying the royal crown with the hemp grown. It was even mandatory to grow hemp, and you could use it to pay your taxes with. The nation’s founder’s were all growing and cultivating hemp as well.

Rumor has it, the first flags on our naval ships were made of hemp fabric, as no other fabric was strong enough to with stand the salty air the ships endured. The original drafts of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States were both drafted on hemp paper, later to be copied onto other paper.

Drafted on Hemp Paper
Constitution of The United States

Hemp was a staple crop for the United States, not only did we use every part of the plant for some purpose, we sold and traded it to other nations.

This all came to an abrupt end with anti-marijuana campaigns that lumped hemp right in with marijuana. This rendered both pants illegal pretty much worldwide. Hemp had some major competitors in the US market. Oil companies, cotton farmers, and paper mills, were the major ones.

A “smear campaign” swept the world, not just the United States. This campaign lumped hemp in with marijuana, the form of cannabis that gets you high, and falsely scared people from even wanting grow it.

There were films that said things like, it would make you psychotic and would be the end of civilization. These lies scared many people, and cotton had already taken hold of the American fiber economy so it was easy to push it the rest of the way out of the picture with a few “stories”.

Created for the smear campaign of marijuana and hemp
Anti-Marijuana Symbol

The big oil companies and paper mills wanted to see hemp’s demise as it was now, their biggest competitor. Making it illegal was perfect for them, it did not matter that what they were saying was not true of hemp or marijuana for that fact.

The attempted revival of hemp during WWII ended as quickly as the campaign began. The U.S. government put out movies and fliers trying to get farmers to agree to grow hemp for the war. A lot of farmers agreed and signed contracts and all. This all ended when the war came to an unexpected end and left farmers with broken contracts and empty pockets.

The newest craze for CBD Oils, has pushed a lot of people in the right direction of legalizing hemp and marijuana. Hemp is now legal on the federal level in all 50 states, but not every state agrees with the farming and cultivation of hemp yet.

You can legally purchase and use Hemp CBD Oil in all 50 states, marijuana is a different story! Each state has it’s own laws, and it is still not federally legal.

People have again, begun to realize what hemp can do for our society, and that it is not dangerous or threatening in any way. It could actually help a lot of our current environmental issues fairly quickly.

Conclusion

Industrial hemp’s heritage has been linked as far back as the beginning of civilization, and possibly accredited for it as well, according to Carl Sagan.

For this plant to have such a rich history at one point, it saddens me to see how few people even know what it looks like, or any of it’s potential uses. It was intended for us to be using it in our everyday lives, God put these plants here for a reason!

Talk about a renewable resource! Hemp is the fastest growing renewable resource we have at our disposal, and yet, we do nothing with it, compared to what we should do with it, which is everything possible.

Cotton may produce the shorter softer fibers that everyone loves, but at what cost to our environment? Growing cotton requires the use of pesticides, 50% of the pesticides used in the U.S. to be exact.

We are loosing honey bees at an alarming rate
Honey Bee

This is a huge issue as we are loosing honey bees at an alarming rate due to pesticides. Hemp requires no use of pesticides as it grows so fast, and does not attract pests. But it does attract honey bees!

It is a huge part of the “Circle of Life” and should be recognized for all the good it can do.

I would love to hear your opinion on this topic. Please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

As always, thank you.

Stacie Fortson

Go Green With Hemp

 

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