Hemp is among the oldest industries
on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years
to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History
of the World states that the oldest relic of human
industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to
approximately 8,000 BC.
Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew
hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp
during the Colonial Era and Early Republic.
In 1937, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act
which effectively began the era of hemp prohibition.
The tax and licensing regulations of the act made
hemp cultivation difficult for American farmers.
The chief promoter of the Tax Act, Harry Anslinger,
began promoting anti-marijuana legislation around
Then came World War II. The Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor shut off foreign supplies of "manila
hemp" fiber from the Philippines. The USDA
produced a film called "Hemp
For Victory" to encourage U.S. farmers
to grow hemp for the war effort. The U.S. government
formed the War Hemp Industries Department and
subsidized hemp cultivation. During the war, U.S.
farmers grew about a million acres of hemp across
the Midwest as part of that program.
After the war ended, the government quietly
shut down all the hemp processing plants and the
industry faded away again.
During the period from 1937 to the late 60s,
the U.S. government understood and acknowledged
that industrial hemp and marijuana were distinct
varieties of the Cannabis plant. Hemp was no longer
officially recognized as distinct from marijuana
after the passage of the Controlled Substances
Act (CSA) of 1970. This is despite the fact that
a specific exemption for hemp was included in
the CSA under the definition of marijuana. The
recent federal court case HIA vs DEA has re-established
acknowledgement of distinct varieties of Cannabis,
and supports the exemption for non-viable seed
and fiber and any products made from them.
The U.S. government has published numerous reports
and other documents on hemp dating back to the
beginnings of our country. Below is a list of
some of the documents that have been discovered:
• 1797: SECRETARY OF WAR (U.S.S. CONSTITUTION'S
• 1810: JOHN QUINCY ADAMS (RUSSIAN HEMP
• 1827: U.S. NAVY COMMISSIONER (WATER-ROTTED
• 1873: HEMP CULTURE IN JAPAN
• 1895: USDA (HEMP SEED)
• 1899: USDA SECRETARY (HEMP)
• 1901: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (HEMP &
• 1901: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (13 PAGE ARTICLE
• 1903: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (PRINCIPAL COMMERCIAL
• 1909: USDA SECRETARY (FIBER INVESTIGATIONS:
• 1913: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (HEMP SOILS,
YIELD & ECONOMICS)
• 1913: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (TESTS FOR HEMP,
LIST OF PRODUCTS)
• 1916: USDA BULLETIN 404 (HEMP HURDS
AS A PAPER-MAKING MATERIAL)
• 1917: USDA (HEMP SEED SUPPLY OF THE
• 1917: USDA (CANNABIS)
• 1927: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (HEMP VARIETIES)
• 1931: USDA LYSTER DEWEY (HEMP FIBER
• 1943: USDA ("HEMP FOR VICTORY"
• 1947: USDA (HEMP DAY LENGTH & FLOWERING)
• 1956: USDA (MONOECIOUS HEMP BREEDING
IN THE U.S.)
These documents and many more are published online
by U.S. hemp historian extraordinaire, John E.
Dvorak. His "Digital
Hemp History Library" is the most complete
source for historical hemp documents and data
You can also check out literary references to
industrial hemp from Aesop's Fables to the present
by clicking here.
A chart of hemp's uses and a concise history of hemp can be found at Hemphasis Magazine's Web site.