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Like its psychoactive relative, hemp has for thousands of years been used by humans.  A product of the cannabis sativa family, hemp differs from the cannabis plant in that it contains very little THC, and sometimes none at all. But for the therapeutic properties hemp lacks, it makes up for it in its practical, and even industrial prowess. A crop of both contemporary, and historical significance, hemp is beginning to relive the glories it knew for centuries.

Records show that the earliest accounts of humans weaving hemp fibre date back over 10,000 years, while carbon tests suggest that wild hemp was used as far back as 8000 B.C. In the 16th Century, Henry III encouraged farmers to push hemp up in their fields so the crop could be used in the manufacturing of materials for the British Navy. In that example, hemp was used in the construction of battleship components – riggings, sails and oakum, among other items.1

The attitude toward hemp was much the same in the U.S. at the time. In fact, farmers in several American states were ordered in the 17th Century to grow hemp, and those who didn’t comply could incur fines or jail time! In 1850, U.S. census documents show there were 8,400 hemp plantations spread over an astounding 2000 acres. To this day, there are photos from that time with farmers posing in front of hemp fields well over the average human height.2  

However, after cannabis was outlawed in the U.S. and most other jurisdictions around the world in the early 1900s, hemp was somehow lumped into the equation. As a result, industrial and commercial applications for hemp, which are aplenty, were halted. For the last 100 years, hemp products have been outlawed, or exist in a legal grey zone, where hemp-based products are reserved to those who seek them.

That said, it seems that hemp is making even stronger strides than cannabis when it comes to gaining legislative acceptance. There are dozens of jurisdictions that have already moved, or are debating the move, to legalize hemp. Because it doesn’t have the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, but can still be very high in CBD and used across a plethora of applications, governments around the globe seem to be turning the page on the plant’s outlaw status.3  

In terms of the actual uses for hemp, the list is extensive. Perhaps most significantly, the plant can be high in CBD and, for that reason, still cultivated for its analgesic properties. In addition to that fundamental offering, hemp can also be used to produce everything from clothing to industrial supplies. Like its psychoactive cousin, hemp also has a versatile set of characteristics that have been borrowed for a laundry list of reasons by humans for thousands of years.

  1. History of hemp. http://www.hemp.com/history-of-hemp/
  2. The history of cannabis hemp. https://irelandcannabisinformation.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/the-history-of-cannabis-hemp/
  3. Cannabis law now. https://www.cannabislawnow.com/2018/03/will-hemp-be-legalized-soon/

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