Hemp in History - Tracing it’s Roots

Hemp has played a role in the development of human civilizations over much of the world for nearly 10,000 years.

According to Hemp.com,  “Hemp … has been cultivated for millennia. The Columbia History of the World (1996) states that that weaving of hemp fiber began over 10,000 years ago. Carbon tests have suggested that the use of wild hemp dates as far back as 8,000 B.C.”

An article on the same website continues: “(In) 17th Century America, farmers in Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut were ordered by law to grow Indian hemp. By the early 18th century, a person could be sentenced to jail if they weren’t growing hemp on their land. Hemp was considered to be legal tender. For over 200 years in colonial America, hemp was currency that one could use to pay their taxes with. (Don’t try that today, kids!)

"The 1850 U.S. census documented approximately 8,400 hemp plantations of at least 2,000 acres.”

So why isn’t hemp still a widely-grown crop?

The answer is misinformation and big business.


During the age of prohibition, hemp was viewed as a threat despite the fact that commercial hemp used to make cloth and oils has virtually none of the THC that makes people feel high. It’s the same plant, but a different version of it and that was a distinction that industrialists played down.

According to Hemp.com: "Viewing hemp as a threat, a smear campaign against hemp was started by competing industries, associating hemp with marijuana. This was an defining moment in the history of hemp.

"When Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, the decline of hemp effectively began. The tax and licensing regulations of the act made hemp cultivation nearly impossible for American farmers."

So what were these industrialists afraid of? Hemp fuel, for one.

When Rudolph Diesel developed the engine that bears his name back in 1896, he intended it to be fueled by a number of sources, including seeds. Seizing on that fact, Henry Ford (we better not need to explain who he is - ha) actually began cultivating hemp on a large scale and converted it to fuel.

But as we all know, hemp fuel didn’t become the fuel of choice in America and thus our reliance on fossil fuels to almost exclusively power our vehicles finally took hold. 

Thankfully, we live in a more enlightened age now where people know the value of renewable resources.

 Because of that and the fact that use of hemp and CBD oils has become increasingly popular as a way to reduce anxiety (without getting high) and to help ease the aches and pains of modern day living, the number of hemp farms is steadily on the rise in certain areas of the country once again.

In Vermont, the hemp industry is rebounding nicely thanks to the efforts of many, including the founders of Colomont, but hemp farmers these days still face some of the challenges that helped dramatically reduce its prevalence as a crop a hundred years ago: Misinformation.

That’s why each Saturday Colomont will revisit topics in our blog Hemp in History. 



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