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High History: What You Should Know About the History of Hemp

Hemp is a plant with an incredible history. Humans have been growing hemp for thousands upon thousands of years for a variety of purposes.

One of the most interesting facts about hemp is that it has only been criminalized in recent years. For much of humanity's time on Earth, the history of hemp and the history of humanity have been intertwined and inseparable.

Today, we're going to take a look at the history of hemp on a global scale. When did we first start using it and why was it criminalized? What is its legal status now?

Read on and learn all there is to know about hemp's history!

The First Hemp Growers

For a moment, stop and ask yourself when hemp was first grown. You may think that the Romans cultivated it or that perhaps the dynasties of India grew it. You'd be wrong: it's older than both Julius Caeser and Ashoka!

The ancient Mesopotamians of modern-day Iraq and Iran were the first people to grow and use hemp. Archaeologists have found the remains of hemp-based cloth in the area that dates all the way back to 8000 BCE. For reference, that is over 5000 years before the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids!

The ancient Chinese too, recognized how useful hemp could be. It is believed that due to hemp seeds use as a foodstuff, early humans recognized the medicinal effects of the plant. One of the earliest Chinese medical books, the Shennong Ben Cao Jing featured cannabis, or dama. Around this time, Chinese doctors discovered that it could be used as an anaesthetic, with the Chinese word for anaesthetic "mázui" meaning "cannabis intoxication."

The Chinese are also famed for using hemp to make paper around 100 AD. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians also used hemp as medicine. Hemp suppositories were common in ancient Egypt, while the Greeks used it to treat wounds. The ancient Indians also used it for a huge range of purposes!

As you can tell, the use of hemp was widespread and common all over the world.

Hemp in the Medieval Period

In Medieval Europe, hemp was used across the length and breadth of the continent. Hemp cloth was much more common than linen in a lot of areas and hemp paper. It was eaten too: hemp was often included in stews and pies along with other dishes. However, the low CBD content means that this was probably for economic reasons than for medical purposes.

The main use of hemp in medieval Europe was not for medicine but its use in industry and warfare. Ships used hemp for everything from their ropes to their sails. The ships of the great European navies of the period needed two things: hemp and wood and they had it both in plentiful supply.

Hemp in European Colonies

When the Europeans ventured to the new world, they brought hemp with them and planted it across their colonies. The first hemp plants in the new world were planted by the Spanish in Chile and they later took it to California.

The English, due to their stature as a great naval power, also needed a lot of hemp for their fleet. In Virginia, planters needed to grow Indian and English hemp. Two of the most important American founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, also grew hemp on their plantations.

Why Hemp Fell Out of Favor

Hemp fell out of favour in the United States due to a ban on its production in 1937. The rest of the world followed suit to various extents, and, in the western world at least, it became associated with criminality.

Yet why? What caused this massive sea change in the west's worldview?

One of the biggest contributors to this was William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper baron. Hearst invested some of his money into paper companies and wanted to see that they stayed profitable. As such, he ran a propaganda effort to associate hemp paper with marijuana, which the authorities were busy demonizing.

That demonization is another big factor in the criminalization of hemp.

In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a massive campaign that turned Americans against marijuana, or at least, its lawmakers. For instance, the film Reefer Madness showed people smoking marijuana and going on a rampage. Hearst published an article in the San Francisco Examiner called "Marihuana Makes Fiends of Boys in 30 Days."

These and many other pieces of propaganda like it led to an association between hemp and marijuana and the slandering of both.

The Current State of Hemp Law

So we've looked at a lot of the long history of hemp but what about recent history. What is hemp's legal status in Europe and the rest of the world right now?

Thankfully, we've come a long way from the days of Reefer Madness. While it may not be perfect, things are a lot better than they used to be.

In the European Union, it's now legal to grow hemp that has a lower THC content than 0.2 per cent. This means that it's legal to grow hemp for its CBD, which has a ton of different uses.

This law is in line with current American regulations too. At the federal level, Americans can now grow hemp that is 0.3 per cent THC or less.

The History of Hemp Is Long and Storied

The history of hemp is very long and we've barely scratched the surface but it's quite the story. From widespread use to criminalization to a resurgence, it's got it all.

If you're interested in using CBD oil or buds from hemp, why not check out our shop? We're sure that you'll find a product you like. For more information, feel free to get in touch with us!