A Tale of Growth: A History of Hemp

In some ways, the story of agriculture is the story of human civilization. There’s strong evidence to suggest that it was the schism from nomadic hunter-gatherer tactics to stable land-cultivating strategies that allowed early humans to form lasting settlements and societies. Grains were easy to raise and offered people a reliable food source. With time, agricultural goods, like spices, sugar, tobacco, and the potato would play transformative roles in history. Among those notable crops is a lesser-known, but equally important plant. Hemp has played a recurring role in the history of mankind. Today, it’s making perhaps its greatest impact yet, as it can now be found in hundreds, if not thousands of different products.

As a leading provider of high-end CBD products, we here at Medimorphic are always thinking about the role that hemp and its derivatives can offer us. Of course, we also find it helpful to look to the past to see how our ancestors used this versatile plant to help them grow and thrive.

How a Small Plant Played a Major Role

Much in the same way that hemp doesn’t need much space to flourish, hemp has played an almost hidden role in some of the most profound developments in human history. But when you look carefully, you’ll find that hemp has always been a part of the human experience.

Beginning at the Root

It was Carl Sagan that suggested that hemp played a crucial role in the establishment of early human civilization. In his book Dragons of Eden, Sagan argued that the cultivation of hemp "led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization." A bold claim, but perhaps not a dishonest one. There’s no denying that hemp has been a part of human history for millennia.

Approximately 10,000 years ago, humans began making fabrics out of hemp fibers. Incredibly, there are examples of these textiles that were likely first woven around 8,000 BCE. Since then, hemp has been in near-constant use as a textile fiber and continues to be prized for its durable nature and soft feeling. Indeed, it’s nearly 60% more durable than cotton.

But more than fabric, hemp was as functional as it is fashionable. In Russia, hemp was used to create rope. Societies in the Middle East and China used hemp to press the first pages of paper. The practicality of hemp wasn’t limited to Eurasia, however, and the crop soon found its way into continental Europe. Farmers in Germany and England planted hemp because it was robust and cheap. Perhaps one of the more famous cultivators of hemp was King Henry VIII. When he wasn’t busy beheading his wives, he was encouraging landowners to raise crops of hemp. Henry recognized that hemp products would play a pivotal role in creating new naval vessels. His investment paid off, and the British empire would stand as the become the preeminent naval superpower throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Hemp Sails West

But hemp’s voyage didn’t end on British naval vessels. In fact, hemp came with many of the earliest settlers. The New World was ripe for the picking, literally in many ways, and colonists realized that the lush soil was perfect for raising a wide variety of cash crops. For many centuries, cotton was considered king on the American continent, but hemp was still a profitable commodity, and many landowners raised both plants. Hemp quickly became a major export crop from the Americas, with literal tons being sent to the factories of Europe to be refined into goods like cloth, sails, books, and more.

Indeed, hemp was such a prolific product that even the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. This is less shocking when you recognize that nearly all paper at that time was derived from hemp, meaning that other culturally significant works like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and the works of Mark Twain were first published on hemp. But the usefulness of hemp didn’t end at legal documents.

Hemp and the American Century

As the 20th century began, much was on the cusp of change, including hemp. The start of the century was marked by dramatic changes in attitude about labor, health, technology, and of course, agriculture. This meant that hemp was scrutinized in new ways. Under the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, the United States began its first restrictions of the cannabis plant. Undoubtedly the victim of an unfortunate, and misunderstood, connection to its cousin marijuana, hemp was given a criminal status.

A few decades later, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937. The act was designed to criminalize and eradicate the distribution and use of the plant. Despite lacking the psychoactive properties of marijuana, hemp was also considered a criminal product.

But hemp can survive, and even thrive, in harsh environments, even legal ones. Just a few years after the 1937 act, the U.S. was embroiled in the Second World War. Recognizing that hemp was more useful as a war-winning supply than as a criminalized crop, the U.S. radically changed its relationship with the cannabis plant. So valuable was hemp to the war effort, that in 1942, the government released a war-time film that extolled the virtues of the plant. Hemp for Victory helped to encourage farmers to grow enormous crops of hemp. The plant was then refined into materials like rope, cord, cloth, net, and much more.

The post-war period was one of division and distinction, not only between socioeconomic superpowers but between hemp and marijuana as well. The U.S. government recognized hemp as distinct from its criminal cousin, but that didn’t keep public opinion of hemp from withering. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed, creating federal drug regulations around the use, possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana a federal crime. While hemp was not legally criminalized, the volume of legislation surrounding the criminalization of marijuana made it nearly impossible to grow cannabis plants of any kind. This made hemp a challenging crop for American farmers to grow.

Bringing Hemp into the 21st Century

But just as there are changes in crops of hemp from season to season, the American relationship with hemp has changed since the 1970s. Today, hemp is experiencing a period of renewed interest and use. That’s thanks, in part to two key pieces of legislation. In 2014, the first Farm Bill was passed. This bill let universities, state departments, and research groups cultivate hemp for use in research projects. Recognizing the agricultural and economic value of these changes, a few states pressed to legalize the cultivation of help for farmers. By the end of 2014, President Barack Obama had legalized hemp farming in the U.S.

The 2014 Farm Bill opened the gate for dozens of hemp-based products to hit the market. This included products like hemp lotions, drops, tinctures, and many CBD products. But the hemp renaissance did not end there. In December of 2018, another Farm Bill was passed. This next Farm Bill stripped away many of the remaining restrictions of hemp. This allowed the hemp and CBD industry as a whole to grow more hemp and offer a wider variety of CBD products.

The Next Generation of CBD Products

Today, the future of hemp and it’s CBD products are promising. More research and study is being devoted to the plant and its myriad of uses. At the forefront of that process is Medimorphic. Using the finest of hemp and CBD extraction methods, we offer premium CBD products in our lineup of luxury brands like nuhumun. Browse our selection of CBD sprays, creams, and capsules today.

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