Although the idea of using hemp as a means of addressing global environmental issues seems like a relatively recent trend, could it have originated further back than we know?
Hemp is, in fact, an ancient plant used more than 10000 years ago around the globe. Here’s a simple timeline I put together from some research. I’m sure it hardly scratches the surface in terms of detail, but it does prove some interesting trends or movements around the world.
10000 BCE: Japan used hemp for paper and for clothes. The seeds were also eaten.
8000+ BCE: Hemp cord was used in pottery in modern day Taiwan
4000 BCE: Hemp textiles were used in China and Turkestan.
600 BCE: Hemp rope was used in southern Russia.
200 BCE: Hemp rope was used in Greece.
100 BCE: Hemp paper was invented in China.
100: Imported hemp rope was used in England.
570: The French queen Arnegunde was buried with hemp cloth.
850: Vikings took hemp rope and seeds to Iceland.
900: Arabs learnt techniques for making hemp paper.
1000: Hemp ropes were used on Italian ships.
1533: Henry VIII encouraged farmers to plant hemp crop extensively to provide materials for the British Naval fleet. Riggings, pendants, pennants, sails, oakum, logs, maps and bibles were all made from hemp fibre and oil.
1600: England began to import hemp from Russia.
1606-1632: French and British cultivate hemp at their colonies in Port Royal, Virginia, and Plymouth (North America).
1616: Jamestown settlers began growing the hemp plant for its unusually strong fibre and used it to make rope, sails, and clothing.
1780s: American farmers in Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut were legally obliged to grow hemp. It was also used as a currency to pay taxes.
1776: Kentucky begins growing hemp.
1787: The first fleet to Australia brought hemp seeds to be produced commercially.
1790: Hemp fibre was first advertised for sale in local American papers.
1790s: George Washington began cultivating Indian hemp pleased with its quality
1801: Hemp was distributed freely to Canadian farmers by the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Upper Canada, on behalf of the King of England.
1850: The U.S. census documented approximately 8,400 hemp plantations of at least 2000 acres. Years later, a machine was created that was able to harvest over 450kg of clean hemp fibre per hour.
1916 United States Department of Agriculture chief scientists Jason L. Merrill and Lyster H. Dewey created paper made from hemp pulp, which believed was better than paper made of wood pulp.
1937: Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act and hemp cultivation drastically declined in the US.
1941: The Perl Harbour attack caused a halt on hemp import from the Philippines so the Government once again promoted American farmers to grow hemp for the war and it was subsidised. However, the industry ended as soon as soon as the war ended.
1950: All American hemp crops were entirely handled by machinery.
1950s-1980s: The Soviet Union was the biggest producer of hemp in the world. This drastically declined after the collapsed on the Soviet Union.
1985: The book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer was published.
1996: Rudolph Diesel produced the diesel engine. Henry Ford then saw the potential in biomass so operated a successful biomass conversion plant producing hemp fuel at his Iron Mountain facility in Michigan. Soon after, competing industries and propaganda started campaigns against hemp, associating it with marijuana.
1998: Canada started industrial hemp growth for seed and for fibre.
2012: Food Standards Australia and New Zealand recommended that Hemp be approved as a food source.
2012: The UK allows low THC industrial hemp to be grown
2014: President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill, which featured Section 7606 allowing for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp for limited purposes.
2015: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act that would allow American farmers to produce and cultivate industrial hemp. The bill removed hemp from the controlled substances list as long as it contained no more than 0.3 percent THC.
Now with the growing legalisation of medicinal marijuana around the world, hemp is being recognised as a separate low THC strand of the cannabis plant and is slowly being accepted by governments to be grown for industrial production. It’s incredibly interesting to see how hemp was used throughout ancient times and was only rejected in the mid 20th century due the propaganda against hemp because of its close relation to cannabis. It’s also interesting to notice how the demand for hemp as an industry increased during time of conflict. It is only just now earning back its place as an industry and will hopefully flourish in coming years.
What do you think? Why did hemp go away when even its history shows that it is a non-toxic, highly resourceful plant? With today’s technology it can and is being used for more. Let us hope that more and more countries get on board with this self-sustaining solution to many of the planet’s environmental issues.