Hemp is one of the earliest plants to be cultivated, dating back to the Neolithic Age in China. Hemp originated in Central Asia and its cultivation for fiber was recorded in China as early as 2800 b.c.
It was grown in the Mediterranean countries of Europe early in the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. Even before the founding of our country farmers here were growing hemp. George Washington grew hemp on his five farms, using it for rope, sail canvas, and fishing nets. Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps.
One of the fastest growing plants, for years manufacturers have used hemp for myriad products, ranging from fabric to car parts. In 1940, researchers discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) could be extracted from hemp and that led to the creation of CBD oil and other products.
Because hemp, like marijuana, belongs to the cannabis sativa family, legalizing cultivation of the crop has taken years. U.S. lawmakers have often treated hemp and marijuana as the same, despite the fact that hemp contains just a fraction of a percent of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
CBD does not have the same psychoactivity as extract from the related marijuana plant.
With the easing nationally of marijuana laws and hemp regulations, CBD extraction and hemp oil production have exploded. Connecticut in 2019 legalized hemp growing and CBD manufacturing in the state.
According to the website Ministry of Hemp, there were numerous milestones in the 19th and 20th centuries regarding hemp:
1916: USDA publishes findings showing hemp produces 4X more paper per acre than trees.
1937: The Marijuana Tax Act placed a tax on all cannabis sales (including hemp), heavily discouraging production of hemp.
1938: Popular Mechanics writes an article about how hemp could be used in 25,000 different products.
1942: Henry Ford builds an experimental car body made with hemp fiber, which is ten times stronger than steel.
1942: USDA initiates the “Hemp for Victory” program – this leads to more than 150,000 acres of hemp production.
1957: Farmers plant the last commercial hemp fields in the U.S. in Wisconsin.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act classified hemp as an illegal Schedule I drug. Strict regulations imposed on the cultivation of industrial hemp as well as marijuana.
1998: The U.S. begins to import food-grade hemp seed and oil.
2004: Ninth Circuit Court decision in Hemp Industries Association vs. DEA permanently protects sales of hemp foods and body care products in the U.S.
2007: The first hemp licenses in over 50 years granted to two North Dakota farmers.
2014: President Obama signed the Farm Bill, which allowed research institutions to start piloting hemp farming.
2015: The Industrial Hemp Farming Act (H.R. 525 and S. 134) introduced in the House and Senate. This act is the first of several attempts to fully legalize hemp.
2016: A Colorado farm earned the Organic certification from USDA for its hemp.
2018: After failed attempts to pass hemp-specific laws, an amendment to the Agricultural Improvement of 2018 (a.k.a. the “Farm Bill”) legalized hemp in the U.S. This amendment removed the hemp plant, along with any of its seeds and derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act. A huge win for the hemp industry.