This week is Hemp History Week. Because I so strongly believe that allowing American farmers to grow this incredibly versatile plant could make a huge difference for our planet and for all of us, I will post a blog each day in celebration.
Today, with help from Hemp History Week, we’ll look at how this useful plant has changed our history—and why our farmers grow it at their legal peril. Sadly, it’s illegal to grow hemp in the United States because of its relationship to marijuana, even though hemp has minute levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets users high. The last legal hemp crop was harvested in 1957, but products made from hemp grown in Canada, China and Eastern Europe (where it’s legal) amounted to $300 million in annual retail sales in North America in 2009. Several groups are lobbying to make hemp cultivation legal. You can help.
1700s: Virginia and other colonies require American farmers to grow hemp.
1776: The Declaration of Independence is drafted on hemp paper.
1797: The U.S.S. Constitution is outfitted with hemp sails and rigging.
1790s: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams grow hemp.
1840: Abraham Lincoln uses hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps.
1890-1940s: USDA chief botanist grows hemp where the Pentagon now sits.
1916: USDA says hemp produces four times more paper per acre than trees.
1938: Popular Mechanics article “New Billion Dollar Crop” says hemp could be used to make 25,000 products, eveything from "cellophane to dynamite."
1942: Henry Ford builds a car from hemp fiber, which is 10 times stronger than steel. (Some innovative Canadians have taken this idea and run with it.)
World War II: American farmers harvest 150,000 acres of hemp through the USDA’s Hemp for Victory program.
1957: Last hemp crop grown in United States following government confusion between hemp and marijuana. New government incentives for industry replace natural fibers with plastics.
1998: United States begins to import food-grade hemp seed and oil.
2000-2010: New technologies make use of hemp in textiles, hemp concrete and high-tech composites.
2004: Ninth Circuit Court decision protects sale of hemp foods and body care products in the United States.
2005: A bill is introduced in the U.S. Congress to allow states to regulate hemp farming.
2007: First hemp licenses in more than 50 years are granted to two North Dakota farmers.
2010: 200 events in 32 states mark the first annual Hemp History Week.
Hempstead: Project Heart encourages everyone to download and distribute this and other hemp posters at Wonder Knack Photography and Design or on Facebook. Let is spread like wildseed.