By: Pat O’brien
Looking back through the lens of time, we find that civilizations have been using the hemp plant for thousands of years. Its uses vary from culture to culture, but fundamentally, the plant Cannabis sativa L., has been critical in the progression of the human race. Our history is riddled with clues that our ancestors knew the power of hemp, from the earliest recorded uses as medicine in China dating as far back as 2700 B.C., to hemp being used as legal tender in the American Colonies. There have been several periods of prohibition throughout history as well. We are currently experiencing a fading prohibition in the United States that has lasted for almost 80 years.
While hemp has grown a confusing stigma over the years, US history weaves a different story. Revolutionary farmers were required to grow as much hemp as they could, which lead to hemp becoming the largest agricultural export for more than a hundred years. The Declaration of Independence was even written on a hemp-based paper! Throughout the late 1800’s into the 1900’s, hemp-based products lined the shelves of stores in the United States. Hemp was used to create medicines, tinctures, elixirs and hashish.
In the early 1900s a true conservative wave took hold of the United States. In 1914, the Harrison Act would deem taking marijuana illegal. In 1919, the 18th amendment was instituted, banning alcohol from being made and sold. Then came the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, this would be the beginning of the end for all varieties of Cannabis sativa L., as it criminalized the use of marijuana in any form. In 1970, the controlled substance act would classify any thing that is derived from the plant Cannabis sativa L. as a schedule 1 on the list. This would put hemp, once our countries most profitable export, in the same category as heroin.
Post 2000, we have started to see a tidal change in the political landscape as it pertains to both marijuana and hemp. Activists have continued to push for the reclassification of Hemp from the current scheduling, separate from its THC producing cousin, marijuana. Members from both sides of the aisle are realizing that prohibition is strangling the American farmer. Innovation and research in this field of study has been blocked for almost a century. Looking at the world around us, that is a lot of lost time. Rescheduling hemp is one of the most important issues for today’s farmers in the United States.