The History of Hemp in the United States

Hemp has a long and complicated history in the United States. Learn about its journey from illegalization to acceptance.

The History of Hemp in the United States

Hemp has a long and complicated history in the United States. In 1937, the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act effectively banned hemp production across the country. This was likely due to the influence of William Randolph Hearst and other powerful figures who had a negative view of hemp. Then, in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act classified hemp as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, alongside drugs like heroin and LSD.

In an effort to meet wartime demands for rope and canvas, the USDA launched the Hemp for Victory campaign in 1942. This encouraged farmers to grow hemp domestically, as the US could not obtain it from Asia during the war. Kentucky farmers, desperate to find a crop to replace tobacco, lobbied for hemp legalization in the US. The perceived health benefits of CBD have also contributed to an increase in hemp production in the US and around the world. Canada legalized hemp production in 1998, which prompted farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota to question why they couldn't grow it too.

Hemp is incredibly versatile and may have been one of the first plants to be cultivated on a large scale. It is used to make flour, milk, cooking oil, beer, and dietary supplements. The USDA has also clarified that interstate transportation of hemp is legal, even if it passes through a state that does not allow its cultivation. During World War II, the Federal Narcotics Office (FBN) encouraged hemp cultivation despite having previously banned marijuana.

Hemp is naturally resistant to pests and weeds, eliminating the need for pesticides and improving soil quality. It can even thrive on land contaminated by heavy metals. While legal issues remain with respect to consumer products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp, it is becoming increasingly accepted by regulatory authorities and society at large. Markets and supply chains for food made with hemp seeds and industrial products made with hemp fiber are still in their infancy.