Hemp Legality and History

Hemp, often known as industrial hemp is a cultivar of Cannabis sativa, but unlike its counterpart, it is grown almost exclusively for its industrial uses. While most cultivate cannabis Sativa for its medicinal qualities, hemp is typically grown for its fiber. The plant contains less than 1% of THC on average and while coming from the same species it is genetically different than standard Cannabis sativa. It is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and was one of the first plants humans spun into usable fiber over 10,000 years ago. While often found in the northern hemisphere, it can be grown in a variety of climates. Some evidence suggests that hemp cultivation dates back as far as 800AD.

The legality of hemp is of a sticky nature in the United States. In 18th and 19th century America hemp was one of the most grown plants in the country. For over 200 years, you could even pay your taxes with the plant– literally. In 1850 a U.S census stated that over 8,400 hemp plantations of at least 2000 acres were being grown in the country. For hundreds of years, farmers had to break down the plant by hand to extract the fiber from the stalks. This somewhat limited farmers ability to produce massive amounts of hemp. However, by 1920 a machine had been invented that could harvest over 1000 pounds of hemp fiber per hour.

Hemp fuel played a substantial role in hemp history. In 1896 Rudolph Diesel created an engine that had the capability to run on different types of fuel such as vegetable and seed oil. By the 1930s Ford Motor Company had created a facility in Michigan that allowed them to extract methanol, charcoal fuel, tar, pitch, and other various chemicals from hemp. Henry Ford, seeing this as a threat to the oil industry, started a ‘marihuana’ smear campaign along with other competing industries that wanted hemp out of the picture such as Randolph Hearst’s logging and tree-pulp paper production company. Hearst used his connections with the press and monetary power to spread the word of how dangerous marihuana could be.


Soon posters and articles in newspapers laden with propaganda was a common sight. In 1932 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was formed, and between them and the Treasury department, a new bill was drafted. The Marihuana Tax Act, disguised as a tax revenue bill passed Congress without much trouble. The new bill effectively put an end to the entire industry, imposing unreasonable taxes on anyone who wanted to produce the plant industrially. Hearst and Ford had gotten their way, hemp would no longer be competing with them for the fuel or paper market.

Hemp and Cannabis sativa remained classified legally as two different plants until the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which made all forms of cannabis, hemp included into a schedule 1 drug. Currently, the majority of hemp found in America is imported. However in 2014, The US Farm Bill was passed, it allowed states who have passed their own laws legalizing industrial hemp to grow the plant for research and development. Currently, over 30 states have passed legislation legalizing the industrial production of hemp. Although it is still illegal on a federal level and is currently classified as a

Although it is still illegal on a federal level and is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug. The idea of this is preposterous considering the fact that the plant has literally no psychoactive effect when ingested. Industrial hemp can be legally grown in over 30 countries, in fact, the United States is in the minority of industrialized nations that does not allow the production of hemp.

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