A Brief History of Hemp in The US

Hemp has a long history in the United States, dating back to the early colonists who grew it in Jamestown. In 1619, King James I required the Jamestown colonists to grow and ship 100 hemp plants to England to help support the country. Hemp was mainly used for sails, ropes, paper, and clothing due to its durability compared to other fabrics. It was also grown by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin to support the colonization of the Americas.

In the 1850s, cannabis became available as medicine in pharmacies after being introduced to Western medicine by Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy in 1839. He brought hemp medicine to the UK and Ireland after using it extensively while working as a surgeon with the East India Company. He even created a hemp tincture called Squire’s Extract and spread knowledge of hemp medicine throughout the medical community, with Queen Victoria being one of his patients. However, by the early 20th century, the use of hemp as medicine had declined with the discovery of opiates and the introduction of syringes.

In the 1930s, the reputation of cannabis was tarnished by sensationalism and racism. At the time, many immigrants from Mexico were coming to the United States and bringing their crops, including marijuana. The head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, along with newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and the Dupont Company, which produced nylon, worked to ban hemp and cannabis in the United States.

The cultivation of hemp in the U.S. took a significant hit in 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. This act placed a heavy tax on the sale and cultivation of marijuana, which at the time was often confused with hemp.

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was a piece of legislation passed by the United States Congress that imposed a tax on the sale and cultivation of marijuana. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act into law on August 2, 1937. The act was passed in response to a growing concern over the use of marijuana in the United States. At the time, marijuana was not widely used or well-known, but there were concerns that it was being used by a small number of people, particularly immigrants from Mexico. As a result, hemp production in the U.S. greatly decreased, and by the 1950s, it had all but stopped.

There were also concerns that marijuana was being used as a substitute for alcohol, which was banned at the time due to Prohibition. Some believed that marijuana was a “gateway drug” that could lead to the use of other, more dangerous drugs. To curb the use of marijuana, the Marihuana Tax Act imposed a heavy tax on its sale and cultivation. The act made it difficult and expensive for people to grow or sell marijuana, which was hoped would reduce its use.

However, the act had unintended consequences. One of the main issues was that it lumped hemp, a type of cannabis plant that is used to produce a variety of products, in with marijuana. This led to a decrease in the cultivation of hemp in the U.S., as it was often confused with marijuana and subject to the same taxes and regulations.

Other countries soon followed suit, culminating in the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where cannabis received Schedule 1 status. It is an international treaty that aims to control the production, distribution, and use of drugs that are deemed to have the potential for abuse and addiction. As part of this treaty, cannabis was placed in Schedule I, which is reserved for drugs that are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The treaty was adopted in 1961 and entered into force in 1964. It was designed to bring together and update the provisions of several earlier international drug control treaties, including the 1931 Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs, the 1936 Protocol for Limiting and Regulating the Cultivation of the Poppy Plant, and the 1948 Protocol for Limiting and Regulating the Manufacture of Narcotic Drugs.

The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs has been ratified by over 180 countries, making it one of the most widely accepted international drug control treaties. In addition to placing cannabis in Schedule I, the treaty also established a system of international controls on the production and distribution of other drugs, including opiates, cocaine, and amphetamines.

The inclusion of cannabis in Schedule I has been controversial, as many people believe that the drug has medical value and should be reclassified. Some countries have taken steps to legalize or decriminalize cannabis for medical or recreational use despite its status under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In recent years, there have been calls to review and update the treaty to reflect changes in the scientific understanding of the risks and potential benefits of cannabis and other drugs.

The Marihuana Tax Act remained in effect for several decades until it was repealed in the 1970s with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It is a United States federal law passed in 1970 as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The CSA is the primary U.S. legislation regulating the possession, use, and distribution of controlled substances, including illegal drugs, prescription medications, and certain chemicals used to manufacture drugs.

The CSA divides controlled substances into five categories, or schedules, based on their potential for abuse, their accepted medical use, and their potential to cause dependence. Schedule I drugs, such as heroin, LSD, and marijuana, are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. In contrast, Schedule II drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and oxycodone, have a high potential for abuse but also have some accepted medical uses. Schedules III, IV, and V drugs, such as anabolic steroids, Xanax, and cough medicine with codeine, have progressively lower potentials for abuse and dependence.

Under the CSA, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, or possess controlled substances unless specifically authorized by the government. The CSA also established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a federal law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing the provisions of the CSA. The CSA has been amended several times since its passage in 1970, including the addition of new substances to the controlled substances schedules and changes to the penalties for drug offenses. The CSA remains a vital component of the U.S. approach to drug control. Still, it has also been the subject of criticism and controversy, particularly concerning the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

It was not until the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that hemp was legalized at the federal level in the U.S. The 2018 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, was a comprehensive legislation signed into law in December 2018. The bill contained several provisions related to agriculture, trade, and nutrition, but it is perhaps best known for its provisions regarding hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp, defined as Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis, from the CSA’s list of controlled substances. This change effectively legalized hemp at the federal level and allowed states to regulate the production and sale of hemp products, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

The 2018 Farm Bill also established a federal program to regulate hemp production and provided for the development of state-level hemp regulatory programs. It also authorized the cultivation of hemp for research purposes and provided for the marketing of hemp and hemp-derived products.

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was seen as a significant victory for the hemp industry, as it opened up new opportunities for the production and sale of hemp products and removed many of the legal barriers that had previously hindered the industry’s growth. However, there has also been some confusion and uncertainty regarding implementing the bill’s provisions, and some states have taken a more cautious approach to regulating hemp production and sales.

Today, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, but a growing number of states have legalized it for medical or recreational use. On the other hand, hemp is now a thriving industry in the U.S. It is now used to produce numerous products, including textiles, building materials, food products, and dietary supplements.