The hemp plant has been incredibly important to America’s history, although in these modern times, you perhaps wouldn’t believe it. Nowadays, hemp is considered a revelation, with hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products used for a wide range of therapeutic purposes.

But did you know that American farmers grew hemp right up until the 1930s, and that the federal government drove a huge hemp cultivation campaign during the Second World War? In this post, we’ll take you briefly through the history of hemp on these shores, and go over recent legislation which has brought the plant from the cannabis family back into the limelight.

A brief history of hemp

Hemp is thought to have been cultivated for more than 10,000 years, and its presence in the United States dates right back to the country’s beginnings, with George Washington a well-known advocate. Several presidents farmed hemp, and the cash crop was very important to states like Kentucky. Hemp fiber could be used to make clothing, while hemp hurds from the inner part of the stalk can be used to make more environmentally friendly paper.

Hemp was effectively banned in the US as part of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 – while this technically did not prohibit cannabis, the tax served to choke supply and demand. Due to hemp’s similar appearance to cannabis, it got thrown in with the psychoactive substance, despite having only inconsequential traces of intoxicating THC.

“Hemp for Victory!”

Ironically, just years after the Tax Act was brought in, the federal government needed US farmers to start growing hemp, due to World War Two. The war outbreak disrupted global supply chains – America was importing hemp from the Philippines – but needed the crop for hemp fiber production, to make rope for the Navy.

Americans, who had recently had the dangers of cannabis drummed into them, were now having the benefits of hemp waxed lyrical to them by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency released a 14-minute short film called ‘Hemp for Victory’, which documented the history of hemp and its uses. After the war was over, hemp became illegal once more. The video was a lost part of American history – and even denied by the US government – until it re-emerged in the late 1980s.

The emergence of CBD

Hemp-based CBD products started to arrive on the US market following the passing of the Agricultural Act (Farm Bill) of 2014. However, due to CBD technically being a Schedule I substance as a cannabis derivative, there was some legal uncertainty – at federal level – on these products up until 2018. That’s when a more recent version of the Farm Bill was passed, confirming that it was totally legal to make, buy, sell and use hemp-based CBD products.

A 2018 study found that more than half of CBD users are taking products as medicine, despite the lack of official evidence – companies like HempBombs market their products as dietary supplements. Scientific research into CBD and the whole cannabis plant is several decades behind where it should be, due to the inevitable barriers to research brought on by long-term prohibition. However, the medicinal potential of CBD appears obvious, considering that the compound helps to regulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is found in many living organisms.

Following on from cannabis’ historical uses, CBD products are popular for pain relief and to treat depression. Studies also show that CBD can ease anxiety, improve sleep, and perhaps even combat addictive tendencies. CBD is therapeutic for the brain, stimulating neurogenesis in key areas, and can even be applied to the skin in the form of topicals, to manage infectious outbreaks and inflammation. We now just need more studies to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

The future of hemp

In many ways, we have been here before. The several economical and health benefits of hemp were crystal clear back in the 30s and 40s, but that didn’t stop production from ceasing following the war effort, and hemp all but disappearing from American culture.

But hopefully this time, things will be different. Not least because of prescient climactic concerns. It is hoped that hemp could significantly slow and make climate change more manageable by cleaning poisonous toxins from the soil, and reducing society’s dependence on fossil fuels and plastics. Hemp could even be used in building, and also 3D printing, to give you an idea of the plant’s wide-ranging and enormous potential.

Whether you’re a farmer looking for a new crop to grow, or somebody who wants a healthy and natural treatment for their illness in CBD wholesale products, hemp and its derivatives could well be the answer.