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A brief look at the history of hemp

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In the following article cbuy.ch would like to give you an insight into the history of hemp. The content focus is on the United States of America (USA). The USA does not only take a pioneering role in the 21st century in dealing with hemp – rather, the useful plant hemp was already assigned a key economic role on the American continent in the past centuries. It was not until the “war on drugs” initiated by the USA at the beginning of the 20th century that hemp was finally declared illegal in large parts of the world in the 1960s.

As early as the beginning of the 17th century, a first “hemp law” was enacted in the territory of what is now the state of Virginia. This required all local farmers to cultivate Indian hemp. Similar laws were passed in the following years in the areas of what are now the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Hemp played such a large role in the North American economy that it was even accepted as legal tender from the early 17th century until the early 19th century. Around the same time, the English government also set incentives to encourage foreigners to grow hemp: Any foreign national who voluntarily grew hemp was rewarded with coveted English citizenship. Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, even opened one of the first hemp paper mills in all of North America. As a result, the English colonies were no longer dependent on paper supplies from the mother country, England.

At this point, as a reader, you are probably wondering why hemp played such a prominent role in the economy for a long time. The answer lies in its versatility. Commercial hemp was (and still can be) processed into fibers, cloth, illuminating oil, paper, incense or foodstuffs. Above all, hemp was able to retain its supremacy as a textile material until the early 20th century. In large parts of the world, more than 80% of all fabrics for clothing, towels, bedspreads, diapers, etc. were made from hemp fibers. It was not until the mid-19th century, when machine looms and cotton de-coring machines made it possible to process cotton at low cost, that hemp slowly lost its importance.

Very briefly:
Hemp has played an important economic role for centuries. For several centuries, it could even be used as a means of payment in the USA. Only with the advent of cotton, hemp lost economic importance.

Source: Herer, Jack (2016): Die Wiederentdeckung der Nutzpflanze Hanf, Cannabis, Marihuana. Herausgegeben und mit einer Vorbemerkung von Mathias Bröckers zur Neuauflage 2013, p. 25-32.

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