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Legalize It

A History of Hemp (and Marijuana)

When President Barack Obama signed the Farm Bill of 2013 on February 7, 2014, it was a small but significant step towards the legalization of hemp across the United States. The bill defined industrial hemp, excluding it from the definition of Marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. It also allowed colleges and universities (in states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law) to grow hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes. For a plant that has been shrouded in confusion and controversy, its reintroduction in the United States is welcomed. I say reintroduction because hemp has had a long history of use in the United States.

Hemp was an important crop in Colonial times. American farmers were required by law to grow hemp in Virginia and other colonies. By the 1700’s, the colonies produced products like paper, cordage (rope), canvas and textiles. Hemp was used as legal tender in the Americas. Farmers even paid their taxes with hemp. This encouraged the American farmers to grow more hemp to ensure America’s independence.

Our founding fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams grew hemp and praised its benefits. When the Committee of Five, ‘Roger Sherman’, ‘Benjamin Franklin’, ‘Thomas Jefferson’, ‘John Adams’, and ‘Robert Livingston’, penned the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence, they did so on hemp fiber. Betsy Ross sewed the first American Flag out of hemp. By the 1850’s, the United States Census counted 8,327 hemp plantations growing hemp for cloth, canvas, and other necessities. So why did hemp become banned in the United States?

Irie