10,000 Years & Still Making History
Introducing Hemp To The World
Humans emerged some 250,000 years ago. So, in comparison, agriculture is a fairly recent concept as it began only a little over 10,000 years ago. Traveling back to the end of the first ice age, archaeological studies have concluded that the source plant for hemp was most likely one of the first crops planted by ancient man. Carl Sagan* seemed to think that Hemp may have actually been the world’s first agricultural crop, and led to the development of the civilized world.
Moving forward in time to temperate climates such as Asia — hemp was pre-adapted to flourish in the fertilized soils around manʼs early settlements and quickly led to domestication of the plant. Hemp was harvested by the Chinese 8,500 years ago (Schultes and Hofmann 1980). Throughout history, hemp has been a versatile fiber source used for paper and cloth. It was also used for medicinal applications, and to a limited extent, utilized as an oilseed crop. Seeds and hemp oil were found to have been a food source in China as early as 6,000 BCE. Two thousand years later, in 4,000 BCE, evidence of textiles made from Hemp was found in both China and Turkestan. This ancient source of textile fiber was introduced to western Asia and Egypt, and was to show up in Northern Europe somewhere between 1000 BCE and 2000 BCE.
Around that same time, Bhang (dried hemp leaves, seeds and stems) is talked about in the Hindu sacred text Atharvaveda (Science of Charms) as “Sacred Grass”, which is a sacred plant of India. It was used as medicine and in Shiva rituals. Around 100 BCE, Hemp rope appeared in Greece, Hemp paper is invented in China, and hemp psychotropic properties were included in a botanical, chemical and pharmacological reference list that was believed to be put together by a Chinese man named Pen Ts’ao Ching called “The Herbal”. By 900 to 1,000, techniques for making paper from Hemp were being learned by the Arabs and the Italians were using ropes made of Hemp on their sailing ships. Hemp rope and seeds were transported to Iceland by 850 by the Vikings. There was widespread Hemp agriculture happening in Europe in 500. Hemp was now known around the world.
In 1533, Englandʼs King Henry VIII fined farmers if they did not raise Sativa for industrial use. Almost one hundred years later, The New World settlers in Jamestown, Virginia began growing Hemp plants. Once the plant proved its usefulness, NOT growing Hemp in Virginia became illegal. By 1545, Hemp was in South America, Chile, and North America. China’s Li Shih-Chen writes of the antibiotic and vomit preventing effects of hemp in 1578. In 1764 Medical Hemp appears in The New England Dispensatory. By the 1800ʼs, hemp plantations flourished in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, New York, and Kentucky due to the strong demand for sailcloth and rigging ropes (Ehrensing 1998). In 1896, a man named Rudolph Diesel produced an engine that he planned to run off of vegetable and seed oils, especially Hemp. Hemp is superior to petroleum. This would become a threat to petroleum companies in the foreseeable future.
Besides being used as fiber and paper, Hemp was being used as a drug. It was found in pharmacies and in the general store. Before aspirin was discovered, Hemp tincture was the base for almost all patented medicine. Hemp was even added to the list of The U.S. Pharmacopeia, a well known and respected collection of medicines and dietary supplements. This freedom of use lasted until the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Because of the revolution, there were a lot of Mexican immigrants coming to America who introduced recreational use of hemp instead of it being used in a medicinal way. Perhaps, because of this, in 1914, The United Statesʼ Harrison Act stated that the use of hemp was a crime. However, in 1919, when the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcohol the officials suggested that hemp was an attractive alternative. This led to increased use of hemp in a recreational sense. Legal, not legal — no wonder the country was somewhat confused.
Throughout The 1900’s, American Agriculture Versus Industry
When the U.S. congress ended alcohol prohibition in 1933, the prohibition of Marijuana was soon to follow. Now, the American public needed to be convinced that Hemp was the Devilʼs drug. So, in 1936, the propaganda film Reefer Madness* was made to cause American youth to be frightened by hemp. And, many other films followed with similar movie propaganda. Congress ignored comments, more than likely because of the monetary and political influence of William Randolph Hearst* and other powerful men of that time. A part of the testimony for Congress to pass the 1937 act had been influenced from articles in newspapers owned by Mr. Hearst. He had money interests in the timber industry and logging companies. Hearst manufactured his cheap, yellowing tree-pulp newsprint that had replaced quality Hemp paper in the late 19th century. Hearstʼs paper production involved Dupont’s chemical-drenched tree pulp paper. Hearst Newspapers were known for their sensationalist stories. Hearst hated many; poor people, black people, chinese, hindus, and all other minorities. Most of all, he hated Mexicans. Pancho Villa’s troops smoked hemp and had reclaimed some 800,000 acres of prime timberland from Hearst in the name of the Mexican peasants. Hearst had planned to make a huge amount of money by deforesting their vast timber holdings. He feared his paper could possibly be replaced by low-cost, high quality paper made from Hemp. Hearst supported prohibitions of any kind — he insisted that hemp be included in all anti-narcotics bills. Hemp wasn’t a narcotic, but that didnʼt matter. His thoughts were to have hemp in any form to be completely removed from society, doctors, or industry. It was threatening his profits.
Dupont* was against Hemp for a similar reason. Hemp fiber was a far superior fiber to the new nylon fiber Dupont was producing. Hemp fiber was also less costly to produce than nylon fiber; therefore, lowering nylon fiberʼs value. Both Dupont and Hearst would incur large financial losses if Hemp was not kept illegal. They decided to stop this threat by getting Hemp to be completely outlawed. Tabloid sensationalism (via Hearst’s newspapers) convinced members of Congress and the public of the dangers of Hemp using the relatively new word “Marijuana”. At this point Hemp – was successfully 100% illegal and NO further medical studies were done for nearly 30 years world wide due to America’s demonization of this drug.
Essentially, the entire group of elites and special interest groups of that time — dominated by Dupont — was an impressive group of wealthy business cronies making huge profits. As a group, they were systematically taking over fuel and fossil fuel products, a range of chemicals, food production, fiber, and the government. This was so that they could make sure that no more commercial Hemp was ever grown in the United States to compete with their many chemical based products. Dupont was developing cellophane, nylon, and dacron from fossil fuels and had patents on many synthetics — becoming a leader in the development of paint, rayon, synthetic rubber, plastics, chemicals, photographic film, insecticides and agricultural chemicals. In 1937, Dupont filed its patent on nylon. Nylon is a synthetic fiber that took over many of the textile and cordage markets that would have gone to Hemp. At that time, more than half the American cars were built by GM, guaranteeing Dupont an ongoing outlet for his paints, varnishes, plastics, and rubber — all which could have been made from Hemp. Along those lines of monopoly, all GM cars would be designed to use tetra-ethyl leaded fuel, which contained additives that Dupont manufactured. Competition from Hemp had been successfully eliminated until World War II.