Hemp is an annual growing from seed up to 5m in height (16 ft). It is one of the most efficient plants known for its ability to utilize sunlight to photosynthesis. It's one of the earliest domesticated plants known to mankind and has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12,000 years. Hemp use archaeologically dates back to the Neolithic Age in China. Hemp fiber imprints have been found on Yangshao culture pottery dating from the 5th millennium BC. Up until 1883 hemp was our planet's most important industry for thousands of products and ample enterprises producing the overall majority of the earth's fiber, fabric, lighting oil, incense, fiberglass replacement, lightweight sandwich boards, composite woods, kitty litter, potting mix, feminine care products, fuel, medicines, paper, as well as a primary source of protein for humans and animals.
The Spaniards brought hemp to the western hemisphere and cultivated it in Chile starting about 1545. In 1606, French botanist Louis Hebert planted the first hemp crop in North America in Port Royal, Acadia (present–day Nova Scotia). As early as 1801, the Lieutenant Governor of the province of upper Canada, on behalf of the King of England, distributed hemp seed free to Canadian farmers. The first crop grown in many U.S. states was hemp. George Washington pushed for the growth of Hemp and even grew hemp himself. In 1850 Kentucky had a peak year producing 40,000 tons. Hemp was the largest cash crop until the 20th Century.
In 1916 the U.S. Government predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees would need to be cut down. Government studies reported that 1 acre of hemp equals 4.1 acres of trees.
In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed in the United States. It levied a tax on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. That same year Canada and the U.S. outlawed hemp because it was confused with other kinds of Cannabis. Reasons why hemp was included in this law have been disputed, but there have been several scholars who have claimed the Act was passed in order to destroy the hemp industry that would benefit emerging industries in timber, pharmaceuticals, fossil fuels and clothing markets. Canadian Hemp production was officially discontinued in 1938.
Hemp was called a 'Billion Dollar Crop' by Popular Mechanics in 1938, It was the first time a cash crop had a business potential to exceed a billion dollars.
After a half-century’s absence from Canada’s fields and factories hemp cultivation was again allowed in 1997, which reawakened this country’s relationship to an interesting, fascinating and flexible plant. In 2003, over 6700 acres were grown across Canada mostly concentrated in the Prairies. In 2015 there was over 84,000 acres licensed for cultivation. Hemp is now being grown successfully in Canada from coast–to–coast.
A few more facts about agricultural hemp:
- Does not require herbicides or pesticides when grown
- Can be grown in a wide range of latitudes and altitudes
- Replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen making it an excellent rotational crop
- Controls erosion of the topsoil
- Converts CO2 to oxygen better than trees
- Produces more oil than any other crop which can be used for food, fuel, lubricants, soaps, etc.
- Hemp seeds are very healthy, they're the highest protein crop after soybeans and high in omega oils
- Hemp can be used for making plastics including car parts
- Makes paper more efficiently and ecologically than wood, requiring no chemical glues
- Can be used to make fibreboard
- Can be used to make paint
- Can produce bio-fuel and ethanol better than corn
- Can be grown more than once per year in certain areas of the world
- Hemp fibres can make very strong rope and textiles