Hemp is one of the first known domesticated plants. It has been a staple crop for humanity for millennia. Banished in 1937 in the United States at the same time as marijuana, it is now enjoying renewed interest in its great potential.
A PLANT THAT HAS PROVEN ITS WORTH
Probably native of China, hemp then conquered the world because of its versatility and ability to grow at all latitudes. Thanks to its great resistance, it has been for thousands of years the first resource for the manufacture of clothing, shoes, sails, ropes and papers.
In 1606, French botanist Louis Hébert planted the first hemp crop in North America in present-day Nova Scotia. In the first American colonies, laws imposed this essential culture: in Virginia in 1619, then in Massachusetts and Connecticut in the 1630s and again in the 1760s. In Canada and England, incentives were also in place for to guarantee an adequate supply.
Hemp has been used to create a multitude of products over the centuries: food for humans and animals, paints and varnishes, paintings for painters, lamp oil, medicines. In the United States, founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp.
FROM DECLINE TO RENEWAL
At the end of the 19th century, hemp lost ground in the face of new alternatives that were easier to process industrially. In the early twentieth century, the US Department of Agriculture predicted that the invention of new machines would allow hemp to become the main crop in the country.
In the 1930s, such machinery finally became available in the United States. It promised the plant a bright future. Some saw it coming as a competition to paper derived from wood, oil and synthetic fibers, then in full development…
Thus, industrial hemp was simply lumped together with its cousin plant, marijuana, and banned in 1937 by powerful lobbies. This American law imposed on the whole world has put a major brake on the plant’s use and the development of new products. However, during the Second World War, the US government suddenly made an intense propaganda to encourage its culture, which he believed essential to the war effort.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, industrial hemp has gradually regained its status in several countries, including Canada, where it has been cultivated since 1998. In the United States, it was not until December 2018 that a new law fully legalized it.
However, it remains everywhere a (re)emerging culture for which production and processing techniques have yet to be refined or developed to adapt to current markets. It also remains a highly regulated crop to guarantee plants that respect the authorized concentration of THC (generally 0.2 or 0.3% depending on the country).