The hemp industry has seen explosive growth comparable to the Internet boom in the late 90s. Hemp is used for a wide variety of applications. In fact, it has applications in not only nutrition but as a fiber, building material, and composite materials. Hemp is also used in jewelry, paper, cordage, animal bedding, weed control, water purification, biofuels, and more.
Hemp, being such a versatile product, has seen a huge increase in its usage over the last few years after a long ban. Most notably, a few events, which we will discuss in detail throughout this piece, have made the hemp industry pretty normalized. This is a huge feat because socially, hemp is largely regarded as a negative proponent of addiction without understanding what it really stands for.
In our dissection today, we will concentrate on the history behind hemp, how it grew in popularity, and what the future of hemp can look like.
What is Hemp?
The hemp flower is great. Not for recreational use, but for industrial use. It was heavily regulated for a variety of reasons over the last century, but we cannot neglect the fact that it’s one of the, if not the, most productive little plants. People were quick to realize that in the olden times, and when we say olden, we mean since 8,000 BCE!
It did not grow naturally in North America but the moment American entrepreneurs saw hemp’s cultivation and its usage, their minds were blown. They instantly took the hemp plant cultivation practice back with them.
The gigantic rise of hemp also met with a steep fall, and now it’s re-surging in popularity and application.
Hemp is generally grown for medicinal or industrial use. Hemp is in fact one of the faster-growing plants on the planet (with bamboo). Today, the industrial usage of hemp ranges from ropes and paper to clothing and biofuel. Hemp is one of the very first plants to have ever been spun into a fiber, its earliest record being from around 50 thousand years ago!
To those who are curious, hemp does include the psychoactive component THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). It has a naturally low composition, however, of THC. Rather, hemp has a fairly high composition of CBD or cannabidiol. CBD is known to reduce the high psychoactive properties of THC strains.
Not all regions and countries have legalized hemp. In some places, it’s not rare to find governments regulating hemp production based on its THC concentration for commercial production.
History of Hemp
Hemp has a spellbinding story. Essentially, it is very likely that hemp is among the very first plants ever cultivated by humanity. As hemp has a higher CBD content than THC, it is very different from marijuana and consequently, most of its usage in history has been for non-recreational purposes. Let’s find out more.
The earliest appearances of hemp date way back to the time of Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamian civilization was loosely based around the modern-day countries of Iraq, Turkey, Kuwait, and Syria. At around the same time, in 8,000 BCE, archeologists also found traces of hemp threads around pottery in Taiwan.
Hemp started becoming popular, however, for the first time in the ancient Chinese empires. This was 2800 BCE. China started cultivating hemp for use as fiber. This was the much-needed catalyst. Soon, surrounding countries in the Mediterranean started cultivating the crop. It didn’t take long for hemp to reach countries in North America and Chile by 1500.
The oldest use of hemp paper is in the second and third centuries AD when Buddhists wrote their scriptures on hemp paper made by mixing hemp fiber with bark and water. China was pretty good at keeping the hemp paper technology to itself, though it eventually spread to other nations after the 5th century AD.
It would be a crime to not comment on the historical usage of hemp as a source of nutrition. Hemp is highly nutritious and has been used in many cultures as a staple part of the daily diet.
All these benefits were simply amazing for those who came to visit China and other Central Asian countries cultivating hemp. They brought hemp cultivation back with them. This is how hemp rose to widespread cultivation and usage for all sorts of industrial and nutritional needs.
It solved a huge chunk of the world’s food problem at a time. Given its high strength and resistance to saltwater, hemp also became the go-to material for ropes on ships. It soon grew to be included in 80% of America’s clothing before prohibition!
Rise of Industrial Hemp
The adoption of hemp was fast. It was everything that industrialists had on their minds. Associations for hemp had been formed by the 20th century. It ultimately became the most versatile crop on the planet. The coming years were not so nice, and hemp faced a lot of bans.
- Legal Shifts: Gradually, governments started loosening their grip on hemp laws, and we now live in a world where a majority of regions have legalized the production of industrial hemp. In the US, it was banned for nearly 50 years. The reason for banning hemp was that it was made from the same plant used to grow weed.
- Cannabis: Cannabis is a psychoactive drug that is mostly used recreationally throughout the world. The increasing popularity of cannabis has also led to an increase in the popularity and awareness of hemp-based products.
- 2018 Farm Bill: The Agriculture Improvement Act 2018 revolutionized the hemp industry in the US. Among other things, the bill legalized industrial hemp production.
- CBD and Capitalism: CBD has been hugely commercialized with new well-being products and life experiences. Capitalism has been always quick to take charge of the latest and, well, capitalize on it. The hemp industry was not spared from this.
Future of Hemp
Alternative cannabinoids and current hemp-derived cannabinoids (Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, HHC, etc.) are legal alternatives to marijuana that are derived from hemp. The future of alternative cannabinoids is bright and continues to grow, with numerous companies offering top quality CBD flower and Delta-8 products.
On the other hand, the industrial application potential only keeps growing as we find new avenues and ways to utilize hemp and its many qualities.
Sure, there are concerns regarding hemp usage, such as dependence or the gateway drug theory. But as we learned in our findings, hemp is so much more than what some around us generally make it out to be.
Don’t confuse hemp with its psychoactive siblings within the same plant species. Hemp has strong uses both, industrially as well as recreationally, without all the fuss marijuana has.