Hemp Timeline: 10 Key Dates in US History

The history of the hemp plant can be both fascinating and convoluted. 

In the US alone, this incredible natural resource has gone through a breathtaking evolution on a multitude of levels. Socially, economically and legally, it can be difficult to parse through the various key moments. 

In this article, we've taken some time to highlight 10 important dates when it comes to the history of hemp in the United States. 

Keep scrolling to learn more about them!


-1700's: Supply and Demand

By the end of the 17th Century, hemp production in North America had become so important that farmers in the British colonies were compelled by patriotic duty to grow up in order to keep up with the ever-growing demand. 

Goods such as cloth, rope, sails and much more were produced from the fibers of this plant and as European countries raced to explore the "new world", these items became in valuable. colonists were even allowed to pay taxes using hemp.

-1776: Declaring Independence 

Leading up to the Revolutionary War, hemp cultivation continued to play a key role in American History. 

Most of the hemp grown in the colonies used to make goods that were eventually exported to England. However, in a bit of historical irony, the very first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were penned on paper made from hemp fibers. 

-1840: Hemp Lights the Way

Before the invention of electric lights, many relied on the use of burning oil to help illuminate their world after dark. 

One such material used in this manner was none other than oil derived from hemp. 

It's impossible to know exactly how commonly it was used by the average person at this time, but one of the first documented instances came in 1840, when Abraham Lincoln began using hemp oil lamps to light his home. 

-1937: The Marijuana Tax Act

Through the beginning of the 20th century, hemp continued to play a critical role in the US economy. 

However, in 1937, congress passed legislation that placed a heavy tax on all cannabis, including hemp. 

The passing of this bill had a very negative impact on the hemp industry and heavily discouraged farmers from growing the crop, as profits became noticeably slimmer. 

-1942: Hemp for Victory

By the 1940's, the demand for domestic-made hemp products was sky rocketing. World War 2 cut off many avenues of importing these goods to the US, but due to the Marijuana Tax Act, many farmers had ceased growing the crop to protect their financial interests.

In a stunning about-face, the US government temporarily suspended the Marijuana Tax Act and released the black-and-white film Hemp for Victory, which heavily endorsed and encouraged farmers everywhere to sow this crop in the interest of supporting WW2. 

This led to over 150,000 acres of hemp being grown throughout the US. 

After the war ended, congress reinstated the Marijuana Tax Act, which once again quashed the hemp industry by way of heavy taxation. 


-1970: Controlled Substance

After decades of suppressive taxing by the US government, hemp was finally banned explicitly by the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

Hemp, along with all other forms of cannabis, and other drugs such as LSD, heroin and ecstasy, were deemed by law makers to have |no medical use and a high potential for abuse", and therefore illegal to grow or possess anywhere in the United States.

-1998: Demand for Hemp Grows

By the end of the 1990's, public support for hemp products was beginning to form. 

Although its medical uses had not yet gained much traction, it's benefits as a food product were becoming widely known. 

In 1998, it became legal for food-grade hemp products to be imported and sold in the US, which in turn opened the door for the American public to begin realizing what a versatile and useful plant hemp could be. 

-2007: Seeds of Change

Finally in 2007, the first commercial hemp license in nearly 50 years was issued to two farmers in North Dakota, marking the beginning of the end for US law's unrelenting chokehold on domestic cultivation of hemp. 

Other states to have legalized hemp at this time include:  Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana and West Virginia. However, North Dakota was the first of these to grant a commercial license. 

-2014: The Farm Bill

On February 7, 2014, President Barrack Obama signed the Farm Bill into law, which legally distinguished hemp from that of other types of cannabis, and made it legal for institutions of higher education and research to cultivate the plant for the purpose of scientific study. 

This was considered by many to be a huge turning point in the long campaign to fully legalize hemp in the US. By enacting this law, the US government was finally beginning to undo many decades of damage to the hemp industry. 

-2018: Growing Stronger

And finally, in the latest milestone on this long and often tedious journey, hemp was finally removed from the list of substances classified as Schedule 1 by the federal government. 

 Despite this victory however, cannabis strains that have a potency higher than .03% THC are still considered Schedule 1 and thus subject to federal prosecution, despite cannabis being legalized both medically and recreationally in many US states. 

Regardless, farmers gained the ability to once again cultivate this incredible crop without fear, and have thus created a thriving industry that continues to grow exponentially with ever passing year. 


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