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The History of Cannabis and Hemp

If you’re wondering about the history of cannabis and hemp — you’ve come to the right place.

Cannabis and hemp have played, and continue to play, a crucial role in human society. From medicine to textiles and everything in between, cannabis and hemp are do-it-all plants that have spanned the globe.

If you’re ready to read a brief history of cannabis and hemp, continue to read along. Soon, you’ll discover in-depth information about your favorite plants — cannabis and hemp!

The Beginning of Cannabis

Before human intervention, cannabis evolved from or alongside its common ancestor — Humulus lupulus (hops).

According to fossil records, hops likely developed into a distinct species around 6.3 million years ago. Botanists believe that hops evolved from one of their original ancestors, a type of nettle from the Urticaceae family.

Looking back at fossil records, the Urticaceae family began roughly 34 million years ago.

Therefore, researchers believe it was between 6.3 and 34 million years ago that the original cannabis plant came into existence.

In another case, researchers believe that cannabis evolved in the Himalayas roughly 40 to 50 million years ago.

Until definitive fossil records provide adequate proof, the exact time that cannabis evolved into a distinct species is unknown.

What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis?

Now that you know cannabis is millions of years old, let’s talk about hemp. First, let’s go over the most common question of them all: is hemp the same thing as cannabis?

Hemp is a subspecies of cannabis — specifically Cannabis sativa.

The proper name of hemp, according to botanists, is Cannabis sativa ssp. sativa. However, to keep things simple, we simply say hemp.

Similar to the evolution of cannabis as a species, hemp evolved under specific conditions with slight differences from its ancestor. One of the calling cards of hemp is its low THC profile and exceptional fiber quality.

Early Use of Cannabis and Hemp

Although modern society demonizes cannabis and hemp production — humans have been cultivating these plants for tens of thousands of years.

Archeological evidence claims that cannabis was domesticated roughly 12,000-years ago in East Asia. However, comprehensive archeological data shows human populations extensively interacted with cannabis and hemp long before it was domesticated.

In 440 BCE, the famed Greek historian Herodotus was the first to ever write about experiences with cannabis flowers in his Histories. Before this text, there wasn’t a written perspective regarding cannabis or hemp use.

From Chinese dynasties to Islamic empires and everything in between, cannabis was traded, consumed, and cultivated.

The Many Uses of Cannabis and Hemp

Once you realize that every notable culture in the world utilized cannabis and hemp, it begs the question — why?

The answer is simple — cannabis and hemp provide(d) countless benefits, such as:

  • Medicine

  • Recreational use

  • Textiles

  • Food

  • Cosmetics

  • Religious ceremony

From Greek vapor baths where cannabis flowers were thrown on embers to important shamans buried with cannabis seeds, it’s clear that cultures worldwide respected (and actively used) marijuana and hemp.

The Prohibition of Cannabis and Hemp

With so many uses and thousands of years of mutually beneficial interaction — why did the United States and other nations suddenly outlaw cannabis and hemp in the early 1900s?

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially ended all cannabis and hemp sales, thus destroying cultivation efforts. The timing of the Marihuana Tax Act was impeccable, considering it was when the USDA announced that hemp produced four times the amount as trees.

Additionally, America’s racism played a significant role in the Marihuana Tax Act, in which advocates claimed cannabis consumption transformed people of color (Africans and Mexicans) into sexual deviants that prey on white women.

Ultimately, the demonization of cannabis and hemp was complete by blaming people of color. As such, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed with little to no resistance.

Hemp For Victory

Unsurprisingly, hemp was called into action during World War II.

The U.S. Army was extremely short on supplies, such as rope, cordage, and cloth, because most materials were unavailable. Furthermore, most crops used for textiles were cultivated overseas, making it necessary to have a local source.

As history has proven, hemp is an excellent crop for producing strong fiber. The US government, alongside the USDA, created a propaganda film called Hemp for Victory and distributed it among American farmers to assist the war effort.

After the war, the American government never admitted to creating the film, and the last hemp farm was phased out in 1957 in Wisconsin.

Hemp Joins the Schedule-I Club

In 1970, the United States government placed hemp into the Schedule-I category alongside THC-rich cannabis.

Although hemp production was illegal — it had yet to join the ranks of cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. It would take over three decades for hemp to be free of a Schedule-I classification from this point on.

The Farm Bill

Although most people are familiar with the 2018 Farm Bill, the original Farm Bill was created in 2008 under President Obama. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, research facilities could begin piloting hemp programs.

However, the most notable extension of the Farm Bill was in 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill effectively removed hemp and all hemp-derived products from the Controlled Substances Act.

Thus, hemp crops and products became legal in the United States as long as they complied with specific regulations. The most notable regulation regarding the hemp industry is the rule that all plants and products must test below 0.3% THC.

The MORE Act

Although hemp was released from the clutches of the Controlled Substances Act — cannabis (THC-rich) remains a Schedule-I drug.

However, the MORE Act is a recent bill that passed the House of Representatives. Although it has yet to pass the Senate — the MORE Act has the potential to give cannabis and cannabis-based products the freedom it’s been yearning for nearly a century.

If passed, the MORE Act will remove cannabis (THC) from the Controlled Substances Act and legalize marijuana at the federal level. As you can imagine — this is a pivotal moment for the cannabis industry, cannabis plants, and cannabis users.

From evolutionary steps millions of years ago to online cannabis stores like Simply Crafted — cannabis and hemp have come a long way.

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