Hemp Round 2: Electric Boogaloo

 Leaves of cannabis and rolled hemp cloth

If you haven’t already read it, check out our previous blog post about the benefits and uses of hemp as a sustainable alternativeIt’s our answer for why use hemp blend fabrics as the basis for our waxed cloth wraps and coffee filters, and the reason why we are discussing the history of hemp here today. Don't forget to settle in with some snacks. The history of hemp will have you doing much eye rolling and reading legalese, so you'll need the energy.

The earliest example we have of humans using hemp comes from the Han Dynasty in the way, way back year of 89. Yes, that’s right. 89.  

Prior to that point, writing had been done on silk or cloth, and neither were very good surfaces to put writing on. Cai Lun (pronounced Ts’ai Lun) developed a method that used macerated tree bark, old rags, fishing nets, and hemp waste to produce a sheet of paper [1]. Hemp continued to be used in paper, ropes, and cloth around the globe. It was even responsible for its own transport, playing an integral role as the cloth in the sail and fibers of the rope rigging of ships bringing goods across oceans. While we love mermaids and a good tale of the sea, it's not where the drama surrounding hemp is, so let's take a considerable time skip and land ourselves in 1900’s America. 

Why the time skip? It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the cannabis plant was regulated, which has greatly formed how we in the U.S. understand hemp today. 

In 1937, the Marijuana Tax act was passed. This act was, on paper, meant to regulate a formerly untaxed drug, and prevent recreational use of marijuana. This was to be accomplished through a new system of paperwork and fees targeting anyone buying, selling, distributing, cultivating or prescribing marijuana for medicinal or industrial use, and making it illegal to possess or distribute marijuana for recreational use [2]

The Marijuana Tax Act was meant to target the medicinal uses of cannabis in particular, but cast a very wide net. It was only within the last seven years that hemp and marijuana were legally separated (a messy but beneficial divorce), so during the entirety of the 1900’s, hemp and marijuana were far more intertwined. With the new system of taxes and fees, many farmers didn’t find hemp a profitable crop to grow anymore, and getting a license to grow it in the first place could be quite difficult. Slowly but surely, American farmers stopped growing hemp, and by 1957, the last commercially grown hemp field was planted in Wisconsin [3]. 

This is to say nothing about the racist motivations behind the 1937 act. If you’re looking to go down that particular rabbit hole, you can read these articles, or look up Harry J Anslinger. 

That's not to say that people suddenly didn't want hemp anymore. America was still using hemp for the basis of products; in 1941, Henry Ford even built the body of a car using a blend of, “soybeans, wheat, hemp, flax and ramie”, in an attempt to find a solution for the metal shortage at the time [4]. The following year, after hemp supply was cut off to the U.S. by the Japanese, the USDA produced the film Hemp For VictoryThe stance of cannabis as a dangerous substance was abandoned in order to source supplies for the war effort, and farmers were once again encouraged once again to grow hemp.  

Of course, this did not last long. As soon as supply chains were reconstructed, hemp and cannabis in general went back to being the devils lettuceIt really seemed like the end of the hemp industry when cannabis was classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1970, along with other high profile substances such as Heroin and LSD [5]. 

Things didn’t really begin to change until the turn of the century. In 2007, two farmers in North Dakota filed to have their state-licensed hemp fields regulated under different laws than those defined in the CSA. They ultimately lost their case [6], but the courts decision stoked discussion and action around the country. Seven years later, in 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law the Agricultural Act (commonly known as the Farm Bill), which introduced for the first time the legal definition of hemp as cannabis with a THC content below .3%, and marijuana as any cannabis with a THC content above that [7]. This allowed farmers and researchers to start toying with hemp again, without the fear of being charged with a federal crime; However, it wasn’t until the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that President Obamas legacy was carried on, removing hemp entirely from the jurisdiction of the DEA and the Schedule 1 definition under the CSA [8]. 

From there, the rest is (very recent) history! Thanks to all these changes, we at Khala & CO have more chances to incorporate hemp into our products, and can share with you the ways that hemp can be used as a sustainable substitute for nearly anythingWe are proud to continue on the legacy that began in 89 AD, and hope that when you use one of our eco-friendly wraps, or brew a cup of fragrant caffeine goodness in one of our re-usable coffee filters, you are too.  

 

Sources 

1] Cai Lun | Biography, Paper, & Facts | Britannica 

2] The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 - Criminal Justice Class | Study.com 

3] History of Hemp: When and Where It All Began (prima.co) 

4] Soybean Car - The Henry Ford 

5]  Drugs of Abuse (2017 Edition) (dea.gov) 

6] Monson vs. DEA - North Dakota Hemp License | Vote Hemp 

7] 2014 Hemp Farm Bill Section 7606 | Vote Hemp 

8] Hemp | USDA