THE HISTORY OF HEMP
EVIL WEED OR THE SAVIOUR OF HUMANKIND? FROM CURING CANCER TO FUELLING CARS – TOGETHER WITH A LASHING OF CONSPIRACY – A CRUSADING GRAEDON PARKER, COMES FIRMLY DOWN ON THE SIDE OF THE LATTER.
George Washington loved hemp.
America’s first president was so fond of the crop that he once famously wrote to his gardener, “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere.”
But Washington’s interests didn’t lie in smoking hemp – marijuana’s less notorious sibling – but rather in a mass cultivation of the crop for a myriad of interesting and astonishingly useful purposes.
Hemp being harvested in 1914 on a U.S. $10 bill.
Hemp is a strain of Cannabis sativa that contains only 0.3 per cent of the plant’s psychoactive constituent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). For those not marijuana-articulate, this means one could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole and still not feel any degree of “highness”.
In fact, hemp is good for almost anything except getting you high: you can eat it, wear it, wash yourself with it and build your house out of it. It’s strong, nutritious, naturally pest-resistant, and will grow basically anywhere.
For thousands of years, industrial hemp was a common staple. It was part of our livelihood and was/still is held as a hugely popular resource in many ancient cultures all over the world. Then, in the early 1900’s, this plant was banned and pushed aside.
Why did this useful plant get labelled with a criminal stamp?
It just so happens that the crop was a threat to many powerful industries at the time, including corporate giant DuPont, as well as various cotton, paper and timber giants. These commercial enterprises had enormous amounts of profit pouring in, which would simply have been threatened if the more sustainable and environmentally friendly option of hemp graced the marketplace.