hemp plant with an orange background

Fact or Fiction: What’s the Real Deal with Hemp?


Ah, hemp. Perhaps the most misunderstood plant around. It has had its fair share of controversies throughout history. Some perhaps deserved, but most completely unwarranted. 

While it may resemble its infamous cousin, marijuana, hemp is a versatile and valuable plant with a fascinating past. The truth is that hemp facts are hard to come by. Few people know the vital role hemp has played historically; it’s been farmed, cultivated and industrialized in nearly every modern city across the globe.

From its cultivation for thousands of years to its unfortunate association with prohibition, let's dive into the truth, the reality of hemp facts and fiction throughout its controversial history. 

Hemp’s Sordid History

Picture this: a time when hemp was not just legal, but celebrated! There was a golden era for hemp cultivation, long since forgotten. 

In the 17th Century, colonial American farmers were required by law to grow hemp as a patriotic duty. It was considered a boom crop that presented such incredible financial opportunity, fledgling colonies deemed it essential to the financial interests of settlers.

For centuries, hemp’s fibers were used to make ropes, sails, and was celebrated by the Founding Fathers of the U.S.

But as time went on, attitudes toward hemp began to change. The plant’s extraordinary cost-effectiveness as a catch-all source for industrialization was a problem for aspiring businessmen of the early 20th Century. They wanted to raise prices in certain sectors to maximize their profits. 

Hemp was deliberately smeared in anti-marijuana hysteria. Business opponents pursued its prohibition alongside its distant cousin of origin. As marijuana became increasingly demonized, hemp was unfairly - yet successfully - lumped into the same category. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 dealt a severe blow to the hemp industry, placing heavy taxes and regulations on production, effectively choking the life out of the innocent crop before it could ever fully take off in the United States as a staple crop.

But the damage wasn’t done. 

43 years after the first knock on hemp’s potential, Congress passed another law that subjugated the miracle plant’s growth even further. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 created a regulatory framework that still guides the United States’ management of mind altering substances to this day. It played a big role in War on Drugs. A decade’s long political and social strategy that is criticized as a painful misstep in the country’s history. Hemp was included in the same category as the cannabis plant, despite its chemically insignificant similarities to the psychoactivity of marijuana. 

For the second time in a century, hemp was mired in controversy and relegated to stagnancy by way of false association with a distant and quite different cousin. 

Clearing the Haze: An Honest Look at Hemp & Marijuana

So what’s real and what isn’t regarding hemp and marijuana? 

Yes, both plants belong to the Cannabis family, but they are as different as night and day (or should we say, high and low?). Hemp contains minuscule levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana's mind-altering effects. But you should know that before you go and try to smoke your hemp clothing for a quick high that there are such trace amounts of THC that the only thing you're going to feel is sick from all the smoke inhalation.

But alas, the confusion persists. It’s not uncommon to hear hardcore marijuana-skeptics claim that hemp is just a poorly disguised alternative. 

The truth could not be further afield - whether that field is for growing marijuana or hemp!

Hemp's valuable fibers and seeds are used to create a wide range of products, from textiles and building materials to nutritious foods and skincare. 

Marijuana, on the other hand, is primarily grown for its high THC content, attracting a different kind of attention.

The two crops serve entirely different purposes, industries, and end use cases for customers. 

Hemp Deserves A Chance For New Growth

Hemp’s controversial history is a peculiar tale. How it went from celebrated super crop to undeserved prohibition is unfortunate, and destructive to our environment. It’s important that the public increasingly educates itself on the unsavory origins of hemp’s demise at the hands of poorly intentioned businessmen. 

But, the tides are turning. 

As we become more informed about the differences between hemp and marijuana, the green renaissance of hemp is in full swing. Laws are changing, and the recognition of hemp's immense value and sustainability is spreading like wildfire. 

From fashion to construction, hemp is making a comeback and reclaiming its rightful place in the world of industry and innovation.



War on Drugs - Timeline in America, Definition & Facts (history.com)

The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer | Brookings

Now Weed is Mostly Legal, Hemp Should Be Booming. It's Not | Time

Can You Smoke Hemp CBD? - CFAH

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