Hemp's Ancient History
Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BC.

The use of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) for pulp and paper manufacturing dates back more than 2,000 years. The oldest existing piece of paper in the world was discovered near Sian, in the Shensi province of China and has been date between 140 and 87 BC. This Chinese papermaking craftsmanship was transferred to Arabic and North-African countries and from there to Europe. The first European hemp papermaking took place in the early 16th century.

Until the early 19th century the only raw material commonly available for papermaking was rags from worn out clothes, sails and other textiles. Since clothing at that time was made solely of hemp, flax and sometimes cotton, paper was thus also made of hemp and flax fibres. With the onset of the industrial revolution, the demand for paper began to exceed the available rag supply. Although hemp was the most traded commodity in the world up to the 1830’s the shortage of rags lead to the development of wood based paper.


History Of Hemp in North America
In 1606, French Botanist Louis Hebert planted the first hemp crop in North America in Port Royal, Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia, Canada). As early as 1801, the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Upper Canada, on behalf of the King of England, distributed hemp seed free to Canadian farmers. Hemp became the first crop to be subsidized when the government offered to pay premiums and bounties to the "deserving cultivators and exporters of hemp in the Province."


In the United States, Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. In fact, Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. In 1937 Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act which effectively began the era of hemp prohibition. The tax and licensing regulations of the act made hemp cultivation unfeasable for American farmers. Then came World War II. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor shut off foreign supplies of "manilla hemp" fiber from the Phillipines. The USDA produced a film called Hemp For Victory to encourage US farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. The US government formed War Hemp Industries and subsidized hemp cultivation. During the War and US farmers grew about a million acres of hemp across the midwest as part of that program. After the war ended, the government quietly shut down all the hemp processing plants and the industry faded away again.


Legal Status of Hemp in North America
In 1994, the first 'modern' permit to grow hemp for research was granted to a Canadian company. In 1998, Health Canada passed regulations allowing for the commercial cultivation of hemp in Canada for the first time in 60 years. Hemp is now grown legally and extensively across Canada both for its fibre and seed.


In the U.S., during the period from 1937 to the late 60's the US government understood and acknowledged that Industrial Hemp and marijuana were distinct varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp is no longer recognized as distinct from marijuana in the U.S. since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. This is despite the fact that a specific exemption for hemp was included in the CSA under the definition of marijuana.

Hemp paper, clothing and other fibre products are clearly excluded from the U.S. policy of prohibition and have always been clearly LEGAL. The Drug Enforcement Agency, however, between 2001and 2004 took an aggressive stance toward hemp seed imports into the U.S., primarily from Canada. Citing the U.S. zero tolerance policy towards drugs, the DEA tried to claim that miniscule THC levels found in hemp seed foods (less than 10ppm according to Health Canada regulation) made them illegal in the United States.

In February, 2004, The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), representing over 200 hemp companies in North America, won their 2 1/2-year-old lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in a decision that permanently blocks DEA regulations that attempted to ban nutritious hemp foods such as waffles, bread, cereal, vegetarian burgers, protein powder, salad dressing and nutrition bars. Read the court decision here. More hemp info here.