America Was Founded on Hemp

Since grade school I’ve known that hemp was used to make rope and that in some American colonies farmers were required to grow hemp for the Royal Navy’s needs.

Since my college days in the 1960s I’ve known that hemp contains little to no THC as contained in its cousin, marijuana. You could smoke hemp until you were blue in the face and all that would happen would be your face turning blue. For that reason I could never understand why the US Government banned the production of hemp in the 1950s.

On a fishing trip to Canada in 2000 I saw several large fields of hemp growing north of Toronto. There were roadside signs telling us tourist what the crop was. When I returned home I did some research and learned that Canada permitted the licensed and limited production of hemp.

When the state of Colorado legalized marijuana last year it also permitted the legal growing of hemp. The hemp production law doesn’t kick in till 2014 but one Colorado farmer decided there was no time like the present and the first commercial US hemp crop was just harvested for the first time in over 40 years.

In reading about this harvest I also read that the American Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp fibers. On the face of it that sounded a bit like an urban myth perpetrated by the editors of High Times. Doing a little fact checking, however, I discovered the claim to be mostly true. Hemp paper was the most common type of paper in the 18th Century and the first two drafts of the Declaration were written hempgranolaon hemp. The second draft was the one agreed to and announced on July 4, 1776. The version that was famously signed (on August 2nd) was printed on parchment, a processed animal skin. In addition to the Declaration of Independence the Gutenberg and King James Bibles were also originally printed on hemp paper.

So there you have it, one of the most important documents in American History and two of the most important volumes in all of Christianity owe their existence and longevity to the properties of a plant that in today’s America is illegal to grow. Think I’ll go have a bowl of hemp and fiber granola. Which, by the way, has to be imported because food-grade hemp is also illegal to grow in America.

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