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  • by Nicola Boulton September 01, 2022 5 min read

    A Brief History of Hemp in America

    What is hemp? Where did it originate from? This article discusses the history of hemp in America; hemp gets a lot of attention, demand, and challenges.

    Hemp has grown in the United States since the early 17th century. According to records, hemp arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1611. Hemp farming has a long history in the U.S., dating back to the early 17th century. Presidents and farmers supported the crop, notably George Washington, who famously grew hemp on his Mount Vernon estate. Industrial hemp was not outlawed for many years by the federal government until the middle of the 20th century. Hemp has a high economic value.

    Regarding cellulosic fiber yield per acre, hemp outperforms trees by four. A Gallup poll conducted in 2019 shows that 14% of Americans consume CBD products. There's a bright future as the U.S. hemp industry makes history.

    As part of the Farm Bill, Hemp Gets a Lot of Attention

    In 2004, the United States began permitting companies to import hemp-derived supplements. North Dakota awarded licenses to cultivate industrial hemp to two farmers in 2007, although the federal government denied the licenses since "the state had not satisfied the agency's [DEA's] security and logistical standards," there was some hope in 2007. On top of these advancements, state pilot programs, including Kentucky's, was established in 2014 as part of the Farm Bill, paving the way for farmers and processors to begin cultivating, processing, and manufacturing local hemp products. Hemp products are now a big business in Kentucky because of the state's perfect soils and climate, which led to its early adoption. In 2018, hemp was declared legally legal, no longer under the DEA's control, and may be grown and moved without fear of federal intervention. Due to these amendments, the 2018 Farm Bill's pro-hemp position was ratcheted up a notch. 2018 bill makes it easier to start hemp enterprises because of the added security, which is expected to lead to greater investment in hemp production on a far larger scale than was previously authorized by pilot projects. While the new Farm Bill is an upgrade over its forerunner, it will take some time until farmers notice any real advantages. Each state must pass regulatory hoops, and the FDA has yet to clarify how hemp products like CBD will be controlled before receiving USDA certification.

    Increased Hemp Demand

    Hemp has a promising future once we eventually move past the legal and political conflicts. However, the industry still faces significant obstacles. There is a lack of market and production infrastructure development. Demand and supply can fluctuate rapidly, making prices difficult to anticipate. Farmers may have a hard time selling a risky harvest. The CBD boom first enthused many farmers. When the price of CBD oil was at its highest in 2019, there were 500,000 acres cultivated in the United States. That led to a drop in the price of CBD due to overproduction. Thus, just 336,000 acres were planted in 2020, expected to drop even further in 2021. The markets and supply chains for hemp seed-based food, hemp, and fiber-based industrial items are still in their early stages. These are the markets that will provide the most growth in the future. A new crop needs time to develop in well-established businesses, including food production, paper production, textile production, and building. The hemp industry is on pace to make significant progress in several fields. There's a reduction in the dependence on fossil fuels and an increase in the diversity of our food supply chains.

    Why Was Hemp Initially Prohibited

    It was stunning how quickly industrial hemp lost favor. Hemp's standing as a cherished and recognized crop in the United States began to alter in the early 20th century. This transition was influenced by major stakeholders in the newspaper and media industries who swayed public opinion towards the facility. According to Pickard (2014), William Randolph Hearst owned newspapers throughout the United States and ownership in wood-pulp paper firms. Consequently, with Hearst's influence in the media, hemp was depicted as something to be avoided and dreaded. Hearst also had acquaintances who DuPont employed to work on petrochemical and synthetic technology patents that would later be applied to producing oil, carpet lining, and building materials. These products were made from hemp. Wexler & Burns (2021) suggested that Hearst's defamation aimed to confuse the public about the differences between hemp and marijuana to sway opinion. The study above also showed that Hearst created a state of emergency in the United States of America. Immigrants from Mexico were frequently depicted in media like Reefer Madness and other stories about drug-crazed criminals. People swiftly pushed to make cannabis illegal due to the plant's intentional association with immigrant concerns and prevalent racial beliefs at the time.

    An Exciting New Future and Challenges

    Although hemp was legal in the 2018 Farm Bill, several hurdles still exist. Jackson (2015) suggested that USDA rules reflect the DEA's intentions of keeping a tight grip on the illicit drugs market. The Food and Drug Administration has not yet regulated the CBD market. Banks, credit card processors, and I.T. corporations are wary of working with hemp-based businesses. Hemp is becoming more popular with farmers, entrepreneurs, and consumers. People learn about hemp and CBD daily by developing new infrastructure that makes harvesting and processing easier for growers. According to Goodman et al. (2022), 14% of Americans consume CBD products. The future is promising for this advantageous multifunctional crop as a brand-new hemp sector in the U.S. makes history.


    After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, the tides have decisively shifted back in support of hemp farming. Commercial hemp programs in the United States are currently delegated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which sets guidelines for each state. Florida enacted laws governing pilot projects in 2017 and adoption in 2019. Hemp's worth is officially acknowledged on National Hemp Day on February 4th, and innovations utilizing hemp fibers, seeds, and oils are multiplying. In any form, hemp is here to stay, whether it's in your smoothie or your candles. Future growth in the hemp and CBD businesses is expected to be substantial, although the size of the markets remains undetermined.


    Goodman, S., Wadsworth, E., Schauer, G., & Hammond, D. (2022). Use And Perceptions Of Cannabidiol Products In Canada And The United States. Cannabis And Cannabinoid Research, 7(3), 355-364.

    Jackson, C. O. (2015). Food And Drug Legislation In The New Deal. Princeton University Press.

    Pickard, V. (2014). Laying Low The Shibboleth Of A Free Press: Regulatory Threats Against The American Newspaper Industry, 1938–1947. Journalism Studies, 15(4), 464-480.

    Wexler, J., & Burns, C. (2021). American Edibles: How Cannabis Regulatory Policy Rehashes Prohibitionist Fears And What To Do About It. Seattle University Law Review, 44, 21-11.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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