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Hemp History

Hemp History
Read about the rich history of hemp and hemp products:

1776: Clothes for Washington's troops are sewn from hemp fabric

Washington at Valley ForgeDuring the American Revolutionary War which started in 1775,  thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America.

In 1776 Patriot wives and mothers were organizing spinning bees to clothe Washington's troops, spinning the majority of the  thread from hemp fibers. Without hemp, the Continental Army would have frozen to death at Valley Forge.[1]

At the same time Common Sense was written by Thomas Paine. The pamflet was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776. In his pamflet he encourages the colonist to fight for freedom. He lists cordage, iron, timber and tar as America's four essential natural resources and he writes “in almost every article of defense we abound. Hemp flourishes even to rankness, so that we need not want cordage".

1777 - 1810: Spain subsidizes the growing of hemp in their colonies

King Charles IV of Spain by GoyaIn the eighteenth century, Spain's economy began to change and Spain began to turn more and more to her colonies. In 1777, colonial outposts in Spanish America welcomed several hemp experts who were ordered to teach the inhabitants the intricacies of growing and preparing hemp for market. Growing hemp was mandated in all the Spanish Colonies and the viceroy of the New World colonies were encouraging hemp cultivation by providing seeds to the settlers.[1]

Three years later, special orders from the king Charles IV instructed all viceroys to encourage hemp production throughout New Spain by giving subsidies to the farmers.[1] The most important areas of hemp production were Chile, Mexico and California. In 1795 Spain opened up the Mississippi to international trade to encourage hemp exports, some of which was actually transacted using hemp as barter.

In California serious effort was made to raise hemp for market. The results were encouraging:  by 1807, California was producing 12,500 pounds of hemp.  By 1810, California was producing over 220,000 pounds of dressed hemp. But in 1810 a revolution in Mexico isolated California from the government seat. The subsidies that had stimulated hemp production were no longer available, and with the elimination of this impulse, commercial production of hemp ceased and was never started up again.[1]

1791: Thomas Jefferson grows hemp on his farm

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale 1800Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and he was the third President of the United States (1801–1809). Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on his farm. He kept a record of his business, thoughts and ideas about this in his account book, and other  writings.

Among many other agricultural matters he describes how one should grow hemp and make hemp seeds:

"Hemp. Plough the ground for it early and very deep, which should be in March. A hand can tend 3 acres of hemp a year. Tolerable ground yields 500 lb. to the acre. You may generally count on 100 lb. for every foot the hemp is over 4 ft. high. A hand will break 60 or 70 lb. a day, and even to 150 lb. if it is divided with an overseer, divide it as prepared.

1807: Napoleon tries to cut off Russian hemp trade with Britain

Napoleon in TillsitIn July 1807 Napoleon I of France and Csar Alexander I of Russia signed the Treaties of Tilsit in the town of Tilsit.  
The treaty ended war between Imperial Russia and the French Empire and began an alliance between the two empires that rendered the rest of continental Europe almost powerless.

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1812: Cannabis caught in wars between the superpowers

From 1807 till 1812 the Americans played a big role in the illegal Russian hemp trade with England. The Americans regarded themselves as neutral but Great Britain saw every ship that traded with Napoleon’s France or one of his allies as an enemy that needed to be obstructed.Therefore Britain confiscated American ships and shipment and sent their sailors back to the U.S at the American ship owners' cost.

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1840: Abraham Lincoln speaks about prohibition

Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln who became the 16th President of  the United States in March 1861 grew up in a poor family and was mostly self-educated.

He became a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives, but failed in two attempts to be elected to the United States Senate.

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1843: Colonial cultures clash over cannabis

When the Empires of Holland and Britain found their way to Africa, dagga (as the indigenous population knew cannabis) smoking had become a deeply entrenched part of the culture, since spreading southwards from the Arabic corner of the continent. Like much of the western world had become besotted with alcohol, much of Africa had a strong connection with dagga; an intoxicant that is also a relaxant, a social lubricant and an essential ingredient of their spiritual practises. Although the western population of Africa had generally always seen the use of the drug as morally reprehensible, it was not until 1843 that the white ruling class began to actively oppose it's use, when a second culture immersed in cannabis use was brought to the Cape Colony by the rulers themselves.

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1844 - 1849: Le Club des Hashischins

Club de Hashishins Hotel de LazunIn 1840 Dr Jaques Joseph Moreau wanted to use the hashish experience as a model psychosis. To do this kind of research he had to observe the effects of hashish objectively. Only by invoking the help of volunteers he could observe the drug's effects on others while he himself was abstimious.[1] In 1844 Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau founded Le Club des Hashischins (The Hashish Club), a cotterie of France's leading artists poets and writers dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced experiences, in particular with hashish.

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1845: Dr Jacques Joseph Moreau writes his book Hashish and Mental Alienation

Dr. Jacques Joseph MoreauJacques-Joseph Moreau, a promment psychiatrist, was the first medical man to do systematic work with drugs active in the central nervous system, and to catalogue, analyze, and record his observations.

His 1845 book, Hashish and Mental Alienation, is still applicable today. Moreau termed marijuana a personality ”agent provocateur.”

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1850: The United States Census counts 8327 hemp plantations

1850 Census MapThe United States Census of 1850 was the seventh census of the United States. Conducted by the Census Office on June 1, 1850, it determined the resident population of the United States to be 23,191,876. The total population included 3,204,313 slaves.

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1851: Marijuana is listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia

In the 1820's several American medical societies created the first edition of the United States Pharmacopoeia (U.S.P.).

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