The History of Hemp & Marijuana

CBD oil is by far one of the hottest health products on the market today. Most people our there have at least heard of it mentioned somewhere or perhaps have even seen it in your local grocery store. Maybe you have been thinking about buying some to see if it could help with anxiety, stress, pain, or general inflammation.

Hemp has had a long run in history that went from widely accepted and grown to make essential daily materials, to being illegal to grow and use. Let’s take a look at what it was used for and what happened that made something so beneficial illegal.

Cannabis & Hemp: What is the Difference?

Lots of people finding our about CBD oil, which is also called Hemp oil, have some common misconceptions about it. Some think CBD, short for cannabinoid, will get you high and they don’t want to feel that way. This is not true of CBD (Hemp) oil.

Another common misconception is that they might think it comes from the same plant as marijuana. While hemp comes from the same plant family as marijuana called “Cannabis”, it is not the same plant. It’s important to understand that although they come from the same plant family, the two are very different plants.


What is Marijuana?

  • Is psychoactive
  • Will get you “high”
  • Requires more water
  • Recreational use

What is Hemp?

  • Is non-psychoactive
  • Will not get you “high”
  • Requires less water
  • Therapeutic use


Some other interesting things that are different between the two plants are their potency levels. Marijuana has anywhere from 4%-90% of THC content in it. This potency of Marijuana has significantly increased in the past two decades.

Hemp only has 0.1%-0.3% of THC content in it, which is not enough at all to get you “high”. It contains cannabinoids that are extremely beneficial for so many body processes as research has began showing. This is one of the huge reasons it is such a hot health item.

Hemp Use in the Early Americas

To the surprise of many, hemp was widely used in the Americas from the 1700’s-1900’s. During this time, Native peoples used it to make clothes, rope, bags, and even to feed their animals. When the American Colonists arrived in the Americas, they quickly saw some of the benefits of growing hemp crops.

Hemp grows fast, making it a high yield crop, and didn’t deplete the soil like tobacco crops. They used their hemp crops for the production of boat sails, rope, and fabric. In 1775, with the American Revolution, the hemp industry was booming.

George Washington himself was a huge proponent of the cultivation of hemp, even growing it on his own land. It could be said that hemp helped play a substantial role in the establishment of the United States. This can be seen by the fact that cannabis appeared on the ten-dollar bill until the early 1900’s and was even made of hemp. Hemp was indeed part of the culture in the establishment of the Americas.

Hemp “is abundantly productive and will grow forever on the same spot,” Thomas Jefferson

Eventually, with the invention of synthetic material and a decreased need for hemp made material it slowly began to disappear.

Medical Uses of Cannabis in the Americas

Cannabis was introduced into Western Medicine in the early 1800’s by William O’Shaughnessy. William Shaughnessy was a surgeon and professor who began conducting experiments with cannabis indica, a cousin of cannabis sativa.

He found that it was effective as a muscle relaxant and an analgesic. He customarily treated his patients with cannabis for conditions such as cholera, tetanus, and hydrophobia. Thanks to his innovative research, even pharmacies began carrying medicinal preparations of cannabis to treat common ailments.

While he admitted that cannabis wasn’t a cure all for everything, he did note that it helped reduce the negative emotional effects of illness which offered a lot of hope for his patients. Colonists of this time also used the cannabis seeds to treat stomach issues, nausea, skin inflammation, and some forms of pain.

So What Happened?

Let us take a stroll through the timeline to find out why cannabis and hemp were declared illegal.

Early 1900’s: The United States Government began looking at cannabis use becoming afraid of its dangers of abuse.

1920: Under the direction of Harry Anslinger, from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, cannabis was deemed a drug and strict prohibitions followed. Because there was no clear distinction between hemp (non-psychoactive) and Cannabis (psychoactive) they were both lumped into the same category of being a drug.

1937: The Marijuana Tax Act passed declaring its use illegal.

1970: As the war on drugs of the 1970’s gained strong support, cannabis was placed on the Controlled Substance list giving power to the Federal Government to legally enforce any use of cannabis. From then on, all of its use became officially outlawed and its possession became a punishable crime.

With all of these regulations, hemp was slowly phased out of existence in the industrial and medicinal world. We began using trees, instead of hemp for paper; plastic instead of hemp; and synthetic drugs instead of cannabis. What kind of world would we have today if hemp was still the main crop being cultivated? What kind of world would we have if hemp was still the most common medicine on the shelves? Imagine that for a moment.

Cannabis and Hemp: Have a Comeback

With so many reasons to grow cannabis it’s no wonder it has resurged in the past decade. Israel was the first to lead the way into researching the many health benefits of marijuana (cannabis).

Discussions of the many benefits and uses CBD oil derived from hemp, as a daily supplement abound now. Many have started making clothes and textiles from the hemp plant again. Farms are popping up all over with a focus on hemp crops to supply the ever-growing demand of hemp oil products.

Another great win for all hemp farmers, was the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill allowed 41 states to remove barriers preventing them from producing hemp. This ended the prohibitions put into place in the previous years and the hemp industry is now poised for rapid growth.

We could eliminate, at least drastically reduce, the use of plastic. We could begin to shift away from non-composting products and material to begin implementing hemp products in their place. Hemp crops can be used to make paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, food, clothing, and animal feed. This will help us make more conscious minded decisions for the planet and our future as a human race.

Are you thinking of trying CBD oil?

It might be difficult to decide whether or not CBD oil is for you. One huge take back for me after writing this article, was that I realized that hemp was a part of almost every culture for thousands of years. This is something that we had a relationship with and that our bodies utilized for many conditions that we are only beginning to understand on a scientific level. Our ancestors understood the value of hemp for our body, the animals, and the planet.

If you are new the CBD oil hype that is here to stay, I hope you find yourself compelled to read more about its amazing benefits.

Remember, to only buy from a trusted source that does third-part testing and is preferable organically grown. Not all CBD oils on the market are the same. Some may have high levels of solvents and pesticides and not be made in an ethically sourced way that is good for the earth.

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