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Overview of the History of Cannabis Hemp
For the Purpose of Clarity in this Book: Explanations or
documentations marked with an asterisk (*) are listed at the end of the
related paragraph(s). For brevity, other sources for facts, anecdotes,
histories, studies, etc., are cited in the body of the text or included
in the appendices. The facts cited herein are generally verifiable in
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was printed primarily on paper
produced with cannabis hemp for over 150 years. However, any
encyclopedia (no matter how old) or good dictionary will do for general
Cannabis Sativa L.
Also known as: Hemp, cannabis hemp, Indian (India) hemp, true hemp,
muggles, weed, pot, marijuana, reefer, grass, ganja, bhang, "the
kind," dagga, herb, etc., all names for exactly the same plant!
What's in a Name? (U.S. Geography)
HEMPstead, Long Island; HEMPstead County, Arkansas; HEMPstead, Texas;
HEMPhill, North Carolina; HEMPfield, Pennsylvania, among others, were
named after cannabis growing regions, or after family names derived from
American Historical Notes
In 1619, America's first marijuana law was enacted at Jamestown
Colony, Virginia, "ordering" all farmers to "make tryal
of" (grow) Indian hempseed. More mandatory (must-grow) hemp
cultivation laws were enacted in Massachusetts in 1631, in Connecticut
in 1632 and in the Chesapeake Colonies into the mid-1700s.
Even in England, the much-sought-after prize of full British
citizenship was bestowed by a decree of the crown on foreigners who
would grow cannabis, and fines were often levied against those who
Cannabis hemp was legal tender (money) in most of the Americas from
1631 until the early 1800s. Why? To encourage American farmers to grow
You could pay your taxes with cannabis hemp throughout America for
over 200 years.2
You could even be jailed in America for not growing cannabis during
several periods of shortage, e.g., in Virginia between 1763 and 1767.
(Herndon, G.M., Hemp in Colonial Virginia, 1963; The Chesapeake
Colonies, 1954; L.A.Times, August 12, 1981; et al.)
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their
plantations. Jefferson,3 while envoy to France,
went to great expense - and even considerable risk to himself and his
secret agents - to procure particularly good hempseeds smuggled
illegally into Turkey from China. The Chinese Mandarins (political
rulers) so valued their hempseed that they made its exportation a
The United States Census of 1850 counted 8,327 hemp
"plantations"* (minimum 2,000-acre farm) growing cannabis hemp
for cloth, canvas and even the cordage used for baling cotton. Most of
these plantations were located in the South or in the border states,
primarily because of the cheap slave labor available prior to 1865 for
the labor-intensive hemp industry.
(U.S. Census, 1850; Allen, James Lane, The Reign of Law, A Tale of
the Kentucky Hemp Fields, MacMillan Co., NY, 1900; Roffman, Roger, Ph.D.
Marijuana as Medicine, Mendrone Books, WA, 1982.)
*This figure does not include the tens of thousands of smaller
farms growing cannabis, nor the hundreds of thousands - if not millions
- of family hemp patches in America; nor does it take into account that
well into this century 80 percent of America's hemp consumption for 200
years still had to be imported from Russia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and
Benjamin Franklin started one of America's first paper mills with
cannabis. This allowed America to have a free colonial press without
having to beg or justify the need for paper and books from England.
In addition, various marijuana and hashish extracts were the first,
second or third most- prescribed medicines in the United States from
1842 until the 1890s. It's medicinal use continued legally through the
1930s for humans and figured even more prominently in American and world
veterinary medicines during this time.
Cannabis extract medicines were produced by Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis,
Tildens, Brothers Smith (Smith Brothers), Squibb and many other American
and European companies and apothecaries. During all the time there was
not one reported death from cannabis extract medicines, and virtually no
abuse or mental disorders reported, except for first-time or novice
users occasionally becoming disoriented or overly introverted.
(Mikuriya, Tod, M.D., Marijuana Medical Papers, Medi-Comp
Press, CA; Cohen, Sidney & Stillman, Richard, Therapeutic
Potential of Marijuana, Plenum Press, Ny, 1976.)
World Historical Notes
"The earliest known woven fabric was apparently of hemp, which
began to be worked in the eight millennium (8,000 - 7,000 B.C.)"
(The Columbia History of the World, 1981, page 54.)
The body of literature (i.e., archaeology, anthropology, philology,
economy, history) pertaining to hemp is in general agreement that, at
the very least:
From more than 1,000 years before the time of Christ until 1883 A.D.,
cannabis hemp - indeed, marijuana - was our planet's largest
agricultural crop and most important industry, involving thousands of
products and enterprises; producing the overall majority of Earth's
fiber, fabric, lighting oil, paper, incense and medicines. In addition,
it was a primary source of essential food oil and protein for humans and
According to virtually every anthropologist and university in the
world, marijuana was also used in most of our religions and cults as one
of the seven or so most widely used mood-, mind-, or pain-altering drugs
when taken as psychotropic, psychedelic (mind-manifesting or -expanding)
Almost without exception, these sacred (drug) experiences inspired
our superstitions, amulets, talismans, religions, prayers, and language
codes. (See chapter 10 on "Religions and Magic.")
(Wasson, R., Gordon, Soma, Divine Mushroom of Immortality;
Allegro, J.M., Sacred Mushrooms & the Cross, Doubleday, NY,
1969; Pliny; Josephus; Herodotus; Dead Sea Scrolls; Gnostic Gospels; the
Bible; Ginsberg Legends Kaballah, c. 1860; Paracelsus; British
Museum; Budge; Ency. Britannica,, "Pharmacological Cults;"
Schultes & Wasson, Plants of the Gods, Research of R.E.
Schultes, Harvard Botanical Dept.; Wm EmBoden, Cal State U., Northridge;
Great Wars were Fought to Ensure the Availability
For example, the primary reason for the War of 1812 (fought by
America against Great Britain) was access to Russian cannabis hemp.
Russian hemp was also the principal reason that Napoleon (our 1812 ally)
and his "Continental Systems" allies invaded Russia in 1812.
(See Chapter 12, "The (Hemp) War of 1812 and Napolean Invades
In 1942, after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines cut off the
supply of Manila (Abaca) hemp, the U.S. Government distributed 400,000
pounds of cannabis seeds to American farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky,
who produced 42,000 tons of hemp fiber annually until 1946 when the war
Why Has Cannabis Hemp/Marijuana Been So Important
Because cannabis hemp is, overall, the strongest, most-durable,
longest-lasting natural soft-fiber on the planet. Its leaves and flower
tops (marijuana) were - depending on the culture - the first, second or
third most important and most-used medicines for two-thirds of the
world's people for at least 3,000 years, until the turn of the century.
Botanically, hemp is member of the most advanced plant family on
Earth. It is a dioecious (having male, female and sometimes
hermaphroditic - male and female on the same plant), woody, herbaceous
annual that uses the sun more efficiently than virtually any other plant
on our planet, reaching a robust 12 to 20 feet or more in one short
growing season. It can be grown in virtually any climate or soil
condition on Earth, even marginal ones.
Hemp is, by far, Earth's premier, renewable natural resource. This is
why hemp is so very important.
1. Clark, V.S., History of Manufacture in the United States, McGraw
Hill, NY 1929, Pg. 34.
3. Diaries of George Washington; Writings of George Washington,
Letter to Dr. James Anderson, May 26, 1794, vol. 33, p. 433, (U.S. govt.
pub., 1931); Letters to his caretaker, Williams Pearce, 1795 & 1796;
Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson's Farm Books, Abel, Ernest, Marijuana: The
First 12,000 Years, Plenum Press, NY, 1980; M. Aldrich, et al.