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Why Was Hemp an Important Agricultural Tool—and What Happened?

People who are thinking about cannabis in terms of its significance in popular culture might at first consider that its recreational use is for what are understood to be its psychoactive properties. What is less well known is that, for thousands of years, the most prevalent variety of the cannabis plant has been hemp, long prized for its utility as a fiber and food crop. Why Was Hemp an Important Agricultural Tool—and What Happened?

Hemp, which is low in compounds such as THC that are understood to cause intoxicating effects, has a long agricultural history that was interrupted in the U.S. by the knock-on effects of the criminalization of intoxicating cannabis. The broad movement toward wider acceptance of cannabis has led lawmakers in more and more states to decriminalize medical and recreational uses of the plant. In parallel, new federal legislation has decriminalized the industrial production of hemp, offering the American consumer the benefits of this useful, renewable crop.

The History of Hemp

Industrial hemp has been used by humans for somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 years, originating in Central Asia. As a food crop, the seeds can be used as a high-protein food source or a source for oils. When grown for fiber, hemp produces strands that are similar to flax, although longer and less flexible. Hemp fiber can be used for cord and rope, for paper, for clothing or even as a strengthener to be mixed into building materials such as concrete. The leaves and young stalks can also be used in salads.

Hemp has been widely found in archaeological sites—one of the earliest examples is cord markings found in prehistoric China—but had been cultivated and used across Europe, Asia and Africa. When European colonizers invaded the Americas, they brought hemp with them, and letters exist from the U.S. Founding Father and slaveholder George Washington to his underlings regarding the cultivation of hemp on his land.

Hemp became a significant agricultural product in the U.S. and was notably used for the rope that played a crucial role in shipping and naval fleets.

The Criminalization of Hemp

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which heavily taxed both industrial hemp and cannabis grown as an intoxicating product, marked the start of the decline of the U.S. hemp industry. According to historians, this act may have been passed as part of a racist crusade against recreational cannabis and other mood-altering drugs, which were associated with Mexicans and Black Americans. Additionally, some historians believe that industries such as the manufacture of nylon were threatened by hemp production, and hemp was heavily taxed to confer an economic advantage on the novel industries.

Ironically, shortly after the Marijuana Tax Act became law, the advent of the Second World War meant that hemp was needed to help win victory against the Axis powers. As hemp production in southeast Asia was disrupted due to Japanese military activity, the U.S. started a hemp growing program to ensure domestically grown hemp was available to transform into rope needed by the U.S. Navy and merchant marines.

The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill

After World War II, the burden of taxation fell again and alternative fiber sources were in ascendancy, with hemp farming entirely banned in 1970 with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act. The Act classified even industrial hemp as a schedule 1 drug.

This situation remained in place until the gradual loosening in the network of legislation, which started with allowing importation of hemp as a dietary product and culminated with the 2018 Farm Act. This Act classified hemp with 0.3 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—the compound research indicates is chiefly responsible for the intoxicating effect of recreational cannabis—as an ordinary agricultural commodity.

Hemp-Based CBD Products

Since the passage of the Farm Act, domestically grown cannabis-based products, from paper to fiber to oil, have made a great contribution to the U.S. economy. Hemp, as an annual herb, is a renewable resource that can be grown in a way that is sustainable for the environment and economically profitable at the same time.

One strong benefit of the legalization of industrial hemp production is the increased availability of products containing other cannabis-derived compounds that studies indicate may offer health benefits to consumers. Primary among these is cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound that research suggests may support wellness by aiding in healthy digestion and good sleep and even by combating stress and anxiety.

CBD, alongside other cannabinoid compounds such as terpenes, occurs in both high-THC recreational cannabis and in low-THC industrial hemp, and has become widely available across the U.S. Although industrial hemp and derivative products are legal at the federal level, they are not yet regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so consumers can benefit from choosing a reputable provider such as Zen Garden Organics that rigorously ensures its products are pure, THC-free and compliant with rigorous regulatory standards for pesticides, minerals and bacteria.

Your CBD Journey with Zen Garden Organics

At Zen Garden Organics, we work with suppliers who grow industrial hemp in sustainable ways, then process that hemp into CBD oils, tinctures and softgels. Although legal industrial hemp naturally has less than 0.3 percent THC, our suppliers take the additional step of removing all THC from the products, ensuring that consumers who want to avoid THC—perhaps to ensure they don’t test positive for pre-employment drug screens—can do so with confidence. Our products are tested at independent laboratories to ensure they are THC-free and pure and have consistent amounts of CBD and other cannabinoids, meaning consumers can benefit from regular, predictable dosing.

Getting Started with Zen Garden Organics CBD products

Our CBD products are also full-spectrum, meaning that other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavorings are still present, and consumers can take advantage of the entourage effect—the possible amplification of benefits experienced when CBD is taken alongside these other compounds. Our dedicated customer service team will make sure that you can learn about how CBD can best benefit you and determine which products are most suitable for your needs. When you’re ready to take your next steps with CBD, you can browse our shop and reach out to our customer service team with any questions.



By: Lior Shapiro