Hemp has been grown for at least the last 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and food. It has only been effectively prohibited in the United States since the 1950s, mostly because large corporate interests did not want any competition to interfere with their profits so fought to get it banned.
Our country was literally founded by hemp farmers, with the help of hemp products.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both founding fathers of our great nation, grew hemp. Ben Franklin, another of our founding fathers, owned a mill that made hemp paper. According to the US Government Archives, the first Bibles, maps, charts, Betsy Ross's flag, and the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were all made from hemp.
Industrial Hemp Overview
Because of its low lignin content, hemp can be pulped using less chemicals than with wood. Its natural brightness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams. A kinder and gentler chemistry using hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine dixoide is possible with hemp fibers.
Hemp paper threatened DuPont's monopoly on the necessary chemicals for manufacturing paper from trees and hemp fiber cloth would compete with Nylon, a synthetic fibre, that was patented in 1938, the year hemp was made illegal. It is often asserted in pro-cannabis publications that DuPont actively supported the criminalization of the production of hemp in the US in 1937 through private and government intermediates, and alleged that this was done to eliminate hemp as a source of fiber—one of DuPont's biggest markets at the time. The bottom line? The fact that Industrial Hemp is illegal has more to do with dollars than with sense.
Hemp oil once greased machines. Most paints, resins, shellacs, and varnishes used to be made out of linseed (from flax) and hemp oils. There are more than 25,000 known uses for hemp. According to the Sherman Williams Paint Co. testimony before Congress against the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, 58,000 tons of hemp seeds were used in America for paint products in 1935 alone. Almost any product that can be made from wood, cotton, or petroleum, including plastics can be made from hemp. Hemp is considered the world's most versatile fiber.
Hemp was grown commercially in the United States until the 1950s. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, placed an extremely high tax on marijuana and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While Congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, and as it's successor the US Drug Enforcement Administration does to this day.
Because of its importance for sails (the word "canvass" is rooted in "cannabis") and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies. It was even legal to pay taxes with hemp in America from 1631 until the early 1800s. When US sources of "Manila hemp" (not true hemp) was cut off by the Japanese in WWII, the US Army and US Department of Agriculture promoted the "Hemp for Victory" campaign to grow hemp in the US.
For thousands of years, 90% of all ships' sails and rope were made from hemp. The word 'canvas' is Dutch for hemp; (from Webster's New World Dictionary). Refusing to grow hemp in America during the 17th and 18th centuries was against the law! You could be jailed in Virginia for refusing to grow hemp from 1763 to 1769 (G. M. Herdon.Hemp in Colonial Virginia).
Tax This Plant!
Now, with all of the above information in mind, don't you think it's time we legalized and taxded this amazing plant, and reaped the benefits from it the way our founding fathers did before us?