History of Hemp: Hemp Rope to Hempcrete Houses

History of Hemp: Hemp Rope to Hempcrete Houses

There is obviously a lot of respect for hemp as the source of CBD oil and its current usefulness as a wide-ranging, natural, non-psychoactive molecule.

CBD quickly became a healthcare resource, but in discussing whole-plant benefits of CBD, the hemp plant has historically been important in America since colonial times.

Hemp could be used to pay your taxes in those days, and into the 1700s, hemp was considered important enough that you could be jailed for not growing it. George Washington memorably told one of his plantation managers at Mount Vernon, “Grow it everywhere!”

As late as the 1850 census, there were 8,400 plantations with over 2,000 acres of hemp, equalling over 17 million acres.

In contrast, the U.S. planted over three times as much acreage in hemp in 2018 (78,200 acres) as there was in 2017 (25,700 acres). And with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill making industrial hemp federally legal, you can expect that number to grow.

We might seem amazed at the wide range of uses CBD oil has right now, but in 1938, Popular Mechanics proclaimed that hemp would be America’s first billion dollar crop – and had 25,000 uses.

The fact that archaeologists found a piece of hemp cloth in Mesopotamia dating to 8,000 B.C. shows that hemp’s contribution has been around a long, long time.

Hemp Rope

Hemp paper to hemp rope: the world’s most versatile plant

The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp, and even in the late 1880s, about 80% of the newspapers in this country were printed on hemp paper.

Industry figures from 1916 show that hemp produced 4x more paper per acre than trees.

The original Levi jeans of 1849 gold-rush fame were produced from hemp.

Until steam power began moving ships, tons of hemp rope was needed on all sailing vessels. A medium-sized ship in colonial times would have over thirty tons of rigging and sails.
That’s a boatload of hemp rope.

In the early 1900’s, as the auto industry began, Henry Ford built a huge biomass refinery to turn hemp into diesel fuel to run all those cars he produced

In 1941, Ford produced a car with side panels made from hemp and wheat straw that was said to be stronger than steel.

History shows that World War II revived the hemp industry in order to handle all the war materials the U.S. needed, from the webbing on parachutes to uniforms and boots.

Between 1942-1945, the U.S. government planted over 400,000 acres of hemp. But as soon as the federal government had no need for hemp, it was cast aside and placed under lock and key.

The not-so-infamous history of hemp

Immediately after the war, hemp was lumped in with its THC-heavy counterpart, marijuana, and was prohibited once again.

Although that wasn’t the first, or last, time industrial hemp was part of such inclusion, politics have often been part of the problem.

There was a worldwide movement in the early 1900's to ban the cannabis plant all together.

Smoking it was seen as more ‘a problem of the masses’ in foreign countries other than the U.S. Although hemp was specifically set aside in the Opium Convention of 1912, that didn’t save it from being largely stamped out in U.S.

By the time the U.S. government prohibited it in the 1930s, hemp was already banned in twenty-nine states and two dozen countries.

The ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda film of 1936 is still considered the message that set a downward path for all plants of the cannabis family.

Between the last commercial hemp farm licensed in 1957 and the first license to a pair of North Dakota brothers in 2007, the hemp industry all but disappeared for half a decade.

While industrial hemp and marijuana were recognized as distinct varieties of cannabis until the end of the 1960s, they were trapped together in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. This meant that both hemp and marijuana were one and the same, despite having vastly different biological makeups.

Both marijuana and industrial hemp – or simply hemp – are both part of the Cannabis sativa plant family. However, the main distinguishing factor is THC content.

Also referred to as tetrahydrocannabinol by whitecoats, THC is the well-known, high-inducing cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Marijuana is bred to have a higher THC content, whereas hemp is grown will very little THC content.

In order to be considered legal hemp, the plant must contain less than 0.3% THC. All hemp.

Having now escaped the clutches of the DEA’s Schedule I classification thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018, everything about hemp and CBD oil seems to be looking strong for the future.


From hempcrete to hemp biofuel: the future of hemp applications

Hempcrete is stronger than cement and cheaper than graphene.

Early settlers knew hemp was a super-hardy plant, one that even outworked weeds to survive.

As a rotation crop, also known as a bioaccumulator, it improved the soil for food crops and provided materials for clothes.

From an industrial POV, hemp has applications even beyond its now famous CBD molecule.

CBD Science

Three fairly incredible factors regarding the hemp plant are becoming popular topics of conversation:

1. Hemp biofuel

Beyond the major changes brought by the CBD molecule, the hemp seed biofuel Henry Ford created to run all those cars he produced will still run diesel engines today! No matter what the mixture, without modifying any engines, it works 100 years after the fact.

2. Hempcrete

Hemp is also energy efficient, a great insulator, fire resistant, requires minimal maintenance and as hempcrete, can expect to last hundreds of years.

The addition of lime with the inner woody core (hurd) makes hemcrete a building material that is one-sixth the weight of standard concrete.

Hemp can be recycled, is 100% biodegradable, and construction actually takes CO2 out of the air because the plant is locked into the material.

Hempcrete hits an incredibly high engineering standard, while using the most useless parts of the plant. Although still not used as a structural element like cement blocks, hempcrete buildings have a bright future.

3. Hemp supercapacitor

A third unique hemp product is very, very high tech: the development of a process for converting hemp waste into a unique nanomaterial that outperforms graphene.

In layman’s terms, whitecoats are working to find a way for hemp to produce power.

The difference between a battery, which ‘leaks’ energy, and supercapacitors (possibly like hemp) is the ability to provide all available power on demand.

Hemp’s bark can be cooked into carbon nanosheets – supposedly better than graphene for supercapacitor electrodes – and can be manufactured for less than $500 per ton.

The current price for graphene is $2,000 a gram, meaning that the scrap parts of a hemp plant represent an ample opportunity to create a cheap base material for the manufacturing process of a desirable material.

More than just Hemp Rope

What used to be called ‘ditch weed’ because it grew anywhere, is now one of the most popular and productive plants in the world.

If the hemp plant seems to keep providing more reasons to continue researching it, hemp-derived CBD oil products and hempcrete are two reasons that make a lot of sense to explore.

While it seems difficult to imagine how such an amazing plant got so definitely pushed aside several times in the past, hemp plants as a viable resource show signs of even further success ahead regarding CBD and the hemp plant in its entirety.

Hemp spent forty-nine years as a Schedule 1 drug linked to cannabis – meaning it had no medical use and potential for addictive – but the truth, and stigma of being related to ‘the other plant,’ seems to be fading.

As continued research reveals the many uses of CBD derived from hemp, popular opinion seems to be gravitating towards hemp returning to history glory.

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