Celebrate Hemp History Week in style for seven days this June — from July 17 to July 23 this year. The largest educational campaign about hemp in the U.S., Hemp History Week (now rebranded to Hemp Week) is an initiative by Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade group comprising hemp companies, researchers, farmers, and supporters. This initiative was undertaken to educate the public about the positive impacts of this fiber and oil-seed crop and to raise support to farm, process, and produce this renewable raw material across the U.S.
History of Hemp History Week
Originating in Central Asia, records indicate hemp was first used as a food source. The Christian era saw this crop being cultivated in the Mediterranean countries of Europe and, from there, it gradually spread throughout this continent. The uses of hemp became more varied — the Chinese used it as paper, its seeds were used to make lamp oil and paint, and it was even used to make linen. By the 16th century, hemp found its way into North America. Many of America’s Founding Fathers even advocated for this crop’s benefits at this time. Around the 19th century, taxes were imposed on the cultivation of hemp, although this was briefly lifted during the Second World War as they needed this crop to produce various items. In fact, the U.S. government released a pro-hemp documentary “Hemp for Victory,” encouraging farmers to grow hemp to support the war. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also promoted hemp during this time and all these efforts led to around 400,000 ha of hemp being planted throughout the Midwest and Southeast of the U.S. After the war, multiple countries, including the U.S., banned cannabis without any distinction between hemp and marijuana, which greatly prevented research and production of this crop.
Cultivation for non-drug-related purposes was allowed a few years later in the U.S. However, the hemp industry began to show signs of a major decline by the 20th century as modern machines and artificially produced fibers were introduced. Under President Obama, hemp took on more meaning, as the government passed a bill distinguishing hemp from marijuana and legalizing the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes.
The History of Hemp Week (aka Hemp History Week) began almost 11 years ago when the Hemp Industries Association and Vote Hemp decided to celebrate America’s rich history with the industrial uses of this crop and spread awareness about it.
Hemp History Week timeline
Certain Asian regions — modern-day Taiwan and China — show traces of hemp crops; there are remnants of hemp cords used in pottery and records of it being used as food in China.
Records show hemp is cultivated for fiber in China.
Hindu religion documents this 'sacred grass' as one of the five sacred plants of India, and it is considered a gift in this region.
Northern Europe shows signs of hemp use during this time — hemp rope is found in southern Russia and Greece, and hemp seeds and leaves are found in Germany.
China begins using the stalk of hemp to make paper.
Old data indicates the presence of hemp crops in Chile from this period.
King Henry VII fines farmers if they don't grow hemp.
Hemp is the key ingredient in the making of clothes, shoes, ropes, paper, and food.
American farmers are required by law to grow hemp as a staple crop.
The U.S. taxes anyone dealing in cannabis and, unfortunately, this rule does not distinguish between hemp and marijuana — Europe continues to cultivate hemp at this time, but the use of artificial fibers is growing.
The tax on the cultivation of hemp is lifted as the U.S. army needs this crop to make uniforms, canvas, and ropes.
The Soviet Union becomes the world’s largest producer of hemp, developing new varieties at the Institute of Bast Crops in Ukraine.
The U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is ratified, which results in cannabis being banned in many countries — as hemp and marijuana haven't been distinguished yet, hemp is banned too.
The U.K. issues cultivation licenses allowing hemp to be grown for non-drug-related purposes.
The first hemp licenses in over 50 years are given to two farmers in North Dakota.
To put the spotlight on the industrial uses of hemp and to garner more support for its cultivation, the Hemp Industries Association and Vote Hemp establish Hemp History Week.
Hemp is legally distinguished from marijuana and it is now allowed to be cultivated for industrial use under this bill.
Hemp is redefined as an agricultural commodity — it is now out of the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the purview of the Controlled Substances Act.
Hemp History Week FAQs
What is hemp?
Hemp (also called industrial hemp) is the same species of plant as cannabis but it is a different variety. This plant has often been cultivated for its fiber, seeds, and oil.
Is hemp FDA approved?
The Food and Drug Association classifies hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil as ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS). GRAS ingredients do not require additional approval before inclusion and are in accordance with FDA regulations.
What can hemp be used for?
There are more than 50,000 different uses of hemp, including for textiles (clothing, handbags, shoes), industrial textiles (rope, canvas, tarp, carpeting), paper (printing, newsprint, cardboard, packaging), body care (soaps, shampoos, balms, cosmetics), and more.
How To Celebrate Hemp History Week
Learn about hemp and its history
During this week, the organizations supporting Hemp History Week showcase the wide-ranging benefits of this crop, from its environmental- and entrepreneurial- to its economic impacts. You can check out local events online or offline, or visit leading hemp manufacturer websites for literature about this versatile crop.
Buy a hemp-based product
Hemp is used across various products apart from major industrial use, like in nutritional supplements, food, and body care. In the past, leading hemp product manufacturers — such as Bluebird Botanicals, Dr. Bronner's, Manitoba Harvest, Nutiva, PlusCBD Oil, and Prana Principle — would offer discounts on select hemp products at certain retail outlets across the U.S. You can check to see if local stores stock and provide discounts, and try out some hemp-based products.
Explore events past and present
Want to see how companies and organizations have celebrated past Hemp History Weeks? Check out the About page on the Hemp History Week website; they upload highlights of past celebrations on their event photography page. You can even use these to get inspired, get involved, and organize your own hemp event.
5 Fun Facts About Hemp
The biggest share of imports
The U.S. is the world's largest importer of hemp.
Celebrities endorse this week, too
Some famous names lending their support to this week include Alicia Silverstone, Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, and Grammy award-winning band Ozomatli.
Hemp was substituted for tobacco
In the 16th and 17th centuries — when the price of pure tobacco was very high — hemp was added to tobacco mixtures, which also made the tobacco tastier.
Important documents were made of hemp
Some important documents like the Declaration of Independence were drafted on hemp paper.
China is the leading hemp producer
70% of the world's total hemp output comes from China.
Why We Love Hemp History Week
Hemp can help our planet recover
Hemp is an incredibly eco-friendly crop that can be used as a renewable source of raw materials for various products. It is also ecologically more sound than crops like cotton and trees. This crop is so versatile, it can be used to house us, clothe us, feed us, heal us, and ultimately, protect the environment. It even grows much faster than trees, which is great for our planet’s health.
It reduces misinformation
Hemp is a misunderstood crop in many ways. This causes barriers to its launch as a valid alternative to other raw materials. Celebrating Hemp History Week reduces the old stigma attached to cultivating this crop. The subsequent increase in awareness in people's minds is bringing this crop and its uses into the mainstream.
Learning about hemp is healthy
Did you know about the health benefits of hemp oil and seeds? And the fact that hemp boosts heart, skin, and digestive health? You can get a whopping 11 grams of protein in just three tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds! Learning how the perception of hemp changed over the years has led us to realize how nutritionally valuable hemp is, and helps us appreciate this crop more.