Sailmaking and the American Colonies

During it’s scuttlebutt with Russia, England looked to the American Colonies for independence from Russian Hemp. In 1717, English merchants became so fed up with Russian cheating, they complained loudly enough to Parliament to pressure the English secretary of state to threaten the Russian ambassador that unless the abuses stopped once and for all England would go elsewhere for its hemp, such as the American colonies.

Parliament lamented: The royal navy and the navigation of England under God, the wealth, safety and strength of this kingdom depends on the due supply of stores necessary for the same, which [are] being now brought in mostly from foreign parts in foreign shipping at exorbitant and arbitrary rates…

A pamphlet written by a Sir Richard Haines spoke directly at England’s need to become self-sufficient in hemp: “…a further advantage by this planting of hemp, etc., will accrue towards making of sails, cables, and other cordage necessary for shipping, of which may be made at home, without being beholden to our neighbours for a commodity so important to navigation, parting with our money to strangers for it, as we usually do to a very great yearly value.”

Robert “King” Carter

One of the better known Virginia landowners who astutely anticipated both the war and the demand for hemp was Robert “King” Carter, an early ancestor of
President Jimmy Carter. Although he owned more than 300,000 acres in Virginia, Carter was much more than just a wealthy land baron. During his career, he held many colonial offices among which were justice of the peace, member of the House of the Burgesses, speaker of the House, colonial treasurer, and commander of the local militia. The Carters and other Virginia aristocrat societies were leaders in every social, religious, and political event that took place in the colony. So held in awe was Carter that it was said no Christian save the minister would think of entering Christ’s Church on the Sabbath before “King” Carter arrived.

In 1774, on the eve of the Revolution, Carter took stock of the political situation in the colonies and decided that tobacco would no longer be a profitable concern. Accordingly, he wrote to one of his foremen, “I apprehend that tobacco which may be here, next summer will be in little demand… [Therefore] in place of tobacco – hemp and flax will be grown.” At the same time, he erected a spinning factory on his plantation to process the future hemp crop.

Even with the hemp from his own vast farmlands, Carter did not have enough hemp to suit his needs. In 1775, he bought five hundred pounds from his stepbrother. In 1776, he bought two tons more. Much of this hemp was spun into osnaburg, a coarse fabric used to make shirts and trousers for workmen and the Revolution’s soldiers.

Hemp was more than just fiber for clothes, however. It was also money. In 1781, Governor Thomas Jefferson received a note from David Ross, Virginia’s purchasing agent, stating that his buyer in Philadelphia “writes me the 2,000 Stand of Arms will be ready this week.” But to pay for them, he was “obliged to engage hemp” since there was “no encouragement from Congress that they can do anything for [us] in money matters. Tobacco will not do there and we have nothing to depend upon but our hemp.” In a later note, Ross acknowledged that Jefferson was reserving “The hemp in the back country… to be used in paying for articles bought in Philadelphia and a valuable Fund…” A year later, a Philadelphia businessman likewise noted that “hemp, tar, pitch, and turpentine command cash in preference to any other goods”.

More Valuable Than Cash

The reason hemp was more valuable than cash was simple. Paper money had no value in the colonies. A thousand dollars in Virginia currency, for example, was only worth one dollar in silver. Because of the lack of faith in paper money, the American economy operated on the barter system. And because of hemp’s comparative uniformity, its comparative freedom from deterioration, the universal and steady demand for it, and its value, which exceeded all other raw produce”, it “was recognized as the standard commodity for the first three or four decades” of the new American republic. Anything and everything could be bartered for hemp, from the local newspaper to the services of stud racehorses.

The American Revolution altered the lives of the American people in many ways. Hitherto, the colonists had relied heavily on imports from England, especially for clothing. Had it not been for organizations like the Daughters of Liberty, whose enthusiasm and efforts encouraged colonial women to make their own clothes, the disastrous winter of 1778 at Valley Forge might have been typical of life throughout the northern colonies.

In addition to making clothes and rope from hemp, the Americans had another equally important need for the precious fiber during the Revolution – paper. Although hemp was a basic ingredient in the invention of paper, other materials such as flax and cotton had long since replaced it. However, in 1716, a pamphlet was published on the art of papermaking entitled ‘Essays For the Month of December 1716”, to be continued monthly by a Society of Gentlemen for the benefit of the people of England, which urged papermakers to return once again to hemp.

Detailed instructions were given as to how to prepare the hemp for the job and paper mill owners were invited to plant hemp in their yards so that they would have their own supply of raw material.

In 1765, a dedicated English paper manufacturer named Jacob Christian Schaffer began writing a long and thorough text on the art of papermaking which was based on experiments he himself had made during his career in the paper industry. In going over the different materials that had been used to make paper in the past, Schooner noted that while rage and worn-out linen were the main raw materials for making paper in his day, “The dearth of this material is now complained of everywhere.” To deal with this shortage Schooner proposed hemp fiber as an alternative, and to prove its feasibility, he printed portions of the third volume of his textbook on pages made form hemp fiber.

Several years after the publication of Schaffer’s books on the art of papermaking, Robert Bell, an American printer who in 1777 identified his shop as “next door to St. Paul’s Church, in Third Street, Philadelphia,” likewise suggested that hemp be used as a raw material for making paper in the colonies, since now they had declared their independence from England they could no longer count on cotton or flax imports.

The problem was, however, that once war broke out, hemp became just as scarce as any other fibrous materials. For a time American papermakers had to scrounge, beg, and plead for people to bring them their old rags so that the United States would have paper upon which money, business accounts, military commands, etc., could be written. The shortage did not last forever and after the War of Independence papermakers could choose what materials to use in producing paper. But for a time, the acute hemp and paper shortage threatened to undermine the American war effort.

How Hemp Clothed Early America

As long as spinning and weaving were primarily household activities, they were encouraged by Parliament. But when they developed to the point that colonial imports began declining due to homemade goods, England tried to restrict these activities.

The mercantile system which England adopted as an integral part of her policy toward her American colonies was basically one which required the colonists to be suppliers of raw materials to and consumers of finished goods from the mother country. By the eighteenth century, spinning and weaving had increased to such a degree that British merchants began to complain to Parliament that the colonists were not buying enough British-made goods given their alleged dependency on English manufacturing.

In response to this pressure from the business sector, Parliament passed the Wool Act in 1699, which essentially deprived the colonists of the right to import wool. To circumvent this restriction, the colonists made more and more use of hemp and flax fibers. In 1708, Calib Heathcote, a New York colonist seeking a contract from the British Board of Trade to supply naval stores to England, wrote that his neighbors “were already so far advanced that three fourths of the linen and woolen used, was made amongst them… and if some speedy and effectual ways are not found effectual ways are not found to put a stop to it, they will carry it on a great deal further…”

Parliament demanded an explanation from Governor Dudley of Massachusetts concerning the reluctance of the colonists to buy British goods. Dudley replied that Americans would be more than happy to buy and wear goods made in England if they could pay for them. But since they could not earn enough money from chopping wood and sawing lumber, they were forced to make and sell their own goods, leaving those that were made in Britain to more affluent New Englanders.
Text and photos:
“The Great Book of Hemp” by Rowan Robinson, 1996; “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer, 2000; “Hemp Horizons” by John W. Roulac, 1997; “Journal of Industrial Hemp” published by The Haworth Press, Inc., 1996; “Marijuana, The First 12,000 Years” by Ernest Abel.

Mercantilism and the “Spinning Bee”

The event which ultimately transformed the colonies from part-time household producers of clothing to full-time manufacturers, and caused more than one ulcer in the British business community, was the arrival in Boston in 1718 of a number of professional spinners and weavers from Ireland. Although colonial women had been spinning their own thread for some time, their expertise was nowhere near that of the professional European craftsmen. When these newcomers landed in Boston, the women of the town asked them for advice on how to make better cloth. The immigrants were more than obliging, and soon Boston’s women, young and old, rich and poor, were flocking to the Common where a makeshift spinning school had been set up to teach the colonists how to spin thread professionally. The whir of spinning wheels soon filled the air from morning to night as each woman competed with her neighbor to produce more and better thread.

Boston’s womenfolk, it was said, had been bitten by the “spinning craze”. It was the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, however, that really sent the women of New England to their spinning wheels in earnest. The new law promulgated by Parliament did more to crystallize opposition to the import and consumption of British goods in the colonies than did any other single measure.

Businessmen refused to purchase any products made in England and colonists agreed not to wear any clothing except that manufactured domestically. In New England, the campaign not to buy British goods was led by a group of women who called themselves the Daughters of Liberty. To meet the expected demand that a boycott against British goods would create in the colonies, the Daughters turned to “spinning bees”, as the “spinning crazes” were now called.

Between 1766 and 1771, women across New England met in churches, meeting halls, private homes, and anywhere else that was available, to spin in groups. Speaking at one such gathering, held in Providence, Rhode Island, the Boston Chronicle on April 7, 1766, wrote that the women gathered there “exhibited a fine example of industry, by spinning from sunrise until dark, and displayed a spirit for saving their sinking country, rarely to be found among persons of more age and experience.”

These spinning bees were not without results. Production of cloth materials increased in every town and village, and it was not long before there was more than enough homemade cloth to clothe anyone who wanted American made garments. The “spinning bee” soon spread to other colonies as well. In Philadelphia, a market was opened especially for the sale of domestic fabrics. In Virginia, George Washington erected a spinning house on his plantation. Even as far as South Carolina, domestic production of fabrics increased markedly as the spirit of resistance filtered down from New England to the southern colonies.

As a result of these spontaneous gatherings, the colonists became self-sufficient in clothes. When the Revolution came and textile materials from England were completely cut off, the colonists did not face the kind of potential predicament had they not learned to manufacture their own household goods. Until trade relations could be started with other countries, the colonists were able to supply uniforms and basic clothing for their army. To maintain their newly declared independence, the American colonies not only had to field an army, they had to become self-reliant in all the resources necessary to support that army and the civilian population. Grain and beef suddenly became the chief priorities for the fledgling nation. Once they were sure of food, the colonists could devote their efforts to raising raw materials for the war effort. Foremost among the raw materials being demanded was hemp. The Revolution’s impact on the hemp industry was reflected in the price for hemp fiber.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, hemp sold for about twenty-seven to thirty-five shillings per hundredweight. Between 1780 and 1782, the price soared to three hundred shillings.

Much of Virginia’s hemp was produced by small farmers and was subsequently processed into rope and cordage. There were no fewer than eighteen “ropewalks” in Virginia transforming raw hemp fiber into badly needed rope during the Revolution, and there was still a shortage of rope. These ropewalks and various sailmaking factories sprang up all over the colony to supply the needs of the colonial navy. So important were rope and sail to the war effort that any man who worked at these jobs for at least six months was excused from military duty for the duration of the war.

Virginia’s ropewalks were also considered an important war industry by the British. In April 1781, when Benedict Arnold led a force of British infantry up the Jones River and penetrated as far as Richmond, one objective of his mission was the “Public Rope Walk” in Warwick, which he destroyed. This ropewalk was the biggest rope-manufacturing factory in Virginia and its loss dealt a considerable blow to Virginia’s rope production for the war effort.

The Invention of the Cotton Gin

Several inventions in textile machinery occurred in a relatively short time period during the industrial revolution: the flying shuttle, spinning jenny, spinning frame, and the cotton gin.

These inventions facilitated the handling of large quantities of harvested cotton. In 1764, a British carpenter and weaver named James Hargreaves invented an improved spinning jenny, a hand-powered multiple spinning machine that was the first machine to improve upon the spinning wheel.

The Demise of the American Hemp Farms

The death blow to the American hemp industry came in the wake of the Civil War. Once trade broke off with the north, suppliers in the south lost a major market for bagging and cordage. Things were no better in the south. With no cotton to be shipped to the north or to Europe, the Confederate Congress prohibited the raising of cotton except for home use. Since no cotton was being baled, there was no need for bale rope and farmers lost their best customers.
While northern demand for hemp was unabated, businessmen had to rely exclusively on costly foreign fiber even for jobs that did not need high-quality fiber. With the loss of the cotton trade, an investigation was begun to consider the practicality of producing thread from hemp. Congress appropriated twenty thousand dollars to pay a Pennsylvanian congressman to look into the matter. His report was offered in 1865, too late to have any impact, and was ignored. Moreover, all the information he submitted was taken from contemporary encyclopedias and from some letters written to the commissioner of agriculture.

After the Civil War, hemp production never recovered. Faced with competition in the form of iron wire cables and bands, and cheaper jute bagging, many farmers simply gave up on hemp and turned instead to other agricultural staples such as wheat.

Yet hemp did not disappear from the American landscape. As late as 1890, $33,000,000 worth of cordage was manufactured in the United States, and during World War I, the hemp industry experienced a temporary revival. But the vast hemp plantations in Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi were gone forever. In later years, it would even become illegal to grow hemp, as Americans learned that the once-commonplace plant was a “depraver of youth” and a “provoker of crime” called marijuana.


1837 Hemp Duties


1722 – 1820 Hemp Rope Walks

Hemp Prints of the 1700 -1800


Hemp Medicines, Ads, & Other Era Documents

The Beginnings

Hemp, along with wheat, beans, and rice, were produced by early Neolithic farmer communities along the Wei and Yellow rivers. Remains of hemp fibers and seeds have been recovered from archeological sites especially near the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Through long term efforts, the ancient Chinese domesticated hemp from a wild plant into a cultivated crop approximately 8000 B.C.
Ancient and modern historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, and philologists cite physical evidence (artifacts, relics, textiles, cuneiform, languages, etc.) indicating that cannabis is one of mankind’s oldest cultivated crops. The weaving of hemp fiber as an industry began 10,000 years ago, at approximately the same time as pottery – making and prior to metal working. – Columbia History of the World”, Harper & Row, 1981.
Archeological records show that hemp, or cannabis sativa, was first utilized and domesticated in ancient Taiwan and China. 10,000-4000 B.C.

Tai Ma – Great Hemp

By the 27th Century B.C., the Chinese “Ma” (cannabis hemp) was used for fiber, food, and medicine. 3700 years later (circa 1000 A.D.), China called cannabis “Tai Ma” or “great hemp,” to differentiate it from minor plants, which were now grouped under the generic fiber term “Ma.” Their pictogram for true or great hemp is a large “man,” indicating the strong relationship between man and hemp. – Shen Nung Pharmacopoeia, Ponts’ao; Han Dynasty Classics; et al.
Archeological records show that hemp, or cannabis sativa, was first utilized and domesticated in ancient Taiwan and China from 10,000-4000 B.C. Cannabis seed was used for food by the ancient Chinese. “The Book of Songs” has the following mention of the use of hemp seed for food, “Farmers eat hemp seeds in September.”
Hemp was commonly grown as a seed crop throughout the Spring and Autumn period (770 to 476 BC), Warring States period, the Qin dynasty (221 to 207 BC), and the Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD). The ‘Li Qi’ places hemp among the “five grains” of ancient China which included barley, rice, wheat, and soybeans. Hemp seed remained a staple of the Chinese diet through the 10th century when other higher quality grain became more widespread.
There are hemp seeds and inscriptions of the characters ‘tai’ and ‘ma’ on bones found amongst the relics unearthed from the Jin dynasty (265 to 420 AD) ruins in Henan province. Among the sacrificial objects unearthed from the Han dynasty era are: the Ma Wang Dui tomb near Changsha in the Hunan province, where hemp seeds were stored together with those of rice, millet, and wheat. Hemp seed remains were also found inside of earthenware grain storage jars recovered from a tomb at Shao-kou near the Han dynasty capital of Lo-yang in present day Hunan province.
In fact, every district in ancient China grew hemp. Typically, each district tried to be self-sufficient and grow everything it needed to support its own needs. When it couldn’t raise something itself, it grew crops or manufactured materials that it could trade for essential goods. Accordingly, crops were planted around homes not only because of the suitability of the land, but also because of their commercial value. The closer to the home, the greater the value of the crop.
Because food was essential, millet and rice were grown wherever land and water were available. Next came vegetable gardens and orchards, and beyond them the textile plants, chiefly hemp. Cereals and vegetables came thereafter. After the hemp was harvested by the men, the women, who were the weavers, manufactured clothes from the fibers for the family. After the family’s needs were satisfied, other garments were produced for sale. To support their families, weaving began in autumn and lasted all winter.

The Land of Mulberry and Hemp

In fact, hemp was so highly regarded by the Chinese that they called their country the “land of mulberry and hemp”. A piece of hemp cloth was unearthed at a ruin named Ma Wang Dui No. 1 near Changsha in Hunan province. Careful analysis showed that the fiber diameter was 21.83 microns, and the fiber cross sectional area was 153.01 square microns. Both values are very close to those common for present day hemp varieties. The weave of the cloth is relatively tight, indicating that weaving techniques had become quite advanced by this time.
Hemp was one of the earliest crop plants of China. Through long term efforts, the ancient Chinese domesticated hemp from a wild plant into a cultivated crop. According to the Chinese historic records and archeological data, the history of Chinese hemp cultivation and use spans approximately 5,000 to 6,000 years. The archeological record shows that China was the earliest region to cultivate and use hemp. From the time of the earliest primitive societies (about 4,000 -5,000 years ago) to the Qin and Hah dynasties (221 BC to 220 AD) ancient Chinese techniques of hemp sowing, cultivation, and processing developed rapidly and became fairly advanced.
*One ‘chi’ equals about 1/3 meter or 13 inches.
**One ‘mu’ equals about 660 square meters.
***One ‘shi’ equals about 30 kilograms or 66 pounds.
****One ‘cun’ equals about 2.5 centimeters or one inch

Cultivation and Fertilization

“Hoe up all the weeds in the field during the summer solstice (June 21), let them dry in the sun, and then burn them into ash. All these ashes will permeate into the soil after a heavy rain and the soil will be fertilized.”
This is also one of the earliest mentions of using potash fertilizer in agriculture from “Ji Sheng’s Book” written by Ji Sheng during the Western Han dynasty (206 BC to 24 AD) and “Qi Min Yao Shu” written by Gui Shi Xian during the Northern Wei dynasty (386 to 534 AD). All of these books contain accounts of hemp cultivation. “Deep plow and fertilize the soil before sowing the seed. When spring comes, about February to March, let the dusk of four rainy days to sow seeds. Remove the hemp’s big leaves when it is growing. Then thin out seedlings according to the distance of 9 per ‘chi’*. Fertilize the hemp with silkworm excrement when it has grown to one chi tall, and when it has grown to three chi tall, fertilize it with silkworm and pig excrement. Water the hemp frequently, and if there is much rain, the quantity of water should be decreased. The water from wells should be used where there is no river near the field and it should be warmed by the sun before using. By using all of these controls, the yield of dry stalks and leaves from each ‘mu’** could be 50-100 ‘shi’*** and the lowest yield could be 30 shi. The quality of hemp fiber depends not only on the field controls, but also on the sowing time. If the sowing time is early, the fiber will be thick and strong and can be harvested early. Otherwise, the fiber will not be mature. So, it is better to sow hemp seed early instead of late.”
“If we pull out the male hemp before it scatters pollen, the female plant cannot make seed. Otherwise, the female plant’s seed production will be influenced by the male hemp plants scattering pollen and during this period of time, the fiber of the male hemp plant is the best.” Ancient Chinese hemp cultivation techniques of collecting seeds, sowing time, field controls, and their influence on hemp quality were also recorded in “The Essential Arts for the People”, or Qi Min Yao Shu, which is a precious legacy of ancient Chinese science written 1,400 years ago.
“The Essential Arts for the People” systematically summarized the ancient Chinese techniques of hemp cultivation. In the text, there are accurate records about the relation between the male hemp plant scattering pollen and the female hemp plant bearing seed.

Ts’ai Lun’s Bright Idea – The Origins of Hemp Fibre

Ts’ai Lun had a better idea. Why not make a tablet out of fiber? But how? Producing writing tablets the way clothes were manufactured, by patiently intermingling individual fibers was not practical. There had to be some other way to get the fibers to mix with one another in a lattice structure that would be sturdy enough not to fall apart. No one knows how Ts’ai Lun finally discovered the secret of manufacturing paper from fiber. Perhaps it was a case of trial and error. However, the method he finally devised involved crushing hemp fibers and mulberry tree bark into a pulp and placing the mixture in a tank of water. Eventually, the fibers rose to the top all tangled together. Portions of this flotsam were then removed and placed in a mold. When dried in such molds, the fibers formed into sheets which could then be written on. When Ts’ai Lun first presented his invention to China’s arm-weary bureaucrats, he thought they would react to it with great enthusiasm. Instead, he was jeered out of court.
Since no one at court was willing to recognize the importance of paper, Ts’ai Lun decided that the only way to convince people of its value was through trickery. He would use paper, he told all who would listen, to bring back the dead! With the help of some friends, Ts’ai Lun feigned death and had himself buried alive in a coffin. Unknown to most of those who witnessed the internment, the coffin contained a small hole; through it, a hollow bamboo shoot had been inserted, to provide the trickster an air supply. While his family and friends mourned his death, Ts’ai Lun patiently rested in his coffin below the earth. Then, some time later, his conspirators announced that if some of the paper invented by the dead man were burned, he would rise from the dead and once again take his place among the living.
Although highly skeptical, the mourners wished to give the departed every chance, so they set a sizable quantity of paper ablaze. When the conspirators felt that they had generated enough suspense, they exhumed the coffin and ripped off the cover. To the shock and amazement of all present, Ts’ai Lun sat up and thanked them for their devotion to him and their faith in his invention.
The resurrection was regarded as a miracle, the power of which was attributed to the magic of paper. So great an impression did the Houdini-like escape create that shortly thereafter the Chinese adopted the custom, which they still follow to this day, of burning paper over graves of the dead. Among the many important inventions credited to the Chinese, paper must surely rank at the very top. Without paper, the progress of civilization would have advanced at a snail’s pace. Mass production of newspapers, magazines, books, notepaper, etc, would all be impossible. Business and industry would come to a standstill without paper to record transactions, keep track of inventories, and make payments of large sums of money. Nearly every activity we now take for granted would be a monumental undertaking were it not for paper. According to Chinese legend, the paper-making process was invented by a minor court official, Ts’ai Lun, in A.D. 105.

The Invention of Paper

According to Chinese legend, the paper-making process was invented by a minor court official, Ts’ai Lun, in A.D. 105. Prior to that time, the Chinese carved their writings onto bamboo slips and wooden tablets. Before the invention of paper, Chinese scholars had to be physically fit if they wished to devote their lives to learning. When philosopher Me Ti moved around the country, for example, he took a minimum of three cartloads of books with him. Emperor Ts’in Shih Huagn, a particularly conscientious ruler, waded through 120 pounds of state documents a day in looking after his administrative duties! Without some less weighty writing medium, Chinese scholars and statesmen could look forward to at least one hernia if they were any good at their jobs. As a first alternative to these cumbersome tablets, the Chinese painted their words on silk fabric with brushes. But silk was very expensive. A thousand silkworms working day in and day out were needed to produce the silk for a simple “thank you” note.

The Word Spreads

It was not until the ninth century A.D. that the Arabs, and through them the rest of the world, learned how to manufacture paper. The events that led to the disclosure of the paper-making process are somewhat uncertain, but apparently the secret was pried from some Chinese prisoners captured by the Arabs during the Battle of Samarkand (in present-day Russia). The Chinese kept the secret of paper hidden for many centuries, but eventually it became known to the Japanese. In a small book entitled “A Handy Guide to Papermaking”; dating back to the fifth century A.D., the author states that “hemp and mulberry… have long been used in worshipping the gods. The business of paper making therefore, is no ignoble calling.”

The First Textiles

A piece of hemp textile with a silver-white design was unearthed from a tomb in a cliff near Guixi in Jiangxi province and dated to the Spring and Autumn (770 to 476 BC) or Warring States period (476 to 221 BC). During the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 AD), China had close trade relations with central and west Asian countries and there are many traces of hemp along the Silk Road. Two pairs of hemp shoes and a piece of hemp cloth were found in a tomb dated to 721 A.D. near Turfan in Xinjiang province of western China. This archeological data shows that the ancient Chinese had already known how to cultivate hemp and use its fiber to weave cloth at a very early date.
The ancient Chinese used the hemp plant for many different purposes. The bast fiber of the male plant was used to spin yarn and weave cloth. From the time of the earliest Chinese societies, until cotton was introduced into China during the Northern Song dynasty (960 to 1127 AD), hemp textile was the main cloth worn by the ancient Chinese. Many of the accounts of hemp use for cordage and textiles contained in the ancient Chinese texts have been corroborated by archeological discoveries.
During the Western Zhou dynasty (1100 to 771 BC) the hats of nobles were made of hemp. The fine diameter of the yarn in the cloth was equivalent to modern 70-80 count yarn. High-quality raw material, along with advanced cultivation and processing techniques were needed to produce such fine cloth.
Hemp cloth has a long association with burial rites. Corpses were often shrouded in hemp cloth before interment. Hemp corpse covers were recovered from Western Han Dynasty (206 BC to 24 AD) tombs in Gansu province. The hemp cloth outer shrouds were used to cover silk dresses and were then tied with hemp ropes.
We learn from these records that Han dynasty farmers not only knew to select the appropriate season to sow hemp, but also knew the principles of field controls, and selected the higher quality fibers from the male plants to spin textile yarn. The cultivation technique of hemp was increasingly perfected during the Qin (221 to 207 BC) and Han dynasties (206 BC to 220 AD) there are detailed descriptions in Ji Sheng’s Book of hemp’s cultivation techniques and quality control.
In 1972, fragments of cloth, bronze containers, weapons, and pieces of jade were found in an ancient burial site from the Zhou dynasty (1122-249 B.C.). Inspection of the cloth showed it to be made of hemp, making this the oldest preserved specimen of hemp in existence. As they became more familiar with the plant, the Chinese discovered it was dioecious (characterized by species in which the male and female reproductive organs occur on different individuals and are sexually distinct). Male plants were then clearly distinguished from females by name (hsi for the male, chu for the female). The Chinese also recognized that the male plants produced a better fiber than the female, whereas the female produced the better seeds. So important a place did hemp fiber occupy in ancient Chinese culture that the Book of Rites (second century B.C.) ordained that out of respect for the dead, mourners should wear clothes made from hemp fabric, a custom followed down to modern times. The ancient Chinese not only wove their clothes from hemp, they also used the sturdy fiber to manufacture shoes.

How the earthworm came to have white rings

According to Japanese legend, there were once two women who were both fine weavers of hemp fiber. One woman made fine hemp fabric but was a very slow worker. Her neighbor was just the opposite – she made coarse fabric but worked quickly. During market days, which were held only periodically, it was customary for Japanese women to dress in their best clothes, and as the day approached, the two women began to weave new dresses for the occasion. The woman who worked quickly had her dress ready on time, but it was not very fashionable. Her neighbor, who worked slowly, only managed to get the unbleached white strands ready, and when market day came, she didn’t have her dress ready. Since she had to go to market, she persuaded her husband to carry her in a large jar on his back so that only her neck, with the white undyed hemp strands around it would be visible. In this way, everyone would think she was clothed instead of being naked inside the jar. On the way to the market, the woman in the jar saw her neighbor and started making fun of her coarse dress. The neighbor shot back that at least she was clothed. “Break the jar,” she told everyone who could hear, “and you will find a naked woman”. The husband became so mortified that he dropped the jar, which broke, revealing his naked wife, clothed only in hemp strands around her neck. The woman was so ashamed as she stood naked before everyone that she buried herself in the earth so that she would not be seen and she turned into an earthworm. And that, according to the Japanese, is why the earthworm has white rings around its neck.

Hemp in Ancient Chinese Warfare

Hemp fiber was also once a factor in the wars waged by Chinese land barons. Initially, Chinese archers fashioned their bowstrings from bamboo fibers. When hemp’s greater strength and durability were discovered, bamboo strings were replaced with those made from hemp. Equipped with these superior bowstrings, archers could send their arrows further and with greater force. Enemy archers, whose weapons were made from inferior bamboo, were at a considerable disadvantage. With ineffectual archers, armies were vulnerable to attack at distances from which they could not effectively return the hail of deadly missiles that rained upon them. So important was the hemp bowstring that Chinese monarchs of old set aside large portions of land exclusively for hemp, the first agricultural war crop. Hemp, along with wheat, beans, and rice, were produced by early Neolithic farmer communities along the Wei and Yellow rivers. Remains of hemp fibers and seeds have been recovered from archeological sites especially near the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Through long term efforts, the ancient Chinese domesticated hemp from a wild plant into a cultivated crop approximately 8000 B.C.


Hemp and Religion

Because of hemp’s association with purity in Japanese religion, hemp traditionally has been used by Shinto priests, including the Japanese emperor himself who acts as a kind of chief priest of Shintoism. Several hemp fields are cultivated on Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan, to make ceremonial linen clothes for the Imperial family and for Shinto priests.
Hemp is also grown in some parts of Nagano prefecture by farmers with a hemp license and the fiber is used for bell ropes and noren (ritual curtains) for Shinto shrines as well as in sumo rituals. The reason for the hole in the Yen is that coins used to be lined up on hemp strings and carried around like that. In historic Japan (as in China before) everybody’s wallet used to be a piece of hemp, the most durable and trusted natural fibre known to man.
This is the main shrine of the Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. Since the Japanese emperors claim to be her descendants it is also the main shrine of Japanese Imperial family.
Five times a year so called “tai ma” (hemp) ceremonies are conducted at the shrine:
January 8:taima reki hôsei hajime sai
March 1: taima reki hampu chûryû sai
Mid-April: taima reki yôzai kiri hajime sai
September 17:taima reki hampu hajime sai
December 20:taima reki hosei chûryû sai

Legend of Marriage

Hemp fiber also played a part in love and marital life in Japan. Another ancient Japanese legend tells of a soldier who had been romancing a young girl and was about to bid her farewell without giving her as much as his name, rank, or regiment. But the girl was not about to be jilted by this handsome and charming paramour. Unbeknownst to her mysterious lover, she fastened the end of a huge ball of hemp rope to his clothing as he kissed her farewell. By following the thread, she eventually came to the temple of the god Miva, and discovered that her suitor had been none other than the god himself.
Besides its roles in such legends, hemp strands were an integral part of Japanese love and marriage. Hemp strands were often hung on trees as charms to bind lovers (as in the legend). Gifts of hemp were sent as wedding gifts by the man’s family to the prospective bride’s family as a sign that they were accepting the girl, and hemp strands were prominently displayed during wedding ceremonies to symbolize the traditional obedience of Japanese wives to their husbands. The basis of the latter tradition was the ease with which hemp could be dyed. Just as hemp could be dyed to any color, so, too, according to an ancient Japanese saying, must wives be willing to be “dyed in any color their husbands may choose”.

Hemp in Everyday Life

Hemp fiber was highly regarded among the Japanese and figured prominently in their everyday lives and legends. Hemp (asa) was the primary material in Japanese clothes, bedding, mats and nets. Clothes made of hemp fiber were especially worn during formal and religious ceremonies because of hemp’s traditional association with purity in Japan. So fundamental was hemp in Japanese life that it was often mentioned in legends explaining the origins of everyday things, such as how the Japanese earthworm came to have white rings around its neck.

Hemp Rope in Sumo

During the sumo ritual of dôyo-iri a yokozuna, the highest ranking sumo wrestler, will ritually cleanse the dôyo (sumo ring) to exorcise evil, wearing a hemp rope weighing several kilograms around his belly. The choice of material is no coincidence. The reason for it is hemp’s association with purity, with driving out evil spirits.

Way of the Gods

Hemp has an important function in the mythology of Shinto, the “Way of the Gods”, as the ancient indigenous religion of Japan is known. Hemp was used to purify, to drive out evil (exorcism). Hemp seeds were used in Shinto marriage ceremonies. In some ceremonies hemp leaves were burnt as an “invitation to the spirits”.
Even today there are Shinto ceremonies at major shrines such as Ise Jingu in Mie prefecture and other shrines that involve the burning of taima (hemp).

Purification Rites

Yet another use of hemp in Japan was in ceremonial purification rites for driving away evil spirits. As already mentioned, in China evil spirits were banished from the bodies of the sick by banging rods made from hemp against the head of the sickbed. In Japan, Shinto priests performed a similar rite with a gohei, a short stick with undyed hemp fibers (for purity) attached to one end. According to Shinto beliefs, evil and impurity cannot exist alongside one another, and so, by waving the gohei (purity) above someone’s head the evil spirit inside him would be driven away. “Well, the prayer given at the Ise Jingu, which is the shrine to Amaterasu, the founding god of the imperial family, is called taima, or hemp. Hemp and rice are two sacred things which are part and parcel of the rites conducted at Ise Jingu. This is because hemp and rice were the staple products of the Jomon and Yayoi cultures, respectively. This means they were the most sacred things to these people. The imperial tribe, which was an invading people, took possession of these two sacred things and made them into instruments of control,” – Yamada Kaiya, in the December 1995 issue of Jiyu Ishi, translated version in Tokyo Observer 15.
Another Shinto tale tells that every October, all the deities from around Japan gather at a sacred site in rural Shimane prefecture (Sea of Japan side of Honshu, south of Tottori) at Japan’s largest jinja (shrine) called Iizumo taisha. During this month, the rest of the nation is left unprotected from calamity while the Gods hold a harvest and match-making ritual celebration. Shimane-ken is far out of the way of any urban center and, besides being “Home of the Gods,” it was the home to bounteous hemp harvests up until about 50 years ago.” Ma, the Chinese word for hemp, is composed of two symbols which are meant to depict hemp. The part beneath and to the right of the straight lines represent hemp fibers dangling from a rack. The horizontal and vertical lines represent the home in which they were drying. There are also records about hemp cultivation and fertilization methods from the Zhou dynasty (1100 to 256 BC), with instruction for the best harvest.


Abel, Ernest, “Marijuana, The Text and photos courtesy of Abel, Ernest, “Marijuana, The First 12,000 Years”, 2005; Clarke, Robert C. and Xiaozhai Lu, “The Cultivation and Use of Hemp in Ancient China”, 1984; Hart, Michael, “Ts’ai Lun: In 100 A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”, (pg36-41), Hart Publishing Co., 1974; Huang, Heng-Zheng, “The Invention of Paper: In Inventions and Discoveries of the World”, (pp83-87), Yuan Liu Publishing Co., 1981; Li, Hui-Lin, “An archeological and historical account of Cannabis in China”, Economic Botany, 28(4): 437-448.First 12,000 Years”, 2005; Hart, Michael, “Ts’ai Lun. In 100 A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”, (pg36-41). Hart Publishing Co., 1974; Huang, Heng-Zheng, “The Invention of Paper: In Inventions and Discoveries of the World”, (pp83-87), Yuan Liu Publishing Co., 1981.

Hemp Crosses the Oceans

During the next two centuries, Europe entered a period of unprecedented colonialism. As more and more ships made their way down the coast of Africa and on to India, Europeans who remained at home were able to keep abreast of what was happening in these far-off lands through the various books that seemed to crop up everywhere.

Many of these books were diaries and travelogues, written by adventurers, sea captains, wealthy travelers, priests, traders, administrators – in short, anyone who could write about the people of Africa and the East Indies did so. At home, the people eagerly awaited any and every bit of information that these returning voyagers might bring concerning the habits and customs of the people who lived in these “newly discovered” parts of the world.

Hemp and the Triangular Sail

The European adoption of the lateen in the Late Middle Ages made ships more maneuverable, thus permitting merchants to sail out of the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic Ocean; caravels typically mounted three or more lateens. However, the great size of the lateen yard makes it difficult and dangerous to handle on large ships in stormy weather, and by the 18th century the lateen was restricted to the mizzen mast, and then by the beginning of the 19th century was supplanted by the driver or spanker.

Between A.D. 1400 and 1700, Western Europe was gradually transformed from a backward provincial potpourri of motley nations into a nationalistically minded assembly of world-conquering and world-colonizing empires. The Cinderella-like metamorphosis came about largely as a result of a technological innovation.

First introduced by the Mediterranean nations and subsequently copied and improved on by Western Europe, the innovation that changed the course of history was the triangular sail. By suspending a triangular sail from an oblique yardarm, sailors could sail against the wind. Hitherto, the square sail was the only means of propelling a ship, and most vessels were outfitted with only a single mast. After the triangular sail, galleons with three or four masts became commonplace and European ships began embarking from the safety of their ports to challenge the winds and the oceans of the world.

While the Portuguese and the Dutch were staking claims to the East Indies and Spain was establishing colonies in the New World, England was slowly coming to the realization that she was being left out of one of the greatest moneymaking opportunities ever to present itself to the European economy. One of the main reasons England was unable to compete was that she lacked the ships necessary for exploration and trade. To expand her economy and keep up with her European rivals, England had to build new ships and develop new trade routes. And if she hoped to be able to protect her merchant ships from attack, she had to have a navy capable of repulsing an enemy. To build such a fleet, she needed raw materials. In 1562, both Holland and England sent ships to the Baltic countries for these supplies.

The primary supply needed for this venture was hemp. People’s perception that hemp and marijuana are the same can be seen in the article on the lower left. Fifty years later, people began to distinguish between the facts and the fables of hemp and understand there are many strains of cannabis; within each strain lays invaluable traits and potential. Awareness and knowledge of the plant as a viable and sustainable natural resource will strip the prejudice from this plant and allow people to benefit and profit from hemp’s abundant capabilities.

England’s Need for Hemp

Most of the hemp that found its way into English ships during this period came from the Baltic. The best quality hemp came from Danzig, and on several occasions the British government ordered its agents in that city to buy all the hemp they could get their hands on so that England would have enough rope for her ships. Toward the middle of the sixteenth century, growing competition from Russia lured English buyers away from Danzig to the Russian cities of Riga and St. Petersburg. By 1630, Russia was supplying over 90 percent of London’s hemp. By 1633, almost 97 percent of hemp came from Russia who was the world’s largest exporter of hemp since, it alone, of the entire major hemp-producing countries, was able to supply the most hemp and produce it at the cheapest prices. Since England had no other source of supply that could meet its needs, England was Russia’s best customer, importing two-thirds of all Russia’s exports by the eighteenth century.

England’s Dependence on Foreign Hemp

Because of the widespread fraud among Russian retailers, the Russian government instituted a formal inspection office called the “brack”, consisting of local port officials whose job was to make sure that fraud was not being perpetrated on buyers. Brack inspectors were supposed to be financially liable to a buyer on proof of fraud, but it was almost impossible to prove fraud until the hemp was unloaded in England. In some ports such as Riga in Latvia, inspection was rigorous, whereas in ports such as St. Petersburg it was lax and fraud was rampant.

England’s dependence on foreign hemp placed her in a precarious position should hostilities break out between her and Russia or with any third country that controlled the sea route to Russia. Without a reliable source of hemp, England could not build ships. Without ships, she would remain an island isolated from Europe and the rest of the world. Exploration was made possible with hemp.

The kings of England recognized the need for hemp if their realm were ever to compete with Europe. Initially, the monarchy tried to coerce their subjects to raise hemp. The first such fiat came in 1533 when King Henry VIII commanded that for every sixty acres of arable land a farmer owned, one quarter acre was to be sown with hemp. The penalty for not doing so was to be three shillings and four pence. Thirty years later, and long before the clash with Spain, his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, reissued the command and raised the penalty to five shillings.)

An English sea-captain, providing this statement at the beginning of the nineteenth century, lauds the properties of a certain fibrous plant that was essential to the development and promulgation of overseas trade around the world. The ‘Sunn’ is a specific strain of cannabis. Though that strain is native to Bengal, the plant had its origins in China and has spread throughout the world, thriving in a variety of conditions. This plant, absolutely necessary in the history of world trade, is commonly known as hemp.

Text and photos:
Abel, Ernest, “Marijuana, The First 12,000 Years”, 2005; Duhamel Du Monceaud, Henri-Louis. “Traité de la fabrique des manoeuvres pour les vaisseaux, ou l’art de la corderie perfectionné.” Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1747; Herer, Jack, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”, AH HA Publishing, 2000; Robinson, Rowan,”The Great Book of Hemp”, Park Street Press, 1996; Roulac, John W., “Hemp Horizons”, Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1997; Various, “Journal of Industrial Hemp”, The Haworth Press, Inc., 1996.


Cannabis as Medicine

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries marked the appearance not only of travel books dealing with cannabis, but also of “dispensatories” which began referring to cannabis as a medicinal agent. Typically, however, these texts were rather cautious in their advocacy of hemp as a therapeutic agent. In most instances, cannabis’s antibiotic and analgesic properties were emphasized.
Although as early as 1621, Robert Burton had suggested that cannabis might be of value in the treatment of depression, this proposal was never tried in England. The New London Dispensatory, published in 1682, contained only a brief reference to hemp seeds, claiming that they cured coughs and jaundice but filled the head with vapors.

However, the Complete English Dispensatory of 1720 took issue with the recommendation to use hemp seeds in treating jaundice, asserting that such recommendation is “not hitherto with authority enough to bring them into prescriptions of any kind.” The New English Dispensatory of 1764 recommended boiling hemp roots and applying them to the skin to reduce inflammation, a folk medicinal treatment that had been popular in Eastern Europe for centuries. Other uses for the concoction were in drying up tumors and dissolving deposits in the joints. The Edinburgh New Dispensatory of 1794 carried a relatively long description of the effects of hemp in medicine, indicating that its popularity in this regard had begun to increase. “This plant,” the text stated, “when fresh, has a rank narcotic smell, the water in which the stalks are soaked, in order to facilitate the separation of the tough rind for mechanical uses [e.g. rope], is said to be violently poisonous, and to produce its effects as soon as drunk.”

Regarding the seeds, the text claims that they yield an “insipid” oil when pressed, and that when this oil is added to milk, an emulsion is formed which is useful in treating coughs, “heat of urine [venereal disease],” and “incontinence of urine.” The authors also state that cannabis was believed to be useful in “restraining venereal appetites,” but adds that “experience does not warrant their having any virtue of this kind.”

The section on cannabis closes with a foreshadowing of the future, “Although the seeds only have hitherto been principally in use, yet other parts of the plant seem to be more active, and may be considered as deserving further attention.”

Carl Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné, 1707-1778, was a Swedish botanist, and is often called the Father of Taxonomy. His system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms is still in wide use today (with many changes). Generations of biologists during and after his own lifetime have been influenced by his ideas on classification. He impressed even those opposed to the philosophical and theological roots of his work.

In 1883, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine ran a short article on the new hashish pastime entitled “Hashish House in New York, The Curious Adventures of an Individual Who Indulged in a Few Pipefuls of the Narcotic Hemp.” Although anonymous, the author is generally believed to be H. H. Kane, a prominent American physician of the era who published several books on what he regarded as the growing drug menace in the United States. The article begins with a conversation in which a friend tells the writer that “there is a large community of hashish smokers in this city [New York] who are daily forced to indulge their morbid appetites, and I can take you to a house up-town where hemp is used in every conceivable form, and where the lights, sounds, odors, and surroundings are all arranged so as to intensify and enhance the effects of this wonderful narcotic.”

The following evening the two men visit this hashish house, whose address is given as near 42nd Street and Broadway. The clients “are about evenly divided between Americans and foreigners… all the visitors, both male and female, are of the better classes and absolute secrecy is the rule. The house has been opened about two years, I believe, and the number of regular habitués is daily on the increase.” According to the author, there were about six hundred of these “habitués” in New York City alone. Other cities boasting comparable hashish dens were Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and especially New Orleans. In Baltimore, there was no need for secrecy since hashish devotees could purchase the drug in the form of candy in the city’s business district. In Philadelphia, during the American Centennial Exposition of 1876, some pharmacists carried ten pounds or more of hashish on stock in case Americans or foreigners had a yen for the drug during the festivities. Why there should have been any secrecy about hashish at all is puzzling, since there certainly were no laws against the drug at this time.

Classifying Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis was first mentioned as a medicinal agent in a “formal” American medical text in 1843. In 1846, Dr. Amariah Brigham, the editor of the ‘American Journal of Insanity’, brought the drug to the notice of American psychiatrists with a review of Moreau’s book and experiments. Brigham was very excited about the prospect of using cannabis to treat insanity (homeopathy?), and he sent for some of the drug to Calcutta which he subsequently administered to several patients at the Lunatic Asylum in Utica, New York. “From our limited experience,” he concluded, “we regard it as a very energetic remedy, and well worthy of further trial with the insane, and thank M. Moreau for having called attention to its use.”

By 1854, the US Dispensatory began to list cannabis among the nation’s medicinals: Medical Properties Extract of hemp is a powerful narcotic, causing exhilaration, intoxication, delirious hallucinations, and, in its subsequent action, drowsiness and stupor, with little effect upon the circulation. It is asserted also to act as a decided aphrodisiac, to increase the appetite, and occasionally to induce the cataleptic state. In morbid states of the system, it has been found to produce sleep, to allay spasm, to compose nervous inequietude, and to relieve pain. In these respects it resembles opium in its operation; but it differs from that narcotic in not diminishing the appetite, checking the secretions, or constipating the bowels. It is much less certain in its effects; but may sometimes be preferably employed, when opium is contraindicated by its nauseating or constipating effects, or its disposition to produce headache, and to check the bronchial secretion. The complaints to which it has been specially recommended are neuralgia, gout, tetanus, hydrophobia, epidemic cholera, convulsions, chorea, hysteria, mental depression, insanity, and uterine hemorrhage. Dr. Alexander Christison, of Edinburgh, has found it to have the property of hastening and increasing the contractions of the uterus in delivery, and has employed it with advantage for this purpose. It acts very quickly, and without anesthetic effect. It appears, however, to exert this influence only in a certain proportion of cases.

In 1753, the hemp plant was christened cannabis sativa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, in his Species Plantarum, and it has borne this name ever since. However, almost as soon as Linnaeus dubbed hemp cannabis sativa, other botanists began to argue that there were two distinct types of hemp plant and therefore it was a mistake to lump all hemp-like plants under one name. The most notable dissenter was the French biologist Jean Lamarck. In 1783, Lamarck contended that the European hemp plant and the Indian hemp plant each warranted its own name. The latter, he noted, contained far more resin than the European plant and it also appeared noticeably different in other distinct ways.

Because of these differences, Lamarck reserved the name Cannabis sativa for the European plant and gave the name Cannabis indica to the Indian plant – indica referring to its place of origin. Lamarck was not the first or the only scientist to point out the differences between the two plants, but he was the first to contrast clearly the two types, and his arguments were very convincing.
This early argument as to whether there is one species of cannabis which includes many different varieties or several species still remains to be settled. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that cannabis was to be given serious consideration by the medical profession.

Until that time, it was sparingly used as a folk remedy for certain disorders, but it never enjoyed any popularity and there is absolutely no indication that the English ever became intoxicated as a result of eating cannabis leaves or seeds. The variety of cannabis that grew in England did not produce enough resin for it inadvertently to intoxicate any proponent of the plant as a home remedy.

England’s Need for Hemp

Most of the hemp that found its way into English ships during this period came from the Baltic. The best quality hemp came from Danzig, and on several occasions the British government ordered its agents in that city to buy all the hemp they could get their hands on so that England would have enough rope for her ships. Toward the middle of the sixteenth century, growing competition from Russia lured English buyers away from Danzig to the Russian cities of Riga and St. Petersburg. By 1630, Russia was supplying over 90 percent of London’s hemp. By 1633, almost 97 percent of hemp came from Russia who was the world’s largest exporter of hemp since, it alone, of the entire major hemp-producing countries, was able to supply the most hemp and produce it at the cheapest prices. Since England had no other source of supply that could meet its needs, England was Russia’s best customer, importing two-thirds of all Russia’s exports by the eighteenth century.

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Spreading the Seed

Wherever the people of the ancient world roamed, they carried with them the seeds of the precious cannabis plant. From China in the east to the Rhone Valley in the west, the seeds were spread. Cold weather, hot weather, wet or dry, fertile soil or barren, the seeds were not to be denied. Except in India and China, most of the ancient world was completely ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the plant. Ancient European legends and herbals had little to say regarding its peculiar psychological effects. If Europeans saw any magic in cannabis, it was its fibers, not its intoxicating power that aroused their awe and admiration. Farther to the south, however, cannabis eventually inspired sentiments of a different kind in a people who challenged Europe for world domination.

A black ship of the Achaeans, painted by David Claudon, is based on an ancient Greek pottery painting. A major structure is the Library of Celsus that once contained hundreds of scrolls, many of hemp. Today, the two-storey front facade and part of the other walls remain. The farthest west hemp fibers have ever been found in the ancient world is Turkey. Archaeologists who sifted through artifacts dating back to the time of the Phrygians (a tribe of Aryans who invaded that country around 1000 B.C.) unearthed pieces of fabric containing hemp fibers in the debris around Gordion, an ancient city located near present-day Ankara.

Although the Scythians had contacts with the people of Babylonia, who lived to the west of the Phrygians, no hemp fiber or definite mention of hemp (Cannabis sativa) to the west of Turkey can be found until the time of the Greeks. In the ruins of El Amarna, the city of Akhenaton (the Pharaoh who tried to introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt), archaeologists found a “three ply hemp cord” in the hole of a stone and a large mat bound with “hemp cords”, but unfortunately they did not specify the type of hemp. Many different bast fibers were called hemp and no one can be certain that the fibers at El Amarna are cannabis, especially since Deccan hemp (Hibiscus cannabinus) grows in Egypt.

The earliest unmistakable reference to cannabis in Egypt does not occur until the third century A.D., when the Roman emperor Aurelian imposed a tax on Egyptian cannabis. Even then, however, there was very little of the fiber in Egypt. While the ancient Greeks remained ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the cannabis plant, they were not slow to appreciate the durability and strength of its fiber. As early as the sixth century B.C., Greek merchants whose Milesian colonies served as a middle station between mainland Greece and the eastern coast of Asia Minor, had been carrying on a lucrative business transporting cannabis fiber to the ports along the Aegean.

The Thracians, a Greek-speaking people living in the Balkans who were likely more closely related to the Scythians than to the Greeks, were especially adept at working hemp. Writing around 450 B.C., Herodotus says of their clothes that they “were so like linen that none but a very experienced could tell whether they were of hemp or flax; one who had never seen hemp would certainly suppose them to be linen.”

Cannabis Moves West

Some garments, particularly undergarments, were made of linen, hemp, or nettlecloth, and many such smocks and the occasional coat have been found. Most of Rome’s hemp came from Babylonia. The city of Sura was particularly renowned for its hempen ropes. Other cities such as Colchis, Cyzicus, Alabanda, Mylasa, and Ephesus, which had been leading producers during the Greek empire, continued to produce and export hemp as their chief product under the Romans. Most Romans, however, had little familiarity with cannabis seed. Very little hemp was raised in Italy. If anything, the Romans were interested in the plant because of its fiber, for with good strong fiber, Rome could outfit its expanding navy and keep it at sea longer.

Rome, Greece, Babylonia, Palestine, and Egypt

India was not the only country to be invaded by the Aryans. By 1500 B.C., Persia, Asia Minor, and Greece had been overrun and the Aryans were establishing permanent settlements as far west as France and Germany. Although the people who settled in these countries eventually developed into different nationalities, with different customs and traditions, their common Aryan ancestry can still be traced in their languages which collectively are called Indo-European.

For example, the linguistic root ‘an’, which is found in various cannabis-related words, can be found in French in the word ‘chanvre’ and in the German ‘hanf’. Our own word cannabis is taken directly from the Greek, which in turn is taken from ‘canna’, an early Sanskrit term.

The earliest reference to cannabis among the Jews actually does not occur until the early Middle Ages when the first unmistakable mention of it is found in the Talmud. The Jews of Talmudic times were particularly concerned about certain precepts which prohibited the mingling of heterogeneous substances, and on at least one occasion the sages argued over whether hemp seeds could be sown in a vineyard. The majority opinion was that such intermingling was permissible, indicating that they recognized a certain similarity between cannabis and the grape. This similarity could not have been due to the appearance of the two plants and must have centered around the intoxication produced by each.

A similar question likewise arose concerning the purification of wicker mats which were placed over grapes during wine pressing to keep them from scattering. The decision rendered by the rabbis was that if the baskets were made of hemp they could be used, provided they were thoroughly cleaned. However, if they were made of some other material, the rabbis ruled that they could not be employed in wine pressing until twelve months had elapsed since the time they were last used. Dacians, or Getae, in what is now modern day Romania, shown burning their town because of an oncoming Roman army invasion. This region has been a renowned region for hemp cultivation since Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great invaded the region in 359 B.C. In the third century B.C., Hiero II (270-15 B.C.), ruler of the Greek city-state of Syracuse, did not send his envoys to the Black Sea city of Colchis which supplied many Greek cities with hemp, but to the far-off Rhone Valley in France. So sophisticated about the various characteristics of hemp fiber was he that only the most superior varieties were to be used to make ropes for his proposed armada. This incident is the earliest reference to cannabis in Western Europe known to historians.

Since the Greeks had become so knowledgeable about the kinds of fibers produced by cannabis growing in different geographical regions, they would no doubt also have mentioned the intoxicating properties of the plant had they been aware. Although there are references to cannabis both as a delicacy and a remedy for backache in Greek literature dating back to the fourth century B.C., no mentio was made of medicinal uses in this eras records.


The Holy Plant of India

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, which had been summoned in the 1890s to investigate the use of cannabis in India, concluded that the plant was so much an integral part of the culture and religion of that country that to curtail its usage would certainly lead to unhappiness, resentment, and suffering.

Their conclusions:
To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy.
A guardian lives in the bhang leaf.
To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky.
No good thing can come to the man who treads underfoot the holy bhang leaf.
A longing for bhang foretells happiness.

The earliest allusion to bhang’s mind-altering influence is contained in the fourth book of the Vedas, the Atharvaveda (“Science of Charms”). Written some time between 2000 and 1400 B.C., the Atharvaveda (12:6.15) calls bhang one of the “five kingdoms of herbs… which release us from anxiety.” But it is not until much later in India’s history that bhang became a part of everyday life. By the tenth century A.D., for example, it was just beginning to be extolled as an indracanna, the “food of the gods”. A fifteenth-century document refers to it as “light- hearted”, “joyful”, and “rejoices”, and claims that among its virtues are “astringency”, “heat”, “speech-giving”, “inspiration of mental powers”, “excitability”, and the capacity to “remove wind and phlegm”.

In the Rajvallabha, a seventeenth-century text dealing with drugs used in India, bhang is described as follows: India’s food is acid, produces infatuation, and destroys leprosy. It creates vital energy, increases mental powers and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humor, and is an elixir vitae. It was originally produced like nectar from the ocean by churning it with Mount Mandara. In as much as it is believed to give victory in the three worlds and to bring delight to the king of the gods (Siva), it was called vijaya (victorious). This desire-filling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on earth for the welfare of all people. To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes anxiety.

Yet it was not as a medicinal aid or as a social lubricant that bhang was preeminent among the people of India. Rather, it was and still is because of its association with the religious life of the country that bhang is so extolled and glorified. The stupefaction produced by the plant’s resin is greatly valued by the fakirs and ascetics, the holy men of India, because they believe that communication with their deities is greatly facilitated during intoxication with bhang. (According to one legend, the Buddha subsisted on a daily ration of one cannabis seed, and nothing else, during his six years of asceticism.) Taken in early morning, the drug is believed to cleanse the body of sin. Like the communion of Christianity, the devotee who partakes of bhang partakes of the god Siva.

Although the inhabitants of India are descended from a people known as the Aryans or “noble ones”, the Aryans were not the original natives of the Indian subcontinent but instead invaded it from north of the Himalayas around 2000 B.C. Before the Aryans, who were light-skinned and blue-eyed, a dark-skinned and dark-eyed people, Australoid in origin, inhabited India. When the Aryans entered the country, they found a complex civilization, including well-designed housing, adjoining toilet facilities, and advanced drainage systems. The early inhabitants worked with gold and silver, and they also knew how to fashion tools and ornaments from copper and iron. When the Aryans first settled in India they were predominantly a nomadic people. During the centuries that followed their invasion, they intermarried with the original inhabitants, became farmers, and invented Sanskrit, one of man’s earliest written languages.

The Beauty of Bhang

A collection of four holy books, called the Vedas, tells of daring exploits, their chariot battles, conquests, subjugation of enemy armies, eventual settlement in the land of the Indus, and even how their god Siva brought the hemp plant down from the Himalayas for their use and enjoyment. According to one of their legends, Siva became enraged over some family squabble and went off by himself in the fields. There, the cool shade of a tall marijuana plant brought him a comforting refuge from the torrid rays of the blazing sun. Curious about this plant that sheltered him from the heat of the day, he ate some of its leaves and felt so refreshed that he adopted it as his favorite food, hence his title, the Lord of Bhang.

Bhang does not always refer to the plant itself, but rather to the mild liquid refreshment made with its leaves. Among the ingredients and proportions of them that went into a formula for bhang around the turn of the century were:

Cannabis 220 Grains
Poppy Seed 120 Grains
Pepper 120 Grains
Ginger 40 Grains
Caraway Seed 10 Grains
Cloves 10 Grains
Cardamon 10 Grains
Cinnamon 10 Grains
Cucumber Seed 120 Grains
Almonds 120 Grains
Nutmeg 10 Grains
Rosebuds 60 Grains
Sugar 4 Ounces
Milk 20 Ounces
All ingredients are boiled together.

Bhang was and still is to India what alcohol is to the West. Many social and religious gatherings in ancient times, as well as present, were simply incomplete unless bhang was part of the occasion. It is said that those who spoke derisively of bhang are doomed to suffer the torments of hell as long as the sun shines in the heavens. Without bhang at special festivities like a wedding, evil spirits were believed to hover over the bride and groom, waiting for an opportune moment to wreak havoc on the newlyweds. Any father who failed to send or bring bhang to the ceremonies would be reviled and cursed as if he had deliberately invoked the evil eye on his son and daughter. Bhang was also a symbol of hospitality. A host would offer a cup of bhang to a guest as casually as we would offer someone in our home a glass of beer. A host who failed to make such a gesture was despised as being miserly and misanthropic.

Hemp Salve



Hemp seed oil often called “Hemp oil” which is harvested with cold pressed hemp seeds. Hemp oil is often not refined and it is a light green oil and may have a nutty taste.

It differs from Cannabidiol Oil (CBD), an extract of the cannabis plant that uses flowers and leaves of hemp for its production.

Hemp oil is produced from hemp seed and, in general, does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive component, although it appears to be a reliable and widely discussed heatedly. According to the 2017 survey, CBD oil may also have very low and negligible levels of THC.

Hemp oil has many health benefits, including its usefulness for skin health due to nutrient vitamins and moisturizing properties.

What are the Advantages of hemp oil for your skin?

Using hemp seed oil, there are many of its advantage on the skin, whether it is topically used or by consuming it.


Moderate oil production.

Hemp oil is ideal for most types of skin because it can moisten without clogging. It can even balance oily skin, moisturize and regulate the production of oil on the skin.

Dryness can also cause the skin to produce excess oils, which can stimulate acne. Hemp oil can prevent dry skin without tampering. This helps reduce acne caused by excess oil.


Moisturizes and soothes inflammation

One of the omega-6 fatty acids found in hemp oil is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and stimulates the growth of the skin and the next generation of cells.

This can help alleviate inflammation and skin irritation, including acne and certain conditions such as psoriasis, and keeps and nourishes the skin.


Treats atopic dermatitis.

One of the reasons why hemp oil is so beneficial for the skin is that it is rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming these nutrients can help treat skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis.

A randomized, one-blind crossover study showed that dietary hempseed oil significantly reduces the symptoms and clinical atopic dermatitis after 20 weeks.


It has anti-aging properties.

In addition to moisturizing and softening the skin, hemp oil has anti-aging properties. Hemp oil can reduce wrinkles and fine lines and prevent signs of aging.

Linoleic acid and oleic acid contained in hemp oil cannot be produced in the body but can play a key role in skin health and anti-aging. They are therefore essential nutrients.


How is hemp oil used?

There are several methods you can use to get the skin benefits of the oil.


  1. Topical use of hemp oil

The first method is to apply hemp oil directly to the skin. This can work if you have immediate irritation or dry areas that you want to quickly soothe.

Before using the oil, try patching to make sure you do not have an unsuccessful reaction:

  • Wash and dry the small surface at the top of your hand (like the elbow).
  • Apply a small amount of pure hemp oil. (If you are using the described mixture of hemp and essential oils, run the test at a place that is separate from a pure oil and at another time).
  • Cover the pot with the bandage and leave it in place for 24 hours, making sure not to moisten the bandage.
  • In the case of redness, bruising, itching or other irritation, you can conclude that they are sensitive to oil and should not be used. If you have a reaction, immediately remove the bandage and clean the stain with soap and water.
  • If you do not see or feel any reaction, it is likely that the oil is safe to use.

If you use hemp oil to treat acne and want to apply it locally, apply the oil directly to the clean skin and leave it for one to two minutes before washing with warm water.

Hemp oil and essential oil Mixture: You can also combine hemp oil and other anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients like this, which can be applied directly to the skin:

  • 1/4 cup of hemp oil
  • 2 teaspoons of dissolved coconut oil (can be dissolved in a microwave oven, place the desired amount in a microwave-protected bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, mixing between each interval until everything is completely dissolved
  • 4 to 5 drops of essential oil for boosting the skin, such as lavender oil or rosemary


Oral use of hemp oil

Another method involves the consumption of hemp oil, which can offer the same skin benefits and additional benefits to general health as a topical oil use. If you take hemp oil in the mouth, there is a lower risk of skin irritation or possible rashes, although this may cause temporary digestive disorders.

If you take it orally, you can take 1-2 teaspoons daily, or one or two doses.

It can be mixed into foods, like smoothies, if you don’t like the taste.

Some recipes that use hemp oil include Hemp Oil Salsa, Hemp Oil Pesto sauce and Garlic Hemp Oil Salad Dressing.


What are Side Effects and Risks?

Hemp oil is safe for most people and, in general, does not contain THC or psychoactive properties, although this has often been discussed.

When used topically, some people may feel mild irritation. First, apply it to a small part of the skin surface (whether using pure hemp oil or hemp oil diluted with essential oils).

Consumption of hemp oil may have unwanted effects on some people:

  • The most common side effect is sedation of the stool or digestive disorders, which may occur due to the oil. To avoid this, start taking a small amount of hemp oil every day.
  • Hemp seeds can interact with anticoagulants by inhibiting platelets. Therefore, before taking the oil regularly, consult your physician to find out if this is right for you.
Joy Organics Hemp Salve

As the growing CBD industry continues to expand, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many consumers to distinguish high-quality CBD based products from cheaper grades. Joy Organics, pledged to solve this problem.

Well, just how are they doing that? Raising the level of transparency and quality of the CBD extract. With Joy Organics, you do not have to be worried about which CBD is best for you to purchase.

Whether you are a new user or an experienced user, we all share the same concern. How are we going to make the most out of CBD? Although this requires a rather in-depth explanation, an important factor is the “bioavailability” of CBD.


What is the CBD Bioavailability?

As you may have noticed, CBD is available in many forms, including lotions, tinctures, oils, e-liquids, capsules, etc. Each of these different forms requires different use and each product is generally in different concentrations of CBD.

If you have never used the CBD or are new to the industry, all options can be very confusing.

You may want to try CBD, but what method should you use and how much CBD should you take? These are key issues that can be solved by understanding what bioavailability means.

In short, bioavailability is the degree and rate of absorption of the substance into the bloodstream.

With the amount and potency of the substance, bioavailability determines what is needed to ensure the level of performance. For medications ordered by your doctor, part of the dose calculation has already included bioavailability when determining the standard dose.

However, the bioavailability of CBD varies according to the mode of consumption and the concentration of CBD in the product concerned.


What is the best way to take CBDs?

Now, if you want to get the highest bioavailability of your CBD, the most direct route would be intravenous administration, meaning that it is injected directly into the bloodstream through the veins.

Although this method, by definition, divides 100% CBD into a body, this is probably not the most popular option.

For those who do not like sticking needles, but the different methods of using CBD includes Oral Consumption (includes CBD capsules, CBD edibles and CBD beverages to the mouth), Sublingual Consumption (includes CBD tinctures, CBD lozenges and CBD sprays application under the tongue) and Vaporized Consumption (inhaling CBD directly into the lungs through a vape pen or vaporizer device). You can therefore choose the method which is best for you and for its effectiveness.



Hemp Jeans – The Original Jean

The original, heavy-duty, famous pants that Levi’s were fashioned after, were made for the California ‘49ers out of hempen sailcloth and rivets.  The inclusion of hemp and rivets ensured the pockets wouldn’t rip when filled with gold panned from the sediment.


Homespun cloth was almost always spun, by people all over the world, from fibers grown in the “family hemp patch.” In America, this tradition lasted from the Pilgrims (1620s) until hemp’s prohibition in the 1930s.


In the 1930’s, Congress was told by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics that many Polish-Americans still grew pot in their backyards to make their winter “long johns” and work clothes, and greeted the agents with shotguns for stealing their next year’s clothes.



The Chemurgic Movement

In the early 1900s, hemp proponents began to promote a new industry based upon innovative fiber separating technologies such a Schlichten’s decorticating machine.  This fledgling industry was based upon the science of chemurgy (a term coined by Dow Chemical biochemist William Hale), which sought to combine agriculture and organic chemistry.  Founders of the chemurgy movement included Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and George Washington Carver, who shared a dream of seeing farm products replace timber and imported oil as sources for fibers, plastic, fuels, and lubricants.  The chemurgists operated on the premise that “anything that can be made from a hydrocarbon can be made from a carbohydrate.”


By 1937, industrial hemp companies had sprung up across the Midwest which now eclipsed Kentucky and Missouri as the nation’s hemp capitol.  Important firms in Illinois included the Amhempco Corporation, Fibrous Industries, and the World Fiber Corporation in Chicago; the Illinois Hemp Company in Moline; and the Chempesco Central Fiber Corporation in Champagne, Minnesota was home to Chempco and Cannabis Inc. in Winona, the Hemlax Fiber Company in Sacred Heart, Central Fiber Corporation in Blue Earth, and Hemp Chemicals Corporation and the Northwestern Hemp Corporation in Mankato.  Wisconsin had the Atlas Hemp Mills in Juno, the Badger Fiber Company in Beaver Dam, and the Matt Rens Hemp Company in Brandon.


The rise of the new Midwestern manufacturers substantially increased the amount of acreage planted to hemp.  Between 1934 and 1937, the Northwestern Hemp Corporation, the Amhempco Company, and Chempesco each planter thousands of acres annually for specific cellulose based products such as paper and plastics.  As the 1930’s began, the annual harvest of American hemp occupied only a few thousand acres.  This minor industry relied on the traditional labor intensive processing of hemp fiber into rope and twine.  But as the Great Depression wore on, American farmers and their communities desperately sought new crops and business opportunities for rural America.


Carver was working in the botany department at Iowa State when Booker T. Washington asked him to sign on at Tuskegee Institute.  Carver moved to Alabama in 1896 to lead the Black college’s agriculture department.  For almost 50 years he remained at Tuskegee, teaching and pursuing his scientific studies.  His work included finding over 300 uses for the peanut.  Among Carver’s many inventions were a way of turning soybeans into plastic, wood shavings into synthetic marble, and cotton into paving blocks.  He also disseminated his extensive agricultural research to farmers through conferences and demonstrations.


When he died on January 5, 1943, Carver was widely recognized for his intelligence, humility, and inventiveness.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt called him one of the world’s most significant scientists.



The Toxic Alternative to Natural Fibers


The late 1920s and 1930s saw continuing consolidation of power into the hands of a few large steel, oil, and chemical (munitions) companies.  The US Federal Government placed much of the textile productions for the domestic economy in the hands of its chief munitions maker, DuPont.


The processing of nitrating cellulose into explosives is very similar to the process for nitrating cellulose into synthetic fibers and plastics.  Rayon, the first synthetic fiber, is simply stabilized guncotton, or nitrated cloth, the basic explosive of the 19th Century.


“Synthetic plastics find application in fabricating a wide variety of articles, many of which in the past were made from natural products,” beamed Lammot DuPont (Popular Mechanics, June 1939, pg. 805).

“Consider our natural resources,” the President of DuPont continued, “The chemist has aided in conserving natural resources by developing synthetic products to supplement or wholly replace natural products.” DuPont’s scientists were the world’s leading researchers into the process of nitrating cellulose and were in fact the largest processor of cellulose in the nation in this era.


The February 1938 Popular Mechanics article stated “Thousands of tons of hemp herds are used every year by one large powder company for the manufacture of dynamite and TNT.”  History shows that DuPont had largely cornered the market in explosives by buying up and consolidating the smaller blasting companies in the late 1800s.  By 1902 it controlled about two-thirds of the industry output.


An almost unlimited tonnage of natural fiber and cellulose would have become available to the American farmer in 1937, the year DuPont patented nylon and the polluting wood-pulp paper sulfide process.  All of hemp’s potential value was lost.


Simple plastics of the early 1900s were made of nitrated cellulose, directly related to DuPont’s munitions-making processes.  Celluloid, acetate and rayon were the simple plastics of that era, and hemp was well known to cellulose researchers as the premier resource for this new industry to use. Worldwide, hemp herds could best supply the raw material of simple plastics, rayon, and paper.


Between 1926 and 1937, nylon fibers were developed by the noted Harvard chemist Wallace Carothers, working from German patents.  These polyamides are long fibers based on observed natural products. Carothers, supplied with an open-ended research grant from DuPont, made a comprehensive study of natural cellulose fibers.  He duplicated natural fibers in his labs and polyamides – long fibers of a specific chemical process – were developed.  Curiously, Wallace Carothers committed suicide one week after the House Ways and Means Committee in April of 1937 held the hearings on cannabis and created the bill that would eventually outlaw hemp.


Coal, tar, and petroleum-based chemicals were employed, and different devices, spinnerets, and processes were patented.  This new type of textile, nylon, was to be controlled from the raw material stage as coal to the completed product: a patented chemical product.  The chemical company centralized the production and profits of the new “miracle” fiber.  The introduction of nylon, the introduction of high-volume machinery to separate hemp’s long fiber from the cellulose herd, and the outlawing of hemp as “marijuana” all occurred simultaneously.


The new man-made fibers (MMF’s) can best be described as war material. The fiber-making process has become one based on big factories, smokestacks, coolants, and hazardous chemicals, rather than one of stripping out the abundant, naturally available fibers.


Coming from a history of making explosives and munitions, the old “chemical dye plants” now produce hosiery, mock linens, mock canvas, latex paint, and synthetic carpets. Their polluting factories make imitation leather, upholstery, and wood surfaces, while an important part of the natural cycle stands outlawed.


The standard fiber of the world’s history, America’s traditional crop, hemp, could provide our textiles and paper and be the premier source for cellulose.  The war industries – DuPont, Allied Chemical, Monsanto, etc. – are protected from competition by the marijuana laws.  They wage war on the natural cycle and the common farmers of the United States.




Hemp Cultivation in America


American farmers are promised a new cash crop!  A machine has been invented that solves a problem more than six thousand years old designed for removing the fiber from the rest of the stalk.  Hemp is the standard fiber of the world.  It has great tensile strength and durability.  It is used to produce more then five thousand textile products ranging from rope to fine laces, while the woods “hurds” are used to produce products ranging from dynamite to cellophane.  It can be grown in any state in the Union.


Certainly hemp cultivation was on the rise in the United States.  But hemp’s resurgence would be curtailed by the demonization of its disreputable cousin, marijuana, which was outlawed in 1937 by the Marihuana Tax Act.  With the passage of the tax act and its resultant red tape, the growing of hemp and production of its derivatives fell considerably.   Although the tax act permitted state or federal government-licensed hemp farming, obtaining such licensing became so difficult that most hemp farmers and processors simply gave up.

The new hemp industry was predicated upon a chemurgic vision of cellulose as a golden source of economic salvation, supplying the raw material for an array of such products as hemp paper and plastics.  This vision was in distinct contrast to the state of the archaic hemp industry which now produced only minor quantities of rope and textiles.

Why Was Hemp Made Illegal In 1937? 

The Corporate Conspiracy

In the mid-1930s, when the new mechanical hemp fiber stripping machines and machines to conserve hemp’s high-cellulose pulp finally became state-of-the-art, available and affordable, the enormous timber and acreage and businesses of the Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division, Kimberly Clark (USA), St. Regis – and virtually all other timber, paper and large newspaper holding companies – stood to lose billions of dollars and perhaps go bankrupt.

Coincidentally, in 1937, DuPont had just patented processes for making plastics from oil and coal, as well as a new sulfate/sulfite process for making paper from wood pulp.  According to DuPont’s own corporate records and historians, these processes accounted for over 80% of all the company’s railroad car loadings over the next 60 years into the 1990s.

If hemp had not been made illegal, 80% of DuPont’s business would never have materialized and the great majority of the pollution which has poisoned our Northwest and Southeastern rivers would not have occurred.  In an open marketplace, hemp would have saved the majority of America’s vital family farms and would have probably boosted their numbers, despite the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But competing against environmentally-sane hemp paper and natural plastic technology would have jeopardized the lucrative financial schemes of Hearst, DuPont, and DuPont’s chief financial backer, Andrew Mellon of the Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh.


Text and photos

Abel, Ernest, “Marijuana, The First 12,000 Years”, 2005; Herer, Jack, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”, AH HA Publishing, 2000; Popular Mechanics, June 1939, pg. 805; Popular Mechanics ‘The New Billion Dollar Crop’, February 1938, pg. 238-239; Robinson, Rowan, “The Great Book of Hemp”, Park Street Press, 1996. Rothenberg, Erik “A RENEWAL OF COMMON SENSE: The Case for Hemp in 21st Century America” ©Vote Hemp, Inc.; Roulac, John W., “Hemp Horizons”, Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1997; Various, “Journal of Industrial Hemp”,  The Haworth Press, Inc., 1996.

“Social Reorganization”

In 1931, Andrew Mellon of the Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh, in his role as Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the Treasury, appointed his future Nephew-in-law, Harry J Anslinger, to be head of the newly reorganized Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (FBNDD), a post he held for the next 31 years.

These industrial barons and financiers knew that machinery to cut, bale, decorticate (separate the fiber from the high-cellulose hurd), and process hemp into paper or plastics was becoming available in the mid-1930s.  Cannabis hemp would have to go.

In DuPont’s 1937 Annual Report to its stockholders, the company strongly urged continued investment in it’s new, but not readily accepted petrochemical synthetic products.  DuPont was anticipating “radical changes” from “the revenue raising power of government… converted into an instrument for forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization.”

Concern about the effects of hemp smoke had already led to two major governmental studies. The British governor of India released the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission 1893-1894 on heavy bhang smokers in the subcontinent.  And in 1930, the U.S. government sponsored Siler Commission study on the effects of off-duty smoking of marijuana by American servicemen in Panama.  Both reports concluded that marijuana was not a problem and recommended that no criminal penalties apply to its use.

In early 1937, Assistant U.S. Surgeon General Walter Treadway told the Cannabis Advisory Subcommittee of the League of Nations that, “It may be taken for a relatively long time without social or emotional breakdown.  Marihuana is habit-forming… in the same sense as… sugar or coffee.”

But other forces were at work.  The war fury that led to the Spanish American War in 1898 was ignited by William Randolph Hearst through his nationwide chain of newspapers, and marked the beginning of “yellow journalism” as a force in American politics.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “yellow journalism” as the use of cheaply sensational or unscrupulous methods in newspapers and other media to attract or influence the readers.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, Hearst’s newspapers deliberately manufactured a new threat to America and a new yellow journalism campaign to have hemp outlawed. For example, a story of a car accident in which a “marijuana cigarette” was found would dominate the headlines for weeks, while alcohol-related car accidents (which outnumbered marijuana-connected accidents by more than 10,000 to 1) made only the back pages.


The Demonization of Hemp

Much of the confusion between hemp and marijuana today can be traced back to the anti-drug campaigns that began in the 1920s.  Even Matt Rens, the Wisconsin mill owner known as “America’s hemp king” because of his contributions to the advancement of the industry, was, in his ignorance of the facts, influenced by these campaigns.  In 1940, Rens was quoted in the Milwaukee Journal saying, “We have enough marihuana on hand in stacks and in our warehouses to drug the nation, but I can’t recall a single case since I’ve been in the business where farmers or help around here smoked marihuana or put it to improper use.”

What Rens had on hand in such abundance was hemp, not marihuana – enough hemp to cause widespread headaches if smoked, but hardly a nationwide high.



The William Randolph Hearst Theory 

The William Randolph Hearst theory alleges that the newspaper baron, who owned vast timberlands, conspired against the burgeoning hemp industry with the Dupont Corporation, which owned patents on nylon and plastic, in order to remove a formidable competitor.


The Racism Theory

The Racism Theory alleges that the anti-marijuana campaign was not directed against hemp, but targeted African-American jazz musicians and Hispanics in Southern border towns who were stereotypically associated with marijuana use.

Starting with the 1898 Spanish American War, the Hearst newspaper had denounced Spaniards, Mexican-Americans, and Latinos.  After the seizure of 800,000 acres of Hearst’s prime Mexican timberland by the “marihuana” smoking army of Pancho Villa, these slurs intensified non-stop for the next three decades. Hearst painted a picture of the lazy, pot-smoking Mexican – still one of our most insidious prejudices.  Simultaneously, he waged a similar racist smear campaign against the Chinese, referring to them as the “Yellow Peril.”

Hearst’s and other sensationalistic tabloids ran hysterical headlines atop stories portraying “negroes” and Mexicans as frenzied beasts who, under the influence of marijuana, would play anti-white “voodoo-satanic” music (jazz) and heap disrespect and “viciousness” upon the primarily white readership.

“The actual Spanish word for hemp is “canamo.”  But using a Mexican “Sonoran” colloquialism – marijuana, often Americanized as “marihuana” – guaranteed that few would realize that the proper terms for one of the premier natural medicines, “cannabis,” and for the premiere industrial resource.  “Hemp,” had been pushed out of the language. “– Jack Herer, Author, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”

In 1937, Anslinger testified before Congress saying, “Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind.”  This, along with Anslinger’s outrageous racist statements and beliefs, was made to a southern-dominated committee and is now an embarrassment to read in its entirety.  For instance, Anslinger kept a “Gore File,” culled almost entirely from Hearst and other sensational tabloids e.g., stories of axe murders, where one of the participants reportedly smoked a joint four days before committing the crime.

Anslinger pushed on Congress as a factual statement that about 50% of all violent crimes committed in the U.S. were committed by Spaniards, Mexican-Americans and Greeks, and these crimes could be traced directly to marijuana.  (From Anslinger’s own records, donated by him to Pennsylvania State University, ref.: LiCata Murders, etc.)  Not one of Anslinger’s marijuana “Gore Files” of the 1930’s is believed to be true by scholars who have painstakingly checked the facts.


The Prohibition Bureaucracy Theory   

The Prohibition Bureaucracy Theory alleges that government agencies formerly responsible for enforcing the alcohol ban had nothing against hemp but needed to create a new villain (marijuana) in order to justify their continuing existence after Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Deep in the throes of the Depression, Congress began to examine budgetary requirements from all federal agencies, and the Bureau of Narcotics was no exception.  Requests for even small amounts of money had to be supported with documentation of the need for such spending.  The bureau’s budget was cut by $200,000, the number of agents on the payroll was reduced, and Anslinger began to fear that the bureau itself was in danger of emasculation.

To maintain its virility, Anslinger had to prove that there was a new drug menace threatening the country, one that required immediate federal attention, one that the Bureau of Narcotics could deal with if only its hands were not tied.  To prove the reality of the menace, Anslinger was prepared to spare no effort or guile.

A great believer in the force of public opinion, Anslinger reverted to the type of media campaign that had proven so successful when the Narcotics Division sought to expand in 1915 – he began to supply information to organizations like the WCTU, community service clubs, and the popular press concerning alleged atrocities committed by people under the influence of marihuana.  The bureau made no secret of this publicity campaign.

Articles were prepared in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, at the request of a number of organizations dealing with this general subject [uniform state drug laws] for publication by such organizations in magazines and newspapers.  An intelligent and sympathetic public interest, helpful to the administration of the narcotic laws has been aroused and maintained.  This was typical of the bureau’s “educational campaign” describing the drug, its identification, and its “evil effects”.

Text and photos credits:

Abel, Ernest, “Marijuana, The First 12,000 Years”, 2005; Herer, Jack, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”, AH HA Publishing, 2000; Robinson, Rowan, “The Great Book of Hemp”, Park Street Press, 1996.; Rothenberg, Erik “A RENEWAL OF COMMON SENSE: The Case for Hemp in 21st Century America” ©Vote Hemp, Inc.; Roulac, John W., “Hemp Horizons”, Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1997; Various, “Journal of Industrial Hemp”, The Haworth Press, Inc., 1996.


The “Evidence” Against Marihuana

During Congressional hearings in 1937, Anslinger introduced a main piece of evidence: Eugene Stanley’s article “Marihuana as a Developer of Criminals.”  No reference was made to any of the studies carried out in the Canal Zone which contradicted everything Stanley or Anslinger said about marihuana.  The committee heard from Dr. James Munch, a pharmacologist who had been giving marihuana to dogs.  Asked if the drug altered the personality of dogs, the pharmacologist answered with an unqualified, “Yes.  So far as I can tell, not being a dog psychologist.”

The Treasury Department’s medical witness was none other than Commissioner Harry Anslinger, who offered his own medical opinion of the dangers of marihuana, an opinion that was liberally spiked with a historically inaccurate rendering of the hoary legend of the Assassins.  After the Treasury Department presented its case it was time to hear from the other side. Petroleum technologies promised a new age of synthetics, and Americans were attracted to the novelty of such products.  Unfortunately, seventy years later the world now faces the consequences of deforestation, pollution, and financial consolidation that over reliance upon timber and petrochemical synthetics has brought.


AMA Opposes the “Evidence” 

Serious opposition came from the medical profession.  Dr. William Woodward, the legislative council for the AMA, challenged the Treasury Department on all fronts: “We are told that the use of marihuana causes crime.  But as yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of persons addicted to marihuana.  An informal inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no information to this point.  You have been told that school children are great users of marihuana cigarettes.  No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children.  Inquiry into the Office of Education, and they certainly should know something of the prevalence of the habit among school children of this country, if there is a prevalent habit, indicates that they had not occasion to investigate it and know nothing of it.”

The danger, Woodward insisted, was only in the minds of the Bureau of Narcotics.  There was no evidence to believe that marihuana posed any danger to the country.  Although he assumed that there must be some basis to all the furor over marihuana in the press, Woodward asked why the facts upon which these statements had been made had not been introduced as firsthand testimony.

Since when, he wanted to know, did press coverage constitute anything more than hearsay?  The AMA was not even aware that an anti-marihuana law was being prepared by the bureau.  “During the past 2 years,” he told the committee, “I have visited the Bureau of Narcotics probably 10 or more times.  Unfortunately, I had no knowledge that such a bill as this was proposed until after it had been introduced.”  Had he been aware of such an event, no doubt Woodward would have been able to call upon expert testimony from witnesses such as Drs. Bromberg and Siler whose studies did not support the bureau’s allegations.  “We cannot understand yet, Mr. Chairman,” Woodward said, “why this bill should have been prepared in secret for 2 years without any intimation even to the profession, that it was being prepared.”

When the Marijuana Tax Act bill came up for oral report, discussion, and vote on the floor of Congress, only one pertinent question was asked from the floor: “Did anyone consult with the AMA and get their opinion?”  Representative Vinson, answering for the Ways and Means Committee replied, “Yes, we have.  A Dr. Wharton [mistaken pronunciation of Woodward].”


The Birdseed Industry

Yet, far from being whipped into a panic over the “killer drug,” most Americans seemed totally unconcerned or aware that there was a drug menace threatening the country.  Many congressmen likewise were ignorant of the bureau’s efforts to arouse the nation over marihuana, and Anslinger felt that he had to do something else to capture their attention.

The failure to exclude hempseeds from the law brought a cry of protest not only from the paint and varnish makers but also from the birdseed industry, which used millions of pounds of cannabis seed a year as bird food.  The birdseed representative appeared almost too late to present his case, explaining that the birdseed industry had only just realized that marihuana was another name for the hemp plant!  When asked whether the seeds had the same effect in pigeons as in humans, the birdseed spokesman replied that he had never noticed any special effect. “It has a tendency to bring back the feathers, and improve the birds,” he told the committee.

So as not to ruin the birdseed industry, the provisions of the bill were changed.   Hemp seeds would be excluded from the definition of marihuana, provided that they were sterilized, a process that would ensure that they could not be used to grow new plants.


A Narcotic Of Some Kind

The hearings took place in late April and early May of that year.  As presented to Congress, the anti-marihuana bill stipulated that all handlers of cannabis had to be registered and pay a special occupational tax.  Written forms had to be submitted and filed for every transaction involving cannabis, and payment of a transfer tax of one dollar per ounce had to be paid each time the drug was delivered to an authorized recipient.

The bill was introduced by Clinton M. Hester, the Treasury Department’s assistant general counsel.  Hester told the House Committee on Ways and Means that the Treasury Department had taken it upon itself to call for federal laws against marihuana after a two-year study by the Bureau of Narcotics revealed that the drug was “being used extensively by high school children in cigarettes.”  “Its effect,” he told the House committee, “is deadly”.  No estimates of how many Americans were using marihuana were ever discussed.  No qualified experts were summoned to support the bureau’s claim either that children were using marihuana, that marihuana was causing Americans to commit crimes, or that marihuana is “deadly.”

What the committee did hear were excerpts from newspapers and magazines describing the dangers of the drug: “The leading newspapers of the United States have recognized the seriousness of this problem and many of them have advocated Federal legislation to control the traffic in marihuana.”  What the committee did not know was that the bureau had supplied many of the gruesome stories upon which the newspapers based their appeal for something to be done.

Hester testified in favor of the Marihuana Tax Act before the Senate Committee on Finance.  Discussing the possible impact on legitimate hemp farming, he stated, “The plant also has many industrial uses . . . The production and sale of hemp and its products for industrial purposes will not be adversely affected by this bill.”

Members of Congress urged their colleagues to pass the bill.  Some, such as Congressman Robinson of Kentucky, continued to express concern about its possible negative effects on the hemp industry.  Speaking on the House floor, Robinson inquired, “I am opposed to the use of drugs taken from the hemp, but is this bill so drawn that it will not interfere with or injure the production of hemp for commercial purposes in a legitimate way?”

His counterpart from California, Buck replied, “This bill defines marihuana so that every legitimate use of hemp is protected.”

Soon after the hearings were over, the bill came to a vote in the House of Representatives.  Just before the vote was taken, a short exchange took place showing that Congress was not even aware of what the drug marihuana was, although they were being asked to outlaw its use:

Mr. Snell: What is the bill?

Mr. Raybur: It has something to do with something that is called marihuana.  I – believe it is a narcotic of some kind.

The House passed the bill and sent it on to the Senate. It was slightly amended by the Senate and sent back to the House which passed it without even a roll call.  There was virtually no debate.  President Roosevelt’s signing of the bill into law merited only a scant three and a half lines in the New York Times on August 3, 1937: “President Roosevelt signed today a bill to curb traffic in the narcotic, marihuana, through heavy taxes on transactions.”



Impediments to the Hemp Industry

Despite assurances to the contrary, the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act in effect crippled industrial hemp.  Commercial hemp farming in America continued.  However agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, armed with the new statute, began to clamp down on the industry, especially in Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota – the areas where hemp farmers and millers were using new cellulose technologies to develop innovative hemp products, such as plastics and paper.

Potential investors did not want to risk their capitol on a government-controlled industry; farmers were weary of bearing the stigma of cultivating hemp due to its recent association in the public mind with marijuana.  For these reasons, coupled with the powerful new restrictions, most hemp ventures began to decline in the fall of 1937.



1942: Hemp for Victory

“Hemp for Victory!” was a response to the German government’s movement to grow hemp and an interesting contrast to the yellow journalism barely a decade before.  A fascinating “twist” in the U.S. government’s hemp policy emerged in 1942, during World War II, when the importation of fibers for textiles and rope was curtailed.  The Army and the USDA jointly released their “Hemp for Victory” campaign, featuring a film that rallied American farmers to grow hemp!  The campaign certainly was not called “Marijuana for Victory,” and it therefore signified that government officials still recognized the difference between the two varieties.



Decentralization of Hemp

By the time the United States entered World War II, the resurgence of industrial hemp in America had faded, except for a few Wisconsin companies that traditionally had provided hemp fiber to the United States Navy for cordage and caulking.  These enterprises were allowed to ignore the stipulation of the transfer tax, and stayed viable into the early 1950’s.  They were never targeted for potential violations, in contrast to the innovative firms that focused on chemurgic cellulosic processes.  Government regulation and competition from the timber and petrochemical sectors had eliminated the profits to be derived by cultivating and processing hemp.  Thus it attracted few supporters or market forces to encourage continuation.

Another more subtle factor in the failure of the American hemp industry was its rural, decentralized structure; its primary economic beneficiaries were farmers and small regional manufacturers.  In that burgeoning era of big government and a few dominant companies, the centralized structure of the timber and petrochemical industries represented a more profitable approach.  Trees and petroleum were in abundant supply and therefore cheaply priced.


Pot and the Threat of Peace

From 1948 to 1950, Harry Anslinger stopped feeding the story that marijuana was violence-causing and began “red baiting”, typical of the McCarthy era.  Now the frightened American public was told that this was a much more dangerous drug than he originally thought.  Testifying before a strongly anti-Communist Congress in 1948 – and thereafter continually to the press – Anslinger proclaimed that marijuana rendered its users not violent at all, but peaceful and pacifist!  He testified that the Communists could and would use marijuana to weaken our American fighting men’s will to fight.  This was a 180 degree turn around of the original pretext on which “violence-causing” cannabis was outlawed in 1937.  Undaunted, however, Congress now voted to continue the marijuana law – based on the exact opposite reasoning they had used to outlaw cannabis in the first place.  It is interesting and even absurd to note that Anslinger and his biggest supporters – southern congressman and his best senatorial friend, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin – from 1948 on, constantly received press coverage on the scare.

According to Anslinger’s autobiographical book, “The Murderers”, and confirmed by former FBN agents, Anslinger had been supplying morphine illegally to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy for years.  The reason given by Anslinger in his book?  So the Communists would not be able to blackmail this great American Senator for his drug dependency weakness. – Dean Latimer, Flowers In The Blood; Harry Anslinger, The Murderers.


When Hemp Saved George Bush’s Life

One more example of the importance of hemp:  Five years after cannabis hemp was outlawed in 1937, it was promptly re-introduced for the World War II effort in 1942.

  • So, when the young pilot George H.W. Bush bailed out of his burning airplane over a battle over the pacific, little did he know; parts of his aircraft engine were lubricated with cannabis hempseed oil;
  • 100% of his life-saving parachute webbing was made from American grown cannabis hemp
  • Virtually all the rigging and ropes of the ship that pulled him in were made of cannabis hemp
  • The fire hoses of the ship; (as were those in the schools he had attended) were woven from cannabis hemp
  • Finally, as the young George Bush stood safely on the deck in his shoes, the ”durable stitching” was made of cannabis hemp as it is in all good leather and military shoes of the time.

Yet Bush spent a good deal of his career eradicating the cannabis plant and enforcing laws to make certain that no one will learn this information possibly including himself.



Drug Incarcerations Skyrocket

Bureau of Justice Statistics figures for 2004 indicate that there were more than 2.1 million inmates in the nation’s prisons and jails, representing an increase of 2.6% (54,300) over the previous twelve months.

The new figures represent a record 32-year continuous rise in the number of inmates in the U.S. The current incarceration rate of 724 per 100,000 residents places the United States first in the world in this regard.  Rates of incarceration per 100,000 for other industrialized nations include: Australia – 120, Canada – 116, England/Wales – 145, France – 88, and Japan – 60.

The prison and jail population has continued to grow to unprecedented levels, with 1 in every 138 U.S. residents incarcerated.  This has had profound consequences for racial and ethnic minorities and women.  These and other factors relating to the current prison figures are assessed below:

The federal prison system continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, increasing 4.2% during 2004 to a total of 180,328 prisoners. The number of federal prisoners in custody has increased by 90% in the last decade. More than one-quarter (26%) of the national growth in the prison population in the past year is attributable to the federal prison system, contributing to an overcrowding level of 140%. This expansion has arisen primarily as a result of the incarceration of non-violent offenders.   More than half (55%) of federal prisoners are serving time for a drug offense, while only 11% are incarcerated for a violent offense. – Text from



Corporate Prison Labor

An American worker, who once upon a time made $8/hour, loses his job when the company relocates to Thailand where workers are paid only $2/day.  Unemployed and alienated from a society indifferent to his needs, he becomes involved in the drug economy or some other outlawed means of survival.  He is arrested, put in prison, and put to work.  His new salary: 22 cents/hour.  From worker, to unemployed, to criminal, to convict laborer, the cycle has come full circle.  And the only victor is big business.

For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold.  No strikes.  No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay. No language problem, as in a foreign country.  New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls.  Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret… all at a fraction of the cost of “free labor.”

Prisoners can be forced to work for pennies because they have no rights.  Even the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.  More and more, prisons are charging inmates for basic necessities from medical care, to toilet paper, to use of the law library. Many states are now charging “room and board.”  Berks County jail in Pennsylvania is charging inmates $10 per day to be there. California has similar legislation pending.

So, while government cannot (yet) actually require inmates to work at private industry jobs for less than minimum wage, they are forced to by necessity.  Some prison enterprises are state run. Inmates working at UNICOR (the federal prison industry corporation) make recycled furniture and work 40 hours a week for about $40 per month.  The Oregon Prison Industries produces a line of “Prison Blues” blue jeans.  An ad in their catalogue shows a handsome prison inmate saying, “I say we should make bell-bottoms.  They say I’ve been in here too long.”  Bizarre but true.  The promotional tags on the clothes themselves actually tout their operation as rehabilitation and job training for prisoners, who of course would never be able to find work in the garment industry upon release.

Prison industries are often directly competing with private industry. Small furniture manufacturers around the country complain that they are being driven out of business by UNICOR which pays 23 cents/hour and has the inside track on government contracts.  In another case, U.S. Technologies sold its electronics plant in Austin, Texas, leaving its 150 workers unemployed.  Six weeks later, the electronics plant reopened in a nearby prison.

1937 The First Marijuana Arrest Victim






German campaign educating the urgency to grow hemp for national security.  This was very Whysimilar to the Hemp For Victory movie campaign in the United States during World War II.

The following Images are courtesy of

HEMP FOR VICTORY Ads and Documents