With medicinal and recreational legalization across the nation, cannabis is finally creating economic growth in America. Medicinally and financially, cannabis is making a big impact on the nation, as well as being a valuable resource. What most Americans might not realize is that this isn’t the first time cannabis has helped the wellbeing of America. In fact, the United States of America was aided in its creation due to cannabis plants – one in particular.

Hemps Many Uses

Hemp was incredibly important for the British Empire, as it was used for sailcloth and rope rigging for their growing fleet of ships. To give an idea on how much hemp was needed, a letter found from 1797 called for 50 tons of hemp for just one ship, the USS Constitution. The issue for England was securing a constant and large amount of raw hemp, and their solution was to mandate hemp cultivation in the new American colonies.

The growing colonies did not prove to be as lucrative of a source of hemp as they had hoped. England created laws that would halt the industrialization of the growing colonies but to no avail. Tensions were rising higher between the crown and the colonies, and Americans were utilizing hemp for their own expansion. The usefulness of hemp assisted the growth of the colonies, as it was used;

  • To create cloth, ropes and oakum (hemp fibers that were twisted and tarred before being pounded in between the boards of a ship for waterproofing).
  • The seeds were extracted to create oil to use in lamps
  • Hemp was bartered was even considered legal tender for taxes.

The High Value of Hemp

It might be shocking that hemp was once considered currency in America, but at one time, it was considered more valuable than cash. In the colonies, there was a lack of trust in paper money, as it had little apparent value. A thousand dollars in Virginia currency was equal to only one dollar in silver. It was due to this that the colonies relied on bartering.

Although anything could be bartered, hemp was considered very valuable. Hemp ‘was recognized as the standard commodity for the first three or four decades’ in America.

The founding fathers of America recognized the importance and usefulness of the crop. The story of Benjamin Franklin tying the key to a kite to discover electricity? Hemp string was used to tie the key! He even went on to open one of the first hemp paper mills. Thomas Jefferson was quite the fan of hemp as well, stating “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” The drafts of the Declaration of Independence were even written on hemp paper.

Hemp continued assisting America to victory through the American Revolution. With trade weakened, hemp clothing, rope and paper were able to be made in the colonies. Pamphlets urged Americans to plant hemp in their yards to help cultivate more of the valuable resource for paper.

America gained its Independence on July 4th, 1776, with hemp continuing to be cultivated for its many uses, assisting Americans for years to come. Hemp continued to be an important crop in the United States until it was deemed illegal on August 12, 1937. And now thanks to recent legislation, hemp can be used for medicinal and sometimes recreational purposes as well.