Hemp has been a part of American history since the 16th century, when Spanish colonizers first brought it to the New World. It quickly became an important fiber crop in the New England colonies in the mid-17th century, and reached its peak of production in the United States (U. S.) during the mid-19th century. However, hemp's popularity was short-lived, as Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, ushering in an era of hemp prohibition.
This law made it difficult for U. S. farmers to grow hemp, and its cultivation became increasingly irregular until 1957, when the last commercial production occurred. The main promoter of the Tax Act, Harry Anslinger, began promoting anti-marijuana legislation around the world. This caused confusion between hemp and marijuana, leading to the collapse of the hemp industry.
In recent years, however, new hemp products have been developed as an alternative to concrete, such as hemp cement and CBD products. Automotive companies are also using hemp fabric for their vehicles, and markets and supply chains for foods made from hemp seeds and industrial products made with hemp fiber are beginning to emerge. Hemp first arrived in North America in 1545 through Portuguese colonization (Fike 201). The captains of these ships were ordered to widely distribute hemp seeds to provide fiber wherever they needed to be repaired in distant lands. This allowed hemp to move freely across the country, including through states that prohibit its cultivation within their borders. Strong fibers formed strong nations in the pre-industrial era, and hemp was strategically important during the Revolutionary War.
Researchers from China and Taiwan have discovered that hemp was used daily for ceramics, as a food both in the form of seeds and oil, and as a medicine as early as 8000 BC. Today, hemp is exempt from the definition of marijuana and can be imported and sold in the U. S., allowing it to make a comeback after decades of prohibition. As more people become aware of its many uses and benefits, it is likely that hemp will continue to play an important role in American history.