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  • Debby Goldsberry

The Federal Hemp Phenomenon - A Five-Part Series Part Two: Rediscovering Hemp's Rich Heritage

Updated: Jul 5

Rediscovering Hemp's Rich Heritage

Hemp, one of the oldest cultivated crops known to humanity, has woven itself into the fabric of human history for millennia. From its ancient origins to its recent resurgence, hemp's journey is a tale of cultural significance, economic importance, and political controversy. Jack Herer, a well-known hemp advocate, brought the plant’s history to the attention of modern consumers with his book, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes” (Herer, 1985). 

This article is part of Digamma Consulting’s five-part series, "The Federal Hemp Phenomenon," which delves deeper into hemp's fascinating history and cultural significance. As it continues to explore its journey from ancient civilizations to modern resurgence, we invite you to discover the intricate tapestry woven by this remarkable plant. The use of hemp began thousands of years ago in ancient civilizations across the globe. From China to Mesopotamia, from Egypt to Europe, hemp found its place as a staple crop revered for its myriad uses. Some researchers say that more than 10,000 years ago, hemp's fibers were used for textiles, ropes, and paper, and its seeds were utilized for food and oil.

To understand hemp's historical and modern context comprehensively, we highly recommend Digamma Consulting's insightful white paper, "The Federal Recreational Hemp Phenomenon." This white paper provides an in-depth analysis of hemp's impact on human history, its economic importance, and the political challenges it has faced. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a policy maker, or an industry professional, this white paper is an invaluable resource for understanding the enduring significance and potential of hemp.

In China, the birthplace of hemp cultivation, the plant held sacred status and was considered one of the "five grains" alongside rice, wheat, barley, and soybeans. Chinese farmers cultivated hemp for its fibers, which were used to make clothing, sails, and even early forms of paper. The use of hemp spread along trade routes to other ancient civilizations, where it became an indispensable resource for daily life.

The Rise and Fall of Hemp's Prohibition

Despite its long history and numerous benefits, the tide turned against hemp in the early 20th century, fueled by political agendas and misconceptions. In the United States, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 dealt a severe blow to the hemp industry. This legislation, driven by anti-drug sentiments and the fear of "marihuana," effectively criminalized the cultivation and sale of all cannabis plants, including hemp. Only hemp bird seeds were allowed afterward, as the seed industry successfully lobbied for ongoing access. 

The demonization of cannabis, fueled by misinformation campaigns and racial prejudices, led to the stigmatization of hemp as a dangerous drug rather than a valuable crop. As a result, hemp cultivation dwindled, and its industrial potential remained largely untapped for decades.

The Road to Legalization

The latter part of the 20th century saw a gradual shift in attitudes towards hemp, fueled by hemp advocacy, scientific research, and a growing awareness of the plant’s economic and environmental benefits. By the 1990s, researchers began to uncover the nutritional value of hemp seeds, which are rich in essential fatty acids and protein. Health-conscious consumers embraced hemp-based foods and supplements, sparking renewed interest in the plant.

Simultaneously, advocates and activists began to challenge the stigma surrounding cannabis, pushing for legislative changes to distinguish industrial hemp from its psychoactive counterpart, which is known as cannabis and marijuana. Their efforts culminated in the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014  in the United States, allowing hemp cultivation for research purposes under state pilot programs.

Legalization and Economic Opportunities (Beginning of Federal Hemp Phenomenon)

The turning point for hemp came with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the United States, which removed hemp from the list of controlled substances and legalized its nationwide cultivation and commercialization. This landmark legislation began a new era for hemp, opening the floodgates for farmers, entrepreneurs, and investors eager to capitalize on the plant's vast potential.

With hemp again recognized as a legitimate agricultural commodity, farmers across the country embraced its cultivation, drawn by its versatility, sustainability, and potential profitability. As mentioned above, the uses for hemp are virtually limitless, offering a promising path towards a more sustainable future. Hemp provides many uses, from textiles to construction materials, biofuels to health and wellness products. 

Challenges and Opportunities in the Hemp Industry

While the legalization of hemp represents a significant victory for advocates and enthusiasts, challenges remain as the industry navigates regulatory hurdles, market fluctuations, and public perception. Regulatory uncertainty, in particular, poses a significant barrier to the widespread adoption of hemp, with inconsistencies in testing standards, licensing requirements, and interstate commerce restrictions hindering the industry's growth.

One pressing issue facing the hemp industry is the problem of mislabeled test results and contaminants in retail sales of low-THC and CBD products. Despite the legalization of hemp, the lack of standardized testing protocols and oversight has led to discrepancies in reported cannabinoid content and the presence of harmful contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents in retail products.

Consumers seeking the therapeutic benefits of CBD and other hemp-derived products are often left vulnerable to misleading labeling and unsafe products. Without accurate testing and transparent labeling, consumers may inadvertently ingest harmful substances or receive products with higher or lower potency than advertised, undermining trust in the industry and compromising public health. 

Shared Objectives

As the hemp industry continues to thrive and gain momentum, it is essential to acknowledge the interconnectedness between advocates for hemp and those supporting medical and adult-use cannabis legalization. Despite differences in regulatory frameworks and public perception, both movements share the common goals and principles of promoting access to safe, sustainable, and plant-based alternatives. Advocates for hemp and medical and adult-use cannabis often find themselves fighting similar battles against outdated laws, stigma, and misinformation. After all, they are the same plant, albeit with genetics with divergent outcomes, and were prohibited together for more than 100 years. Whether advocating for the legalization of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes or the expansion of hemp cultivation and research, these movements are united in their pursuit of justice, equity, and social progress.

Both hemp and cannabis advocates recognize the potential of these plants to address a wide range of societal issues, from economic revitalization and environmental sustainability to public health and social justice. While hemp and cannabis advocacy movements may have distinct priorities and strategies, there is much to be gained from collaboration and mutual support. Hemp advocates can draw inspiration from the successes and lessons learned by cannabis activists, particularly in navigating the complexities of legalization, regulation, and public education.

Conversely, cannabis advocates can learn from the experiences of their counterparts in the hemp industry, particularly in cultivating relationships with policymakers, fostering community engagement, and promoting sustainable business practices. By sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices, advocates for hemp and cannabis can strengthen their collective impact and advance their shared objectives more effectively.


As Digamma Consulting continues to explore the rich history and modern resurgence of hemp, it is clear that this plant has played a vital role in human civilization for thousands of years. From its ancient origins and widespread use in early cultures to its fall from grace under prohibition and its recent revival, hemp’s journey is a testament to its enduring value and versatility.

In the next installment of Digamma’s hemp series, Part Three: The Chemistry of Hemp, we will dive into the fascinating world of hemp chemistry. We will explore the complex chemical composition of hemp, highlighting the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds that contribute to its unique properties and wide range of applications. Understanding hemp's chemistry is crucial for unlocking its full potential in various industries, from pharmaceuticals to textiles.

Join us in part three as we uncover the scientific foundations of hemp and its myriad uses. Together, we celebrate the legacy of hemp and its promising future, recognizing the efforts of advocates and pioneers who have paved the way for its resurgence. For a detailed look at hemp, read Digamma’s white paper, The Federal Recreational Hemp Phenomenon.

See this article on our sister site at the Emerald Community:


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