Past, Present, and Future of Hemp In the US

Past, Present, and Future of Hemp In the US

The 2018 Farm Bill is expected to shake things up in the hemp industry. This new legislation gives U.S. farmers the opportunity to legally cultivate the Cannabis sativa L plant for hemp production. And manufacturers and retailers can now process and sell products derived from hemp. But hemp-based goods have already made their way into the American consumer market. CBD oil, derived from agricultural hemp, is extremely popular, and the demand is growing. Many consumers may assume hemp and goods made from this plant are a new phenomenon. However, hemp production is ancient – dating back to around 8,000 BC.

A Short History of Hemp Use

The oldest example of hemp use, to date, was discovered in Asian pottery and as food, in what is now China and Taiwan. The people of those regions used hemp cords, seeds and oil. Other evidence of hemp-derived goods has been found in India, southern Russia, Germany, Greece, Britain, and again in China, dating between 2,000 BC and 100 BC.

By 900 AD, Arabs were using hemp to make paper, and in the mid 1500’s cannabis farming made its way to South American. North American settlers started growing hemp by 1616. In the 1700’s, many colonial farmers were legally mandated to cultivate hemp. Up until the late 1800’s, between 75 and 90 percent of all the paper produced around the world was derived from hemp fiber.

Making paper was the most popular use for hemp in the past. But it had many other purposes as well. Those include providing durable fiber for rope, fabric and textiles, seed for lamp fuel, and oil for medicines and hygiene products. In the Colonies, farmers were even permitted to pay their taxes with hemp.

Hemp fiber was well-suited for ship sail canvas and cordage, helping to fuel demand for the crop. But as steam ships took over in the late 1800’s, the need for the fiber began diminishing. Additionally, cotton was easier to cultivate and process. Then, in 1917, George W. Schlichten introduced a machine that could separate useful hemp fibers from the plant. This decorticator machine had the potential to make hemp harvesting much more efficient and economical, and less labor-intensive. This is perhaps why synthetic textile industrialists started a campaign to get rid of hemp farming.

In September 1937, they obtained their goal with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. This law made hemp cultivation too expensive for farmers to pursue. Hemp did experience a brief resurgence during World War II with the “Hemp for Victory” government effort. Farmers were given special permits and encouraged to cultivate hemp to make rope for the Navy. But once the war was over, hemp was essentially prohibited once again. But today, that’s all changing as hemp-derived products are experiencing a renaissance of usefulness.

Thousands of Current Uses for Hemp Today

Every part of the hemp plant is viable for productive use. The following products are but a sampling of the thousands of hemp goods available to consumers today.

Topical Ointments

The anti-inflammatory properties of hemp roots make them suitable for therapeutic purposes. Some popular uses include the treatment of:

  • arthritis
  • gout
  • joint pain
  • burns
  • cuts
  • fever

Hemp roots are also helpful in cleaning soils and stabilizing soil structure. They draw heavy-metal impurities out of contaminated soil.


The seeds of this plant contain an abundance of minerals, amino acids, proteins and fats. They are used in baking and cooking, and they make a healthy addition to salads, soups and smoothies. One entrepreneurial company is even bottling hemp-infused wine.

Beauty and Hygiene

Cold pressing the seeds can produce cannabis oil to be used in food, beauty products and cosmetics. Soaps, shampoos, lip balms, lotions, and essential oils are just a few of the hundreds of beauty and body products manufacturers are producing from hemp.


Hemp fiber is used to make numerous textile products, such as:

  • Rugs/carpets
  • Upholstery
  • Rope
  • Towels
  • Bedding
  • Curtains
  • Tablecloths


Because an increasing segment of the population is embracing eco-friendly products, hemp apparel has the potential to really take off in the clothing industry. Hemp is a sustainable crop and lends itself to organic farming. It also requires far less water than cotton crops but delivers almost twice as much fiber yield per acre. Hemp-derived fabric also enjoys many attractive characteristics. it’s odor-resistant, hypoallergenic, moisture wicking, and anti-microbial.


Hemp plastic is strong and made to last. It’s used to make pens, sunglasses, furniture, musical instruments, auto door panels, and other items that were once only made of traditional plastic or fiberglass.


Sustainability, durability, efficiency and the rapid growth rate of hemp plants makes hemp paper a more attractive option than tree paper.

Vehicle Parts

Hemp fibers subjected to thermoset compression molding can create car panels and other vehicle parts.

Pet Products

Hemp seeds can be used in pet food and as a dietary supplement for animals. Hemp chew toys are strong enough to give most dogs a lot of play. Bedding, leashes, and collars are a few other hemp-derived pet products.


CBD oil is currently getting the most buzz as a hemp product. Manufacturers and retailers are adding CBD oil to everything from food and beverages to supplements, lotions and wellness products.

This list barely scratch the surface of the number and variety of hemp-derived goods available on the market today. In 2015, the U.S. hemp market size represented 599.6 million dollars. By the end of 2018, the estimate is approximately 2 billion dollars. Hemp has thousands of uses, and consumers are buying these useful hemp-derived goods.

Hemp’s Bright Future in the U.S.

There is a clear and strong demand for hemp products. Farmers understand this and they’re moving to start meeting that demand. Limited seed supply will be an initial roadblock. But this will eventually be overcome as U.S. farmers expand hemp acreage to produce their own growing supply.

More companies and investors are sure to move into this space, which will help the industry grow. Banking and insurance services will become available. And the demand for commercial real estate and land is expected to increase, as well. The need for heavy farm-equipment for hemp harvesting should increase, along with manufacturing equipment for hemp product production. Even marketing firms can expect to benefit. The hemp boom is set to impact a lot of industries.

The present state of the hemp industry around the world is tremendous. Now it’s time for U.S. entrepreneurs to take a bite out of this beautiful plant. The wave has already started, but it’s growing. Farmers, manufactures, retailers, startups, real estate professionals, lenders and various other professionals are poised to make a profit from this burgeoning industry.

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February 14, 2019Comments Off

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