In 1619, well over a century before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed an act requiring all planters in Virginia to grow hemp on their plantations. Hemp, produced from the stalks of cannabis plants to make industrial strength rope and fiber, became a lucrative cash crop for European settlers in North America, who used it to create a wide variety of products, from canvas and paper to clothing. As recently as World War II hemp was being used to make military uniforms.
Hemp Use in Ancient Times
The history of hemp use dates back almost 5,000 years to the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung who wrote of its healing properties in ritual ceremonies. In India, Ayurvedic practitioners have been promoting hemp use to aid with sleep and appetite for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans, including Pliny the Elder and Galen, prescribed hemp for various ailments, while warning that excessive use could hamper one’s sexual prowess.