Jews living in Palestine in the 2nd century were familiar with the cultivation of hemp, as witnessed by a reference to it in the Mishna (Kil'ayim 2:5) as a variety of plant, along with Arum, that sometimes takes as many as three years to grow from a seedling. In late medieval Germany and Italy, hemp was employed in cooked dishes, as filling in pies and tortes, or boiled in a soup. Hemp in later Europe was mainly cultivated for its fibers, and was used for ropes on many ships, including those of Christopher Columbus. The use of hemp as a cloth was centered largely in the countryside, with higher quality textiles being available in the towns.
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The process to legalize hemp cultivation began in 2009, when Oregon began approving licenses for industrial hemp. Then, in 2013, after the legalization of marijuana, several farmers in Colorado planted and harvested several acres of hemp, bringing in the first hemp crop in the United States in over half a century. After that, the federal government created a Hemp Farming Pilot Program as a part of the Agricultural Act of 2014. This program allowed institutions of higher education and state agricultural departments to begin growing hemp without the consent of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Hemp production in Kentucky, formerly the United States' leading producer, resumed in 2014. Hemp production in North Carolina resumed in 2017, and in Washington State the same year. By the end of 2017, at least 34 U.S. states had industrial hemp programs. In 2018, New York began taking strides in industrial hemp production, along with hemp research pilot programs at Cornell University, Binghamton University and SUNY Morrisville.
It is sometimes supposed that an excerpt from Washington's diary, which reads "Began to seperate [sic] the Male from the Female hemp at Do.&—rather too late" is evidence that he was trying to grow female plants for the THC found in the flowers. However, the editorial remark accompanying the diary states that "This may arise from their [the male] being coarser, and the stalks larger" In subsequent days, he describes soaking the hemp (to make the fibers usable) and harvesting the seeds, suggesting that he was growing hemp for industrial purposes, not recreational.
Although hemp and marijuana are members of the same species, Cannabis sativa, they're in effect completely different plants. There are about a dozen varieties of hemp plants that are grown for food, and all of them contain about 0.001 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This means you can eat as much hemp as you want and you'll never have to worry about getting high or failing a drug test. Although certain states have begun to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the last couple of years, the hemp seeds you can find at your grocery or health food store were likely grown in Canada or China.
Millennia of selective breeding have resulted in varieties that display a wide range of traits; e.g. suited for a particular environments/latitudes, producing different ratios and compositions of terpenoids and cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, CBN...etc.), fibre quality, oil/seed yield, etc. Hemp grown for fiber is planted closely, resulting in tall, slender plants with long fibers.
John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.
Shelled hemp seeds are becoming a popular dietary supplement because of their high protein content and healthful fatty acids. Hemp seeds come from the same plants, Cannabis sativa or C. indica, that produce marijuana, although the plants are cultivated and processed differently so that hemp seeds contain very low levels of psychoactive cannabinols such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Shelled hemp seeds are generally safe, but some people may experience some undesired side effects.
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