Textile expert Elizabeth Wayland Barber summarizes the historical evidence that Cannabis sativa, "grew and was known in the Neolithic period all across the northern latitudes, from Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Ukraine) to East Asia (Tibet and China)," but, "textile use of Cannabis sativa does not surface for certain in the West until relatively late, namely the Iron Age." "I strongly suspect, however, that what catapulted hemp to sudden fame and fortune as a cultigen and caused it to spread rapidly westwards in the first millennium B.C. was the spread of the habit of pot-smoking from somewhere in south-central Asia, where the drug-bearing variety of the plant originally occurred. The linguistic evidence strongly supports this theory, both as to time and direction of spread and as to cause."
Queensland has allowed industrial production under licence since 2002, where the issuance is controlled under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986. Western Australia enabled the cultivation, harvest and processing of hemp under its Industrial Hemp Act 2004, New South Wales now issues licences under a law, the Hemp Industry Regulations Act 2008 (No 58), that came into effect as of 6 November 2008. Most recently, South Australia legalized industrial hemp under South Australia’s Industrial Hemp Act 2017, which commenced on 12 November 2017.
Considering its popularity from long ago, when even our forefathers appreciated the value of hemp seeds, it seems unusual that the plant would have such a bad reputation today. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp plants in their gardens. Hemp paper was even used for the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin Franklin produced hemp paper at his mill. The environmental advantages and nutritional benefits of growing industrial hemp seem to many to be worth lifting its restrictions.
In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs treats hemp as a purely non-food crop, but with proper licensing and proof of less than 0.2% THC concentration, hemp seeds can be imported for sowing or for sale as a food or food ingredient. In the U.S., imported hemp can be used legally in food products and, as of 2000, was typically sold in health food stores or through mail order.