Photo: Herald Tribune

In 1619, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation that required all farmers to grow hemp. In the 1700s hemp was a major money making crop for settlers through export. It was widely used for a variety of goods and was even grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence itself was drafted on hemp paper.  

One of the last instances where hemp was used in the United States was in making rope and other material during World War II for the war effort, but by that time the industrial hemp industry was in decline because of the Marhiuana Tax Act of 1937. Following the war’s end, in the face of the nation’s growing fear of cannabis, the hemp farms were cut down. Growing hemp was banned and, along with the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, it lost all recognition that the plant was separate from cannabis.  

In 2014, the Federal Government passed a Farm Bill that included Section 7606, which stipulates that “industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research.” Hemp is no longer considered the same as cannabis, and with the first steps to creating a healthy hemp industry, states that fit the stipulations are now able to vote for the ability to grow industrial hemp.  

Both New York and North Carolina voted to allow for industrial hemp to be grown in the state, with North Carolina passing with an almost unanimous vote. Despite its strong support in the senate, however, the bill sat on Governor McCrory’s desk while he considered the legislation. He finally decided to allow the bill to pass without his signature and gave a written statement on why he did not sign the bill, “after discussing with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, I have decided to allow Senate Bill 313 to become law without my signature. Despite the bill’s good intentions, there are legitimate concerns I would like to address.”  

In New York, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo along with Senator Tom O’Mara co-sponsored the bill that would make New York one of the first states to legally grow hemp again. “We are on the frontier of a major new industrial crop, and that’s why I’ve been pushing New York to get out in front of it,” Lupardo said.  

Both states are set to start growing hemp next year and will be among the first states to legally plant seeds in the ground.  

Prohibition wiped out American hemp seed stocks and once farmers begin to grow the crop again they will need to import seed from around the world and work out the best varieties to grow in different climates. Although this may take some time, it will be well worth it. The income from hemp farmed in Canada, much of which is imported to the United States, is close to $1 billion annually. Profits of hemp were about $250 per acre in 2013, while in the United States that same acre of soy brought in a profit of only $71 in 2014.

The demand for hemp products is high in the United States and currently, all hemp products are imported from abroad. The extremely nutritious hemp seed has become a staple in many homes and with the wide variety of goods that hemp can create, states supporting the crop are ensured a large market for all parts of the plant.