In the U.S. the first hemp plantings were in Jamestown, Virginia, where growing hemp was actually mandatory. From then on hemp was used in everything from 19th century clipper ship sails to the covers of pioneer wagons. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and even the finest bible paper today remains hemp-based.
In the early 20th century, hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics. Henry Ford even built a prototype car from bio-composite materials, using agricultural fiber such as hemp.
In 1937, the passage of “Marihuana Tax Act” occurred, and, despite the U.S. Government’s “Hemp for Victory” campaign during World War II, misplaced fears that industrial hemp was the same as marijuana, combined with targeted harassment by law enforcement, discouraged farmers from growing hemp. The last crop was grown in Wisconsin in 1958 and by 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) formally prohibited cultivation.
Fast forward to present time, where sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil are still used in raw materials by major companies, including Ford Motors, Patagonia, and The Body Shop, to make a wide variety of products. However, most hemp product manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from growers in Canada, Europe, and China because American farmers were prohibited by law from growing this low-input sustainable crop.