During the colonization of America, the growing of HEMP was encouraged by the government. In fact, during 1619, the Virginia assembly passed legislation requiring every farmer to grow it. Hemp was even considered legal tender in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania at one time. The agricultural plant was used to produce rope, sails, and clothing. It's farming and production was prevalent until the American Civil War as other imports and domestic materials began to take hold, and the fears about marijuana began to grow.

Hemp’s twisted path

During the 1930’s the fear of marijuana as a cause for social ills began to increase culminating in the infamous film, “Reefer Madness.” At the same time, large business interests in the United States had holdings in timber and other products, which completed with hemp.

As pressure mounted on the government, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, effectively criminalizing marijuana and related plants.

As the United States entered World War II, imports of hemp, which was used for a variety of military products, including parachutes, was dwindling. The United States Department of Agriculture began the “Hemp for Victory” campaign that authorized farmers to grow the plant for the government, even granting draft deferments to farmers that participated.

Postwar America experienced the counter-culture era of the 1960’s and the war on drugs beginning in the 1980’s. That has been followed up with state and federal laws conflicting with each other, as some states move towards legalization of marijuana.

Hemp remains a controlled substance

Due to its relationship with the marijuana plant and the fact that it contains some THC, the plant is still considered, by the Federal government to be a schedule one narcotic. This severely impedes any potential farming and production of hemp without a special federal permit which would strictly be limited and controlled.

In 2014, Congress enacted a farm bill that also allowed states to undertake certain related research projects, but if it remains a schedule 1 drug, it will never become viable in American agriculture.

Enter Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

The senator wants to remove hemp from the list of schedule one drugs so that it can once again return as a major crop for American farmers. Senator McConnell stated his intentions to introduce legislation that would legalize its production as an agricultural commodity. With the Justice Department’s current negative attitudes towards marijuana, there is still much to be done in order to bring about the return of full-scale hemp production, but such a move could be a huge boost to the farming industry.