hemp has run the proverbial gauntlet in the U.S. due to political dissent, special interests and downright suspicion.1 Nevertheless, every bit of this ancient plant is useful and valuable, and not just for rope,2 but for auto parts,3 cosmetics, textiles and medicine as well.4 In ancient China, hemp was used as food and medicine.5
Today, you’ll find nutty-tasting hemp seeds in various products, such as hemp seed butter, energy bars, meal, oil and even milk.6 It’s a niche market with a growing number of specialty outlets due to an increased understanding of this food’s nutritional benefits.
Hemp is cultivated in at least 30 countries, with Canada as one of the world’s top growers. In fact, much of the U.S. supply comes from this country.7 Worldwide, hemp seed production alone has soared from around 33,000 metric tons in the late ’90s to more than 100,000 metric tons annually between 2005 and 2011.8
In 1938, Popular Mechanics called hemp the “Billion Dollar Crop,”9 praising its potential to produce over 25,000 different products, from dynamite to cellophane. However, American industrialists led by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst (who owned paper mills) and DuPont executives had begun processing petroleum to create plastics, and had become disgruntled by the way hemp cut into their market shares. In an article by Dr. David Bearman on HuffPost, he writes that these two parties were “the force behind the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.”10
This perpetuated what may be one of the country’s biggest frauds. Part of the confusion is that many people assume hemp and marijuana are one and the same, especially since they inexplicably share the scientific name Cannabis sativa.11 While they both belong to the same plant species, they’re two distinct varieties.12