The History of Prohibition – Pt 02

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Hemp farms were common in America.

Hemp farms were common in America.


It's now, November 23, 2012 - My, how times have changed.

In the 1760's, you could be jailed in this country for NOT growing hemp!

Cannabis was so highly prized that King George III made growing hemp mandatory. Tensions that arose from England's demand for raw hemp fibers from the New World were partially responsible for events that led to the American Revolutionary War.


The first proclamation to grow hemp came in 1611 when the Crown ordered every colonist in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York to grow this vital plant.

Ironically, tobacco was a more profitable crop at the time so colonists preferred to grow it over hemp. Soon the shortage of hemp was so severe that every farmer was ordered to cultivate a minimum of 100 plants. To increase supply, the Governor was empowered to offer two pounds of tobacco for each pound of hemp fibers they produced.


US Census of 1850 records 8,327 hemp plantations with a minimum of 2,000 acres each, but just fifteen years later, the Civil War rang the death knoll for hemp production in America which continued until the outbreak of WWI.

The North purchased most of the hemp grown in the Southern states to supply their textile mills. After the war broke out, Northern merchants were able to import hemp; but with the loss of their primary market, Southern farmers stopped cultivating hemp and production never fully recovered after the war ended. Hemp was replaced with less expensive materials.


As industrial use for hemp declined, a new market developed - medicine.

Medical uses for cannabis were almost unknown in Western Europe and the Americas due to the suppression of information from "heathen" cultures by the Catholic church.

Medicinal Cannabis wasn't introduced to the West until 1839 by a 30-year old British physician, W. B. O'Shaugnessy, who had observed doctors in the Indian province of Bengal* treating all manner of illnesses with concoctions made from hemp extracts.

*(Bengal means Bhang Land, which literally translates to Cannabis Land.)



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