Humans have used hemp in various ways for thousands of years, going as far back as ancient China. Here is a brief overview of the compound’s history!

By: Chloe Persichetti

CBD has a very long and complicated history, one which you’ve likely only begun to scratch the surface of as you begin to educate yourself on the compound. Thousands of years of hemp/CBD use are yours to learn about, if you’re given the time and resources to digest it all. Here are a few highlights to see just how far we’ve come since the days of ancient China.


CBD’s Timeline 

The first documented usage of CBD was in the Chinese Empire. Hemp was infused in different meals and teas and was tied together to make rope and fishing nets. Soon, hemp was being cultivated all over the globe for different purposes such as clothing, shoes and medicine. Hemp seeds were also being grown by many civilizations. It is said the Buddha was nourished by these seeds, which makes sense due to their high natural fats. Hemp became a staple and found popularity almost everywhere because of its many interesting functionalities.

In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin started one of the first hemp paper mills. This was a big deal because it now allowed America to break away more from Britain’s reign. Having their own paper supply meant no longer having to rely on Britain to import paper for them. At this time, great artists from around the world were using canvas created from hemp such as Dutch painters Van Gogh and Rembrandt. In fact, the word “canvas” is derived from cannabis! Get this — your favorite cowboys you see in the movies would have never have had a rope to lasso and wrangle their livestock if it wasn’t for hemp! I don’t know about you but I would hate to live in a lasso-less cowboy world. 

Moving forward, an Irishman by the name of William O’Shaughnessy began bringing the natural compound to attention in the scientific community in 1839. He wrote the first academic paper calling attention to cannabis and ways it can be used for medicine. It wasn’t until almost a century later in 1940 when CBD was found and then two years after, it was isolated. Fast forward 20 years to 1963 and the complete 3-D structure of CBD is being discovered by Mechoulam. This new finding adjusted the public gaze to CBD. Fully isolating CBD gave way for people to experience CBD without the THC parts that get you high.The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the late 1980s which gave more legitimacy to the cause. Since then scientists have found two cannabinoid receptors within our bodies! 


A Peek Through America’s Political History

Even our own presidents were in the mix with hemp. Our founding father, George Washington, grew large amounts of hemp in his own backyard. The plant took care of textile needs such as clothing and paper. In addition, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper and Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation under the light of a hemp oil lamp. If hemp had not been around, those documents may not exist. Hemp is a very strong fiber as well, so it’s a good thing the Declaration of Independence was written on it, otherwise we might no longer have the original copy! 

During World War II, there was a push for hemp being grown. The 1942 Japanese invasion of the Philippines made it so the U.S. could no longer import their hemp. More supplies for a low cost was the goal, so the government aimed its sights at their citizens. Farmers were given permits to grow hemp to supply the war effort. A small movie was made to promote helping the war by growing hemp, and it was titled, “Hemp for Victory.” 

In the 1960’s, as drug usage began increasing and with President Nixon being sworn into office at the time, drug control became a major US fixation. Nixon signed in the “Controlled Substances Act of 1970,” establishing a firm policy as to where the government stood. When the war on drugs was declared, marijuana, among other drugs, was stigmatized through depictions of addicts, harsher warrants and sentencing. Cannabis was declared a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that both marijuana and hemp were controlled substances that could not be freely possessed. Government organizations against drugs such as D.A.R.E. and the then-first lady’s famous slogan, “Just Say No” began popping up and dominating American conversation.

Eight presidents later, and debates on drugs, incarcerations and treatment are still ongoing. Reorienting the government’s stance is a slow process, but drug reform and de-stigmatization are moving toward a less restricting stance. The Farm Bill of 2014 got the ball rolling for hemp production and research purposes. 4 years later, the Farm Bill of 2018 officially took it off the controlled substances list from 1970 and legalized hemp! The legalization of recreational cannabis (CBD and THC) is growing in the U.S. but one thing is for certain — the conversation of CBD isn’t going anywhere. New cannabinoids are continuing to be discovered due to the recent ability to research the field. This means long-term studies can be conducted and a potentially larger opening for the CBD industry may come upon us.

famous hemp users


What’s Happening Right Now?

It seems no matter the outlet you turn to, news channels across the board are conversing about cannabis. Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between are talking about this hot button issue. States are continuing to voice their stances, and many cannabis measures are being put up for citizens to vote on. Currently, the CBD terrain is rocky. At the moment there are few set in stone guidelines as this transitional period progresses. Flying with and growing CBD are among some of the areas that are tricky. While you are allowed to fly with CBD, TSA agents get the final say on the products you carry, and while you are free to grow hemp if you have a permit, cops often mistake CBD as marijuana due to their look-alike stalks.

Right now you may be wondering about the stance of the state you are currently living in. The good news is, many states are compliant with CBD, so it will be quicker to name that states where CBD is not allowed:

  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • South Dakota

U.S. territories stance on CBD: 

  • Guam – Yes
  • Northern Mariana Islands – Yes 
  • Puerto Rico – Yes
  • U.S. Virgin Islands – Yes

* If you are looking to buy CBD and you see where you reside allows it, ensure the legality first by researching your state’s laws before purchasing, as some states still have prohibitive measures in place.

Approving the usage of CBD has opened many doors since the Farm Bill passage in December of 2018. Large, nationwide chains are also dipping their hands in this new arena. For example, this upcoming April, Carl’s Jr. is set to launch a CBD burger for a limited time – the first-ever fast-food chain to incorporate CBD into their menu. Though no one can predict CBD’s journey, data points in a certain direction and researchers calculate that the market is going to grow exponentially.