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If you have been following the recent issues of the Thistle, you know by now that in our “People’s History” section we try to show the invalidity of common misconceptions about certain issues. We have told you about the true nature of the “Great Men” whose pictures you see everyday on the money and the true nature and background of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as [what was it on the first issue?]. In this issue, we will lead you through a centuries old history of hemp and tell you about the several uses of this plant which still remains banned in the “Land of the Free”. Hemp has been one of the most significant crops for mankind up until this last century. It is astonishing to see how the widespread use of hemp has been deteriorated to such an extent that people barely recognise it as anything but a plant that “gets you high”. Hemp was probably the earliest plant cultivated for textile fiber. Archaeologists found a remnant of hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (currently Iran and Iraq) which dates back to 8,000 BC. Hemp is also believed to be the oldest example of human industry. In the Lu Shi, a Chinese work of the Sung dynasty (500 AD), we find reference to the Emperor Shen Nung (28th century BC) who taught his people to cultivate hemp for cloth. It is believed that hemp made it to Europe in approximately 1,200 BC. From there, it spread throughout the ancient world. China appears to have the longest continuous history of Hemp cultivation (over 6000 years). France has cultivated Hemp for at least 700 years to the present day, Spain and Chile similarly. Russia was a major grower/ supplier for hundreds of years. The Chinese were the first to recognize the usefulness of hemp in paper making. In approximately 150 BC, they produced the world’s first paper, completely from hemp. The oldest documents written on paper are Buddhist texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, composed of a mixture of bark and old rags, principally hemp. Hemp has been used as medicine throughout the world for centuries. Folk remedies and ancient medicines refer to the curative values of the leaves, seeds and roots. The seed and flowers were recommended for difficult childbirth, convulsions, arthritic joints, rheumatism, dysentery and insomnia. During the middle ages, hemp became an important crop of enormous economic and social value supplying much of the world’s need for food and fiber. Sailing ships became dependent on Canvas (from the word cannabis), hemp rope and oakum due to it being 3 times stronger than Cotton and resistant to salt water. In the UK, in 1535 Henry VIII passed an act compelling all landowners to sow 1/4 of an acre, or be fined. During this period hemp was a major crop and up to the 1920’s 80% of clothing was made from Hemp textiles.
Hemp probably existed in North America long before the Europeans arrived.
Jacques Cartier wrote in the 16th century that the land was “frill of hempe which groweth of itselfe, which is as good as possibly may be scene, and as strong.” It is known is that by the time the Puritans landed on Plymouth rock, hemp had reached the continent.