Since this week is being celebrated as hemp history week. I thought I'd share a little history about this often misunderstood plant. And how it played a role in our nation's birth and an even bigger role to the residents of Pennsylvania.
Hemp is often confused with marijuana. Both are forms of the plant cannabis sativa. But what separates the two is their intoxicating effect. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana which makes it's users intoxicated. Most marijuana contains 10-15 % THC, whereas hemp's THC content is about .01 -.03 %. Essentially rendering it useless as a drug. They are also grown in two completely different ways, and cannot be grown together.
Hemp has been used for 1000's of years. Fibers from hemp have been found in pottery dating back over 7,000 years. For more than a century in the United States folks lit their lamps and clothed themselves with hemp. Our own forefathers were fans of hemp. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson cultivated the plant on their farms. Ben Franklin started the first American paper mill which exclusively used hemp. Even the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.
In the state of Pennsylvania, particularly the farming communities of York and Lancaster counties hemp was very big business. Due to their proximity to the Susquehanna river these two counties became the epicenter for hemp growing in Pennsylvania. Every township in Lancaster grew hemp, particularly Hempfield Township. Between 1720 and 1870 there were more than 100 mills in Lancaster county that processed hemp fiber. That fiber was used to help cover many Conestoga wagons, which were built in the small town of Conestoga, Pennsylvania.
With a big movement toward becoming more environmentally friendly, many are standing up for the re-legalization of hemp. It offers great alternatives to petroleum, plastic, cotton, and pulp wood. The folks at the Landis Valley Museum are helping to raise awareness. They have several hemp stones placed on their property, and are also in plans to develop an exhibit on the historical uses of hemp in the county. They feel the re-growing of hemp will help also with struggling farmers and boost tourism in the area, and I can't help but to agree with them 100%.
If you're interested in learning more about hemp I recommend the book "The Emperor Wears No Clothes"