As we talked about in our last blog post, humans have cultivated hemp for thousands of years. More recently in human history, the founding fathers of the USA grew hemp for many purposes. These purposes included both industrial and consumption. Let's explore a few of the key figures in our history and understand how they knew and used hemp.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” He specifically referred to the high quality ropes, sails, and textiles made from hemp used to keep the colonial navy afloat. Jefferson was Ambassador to France during the hashish era there. At risk of imprisonment if caught, Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds from China known for their potency to America. However, as far as our research takes us, he never said or wrote, “Some of my finest hours have been spent sitting on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.”
George Washington grew hemp on his Mount Vernon estate. Like Jefferson, Washington grew industrial hemp for rope and sails used for sailing ships. In addition, hemp fibers could be spun into thread for clothing or, as indicated in Mount Vernon records, for use in repairing the large seine fishing nets that Washington used in his fishing operation along the Potomac.
The Revolutionary general and father of our country detailed his every farming decision. In one diary, he noted, “Sowed hemp at muddy hole by swamp” away from the hemp he grew for fiber. “Began to separate the male from female plants at do [sic –rather too late” and “Pulling up the (male) hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month” further shows evidence that this founding father knew separating the females from the males produced the flower with the highest THC content. Further evidence shows George Washington may have prepared hemp to deal with his chronic toothaches.
Unlike the other founding fathers, James Madison directly states his personal consumption of hemp. He credits the creative properties of hemp for giving him insight into structuring our democracy. President Madison heavily influenced the constitution as well as wrote many of the Federalist papers which also helped form the principal documents for the constitution's interpretation.
Hemp clearly played an enormous role in the early formation of the United States. Both for its industrial and medical benefits, Hemp continues to influence the direction in which our country heads.