As we celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence, it’s important to remember one of the forgotten building blocks of America’s foundation — hemp.
Around tax time, we reminded you that hemp was literally such a vital fiber of American culture during the 1700s that it was considered an acceptable form of payment for annual taxes.
But hemp’s rich American heritage runs far deeper than the tax man’s pockets.
Published copies of Thomas Paine’s influential “Common Sense,” a revolutionary pamphlet that convinced many undecided American colonists that gaining independence from England was essential, were printed on hemp paper. Hemp paper, with its tougher-than-wood-pulp construction and far more sustainable grow cycle, was the preferred method of printing until widespread cannabis prohibition swallowed up industrial hemp production in its devastating path.
Once Americans officially cut ties with their red-coated counterparts, they needed to make things final by putting it in writing. Rumors abound on the internet that the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence were penned on paper sourced from hemp, though the hearsay is merely that according to Politifact.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed and the United States of America was born, hemp played a pivotal role in helping our nation find its identity. In 1776, well-known hemp advocate and first President of the United States, George Washington, walked into an upholstery shop with Robert Morris and George Ross in search of a seamstress by the name of Betsy Ross. The trio showed Betsy a crude mockup of what would become our country’s first flag and asked if it was something she’d be able to produce. According to sworn affidavits from the Ross family verifying the oral history of the American flag’s origin, Betsy replied, “I do not know, but I will try.”
Betsy surpassed even her own early expectations and made the hell out that first flag — and she did it using Mother Nature’s most efficient-yet-demonized fibrous resource.
In 2013, Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado requested that an American flag made of industrial hemp be flown over the United States Capitol to commemorate the plant’s integral role in early American history.
“Many of our founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew hemp,” Polis explained. “Many of the very first American flags were made from hemp cloths. So there’s a real tie in to our countries history and the important rule industrial hemp played in agriculture in our country.”
As important as hemp was to our country’s formation, it’s poised to make an even greater impact on America’s future. More than 30 states have now passed legislation loosening restrictions on industrial hemp farming and production for either commercial or research purposes.
So, on this 4th of July, as you spark your Presidential OG (or Liberty Haze for the Sativa-leaning patriots) and slather up your burgers and dogs in medicated toppings, know that you’re celebrating not just America’s freedom but the tremendous role cannabis played in our country’s independence.