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  • Cory Morrison

What is industrial hemp’s legal history in North America?


Without question, despite industrial hemp benefiting the world in so many ways, there has been controversy surrounding the plant and its uses. To some, the flaws offset the good things to the point where hemp was banned for a long time in much of North America. Too long, that is.

Hemp Ban Details

Not entirely looked down on before, by the 1900s, racism and immigrant danger associated with marijuana ensured marijuana would get a bad rap from the general population. This continued to the point where government drug warriors, particularly Harry Anslinger, took action to try to ban hemp.

By the 1930s, hemp was banned in much of North America. For instance, 29 U.S. states banned hemp in 1931. In addition, The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act officially banned hemp in Canada in 1938. Anslinger also created the Marihuana Tax Act with the DuPont family, Andrew Mellon and William Randolph Hearst.

(Photo credit: Rick Proctor/Unsplash

Reasons why hemp was banned include:

  • The propaganda with government drug warriors misinformed people that hemp and marijuana were always the same thing.

  • Hemp flowers and leaves contained delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has hallucinogenic properties.

  • People linked the unusually low employment rate to The Great Depressions and Mexican immigrants in place. In addition, people associated marijuana to crimes where the majority committed were by people they felt were racially inferior or not high in the working class. Therefore, they felt marijuana was at least partially responsible for the tough times of the 1930s.

WWII temporary ease (Hemp For Victory)

It turns out, there were at least some nuances to this ban. As Japan took over the Philippines in 1942, little supply meant that North American farmers had no choice but to grow hemp for a while. Fibre, for instance, had limited sources available during World War II. Up to 1945, American farmers planted over 400,000 hemp acres.

One important detail Hemp For Victory addresses is hemp was far more beneficial to humans decades prior than many may think. The video also implies that no matter how looked down on hemp is during its controversy peak, it would eventually become crucial to humans again.

How did officials respond to the video? After “Hemp For Victory'' took place and things were “back to normal”, the U.S. government would deny that the video existed to keep up with the anti-hemp agenda. However, people who strongly supported cannabis were eventually able to influence these leaders’ opinions.

Legalization of hemp

In more modern times, the general population has been more aware of how hemp is beneficial to humans, especially with today’s climate change and healthcare issues caused by many “We don’t think twice about” things we do in the world.

Canada legalization

Despite hemp being banned globally since 1961, Canada decided to use hemp in 1994 and officially legalized it by 1998. Manitoba Harvest also started up around the same time.

Fast forward to 2006, farmers were able to produce over 19,000 hectares of hemp, which led to the Canadian Marketing Association to change their approach and objectives.

In addition, one discovery made was that hemp could be used as a new crop because it has a quick growing cycle of 85 to 120 days that fits well with Canada.

U.S. legalization

Despite Canada allowing hemp long ago, the U.S. took much longer to come to its senses. Initially, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, which addressed that hemp and cannabis aren’t the same thing and that hemp farming would be beneficial to be more aware of the effects of a hemp-filled world.

By 2018, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp was legalized by that point.

A Voice of America video, posted in late 2019, indicates that hemp has not only benefited farmers, but that industrial hemp has more profit than typical crops used for rotating. As a result, farmers can use more efficient technology to help plants pass lab certification prior to harvesting hemp.

(Timeline Credit: Cory Morrison/Canurta)


Hemp has overall done lots of good to the environment, and the past attempts to get it out of the picture have proven to be mistakes. As many people pay close attention to issues involving climate change and increased health issues, especially during COVID-19 times, these collective efforts have ensured that we are going in the right direction to get what is best, which is hemp.


Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. Industrial Hemp Production in Canada

Business Insider. How racism contributed to marijuana prohibition in the US

GoodEx Health. A Guide to Legal Cannabis Use

Government of Canada. Hemp and the hemp industry Frequently Asked Questions

Greenlife Organics. Why was Hemp Outlawed in the United States?

Maclean’s. What is hemp and why was it already legal?

Ministry of Hemp. History Of Hemp In The US

Ministry of Hemp. Why Did ‘Hemp For Victory’ Disappear? The US Hid This Film After WWII

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Growing Industrial Hemp in Ontario

PBS Frontline. Marijuana Timeline

Prima. History of Hemp: When and Where It All Began

Successful Farming. 10 Common Questions About Hemp Farming

Terrafibre. The History of Hemp Cultivation in Canada

USDA. Farm Bill

Vote Hemp. President Obama Signs Farm Bill with Amendment to Allow Industrial Hemp Research

WayofLeaf. Why Was Hemp Banned After World War II?

YouTube: Voice of America. American Farmers Embrace Hemp after Legalization

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