In the entire world, there has never been a plant quite as amazing as Cannabis Sativa. Being the worlds only renewable resource capable of solving many of its environmental, psychological, and economic problems, it is of no surprise that the plant has made quite an impact in the discovery of the New World. Cannabis Sativa, also known as; Hemp, cannabis hemp, Indian (India) hemp, true hemp, muggles, weed, pot, marijuana, reefer, grass, ganja, bhang, “the kind,” dagga, and herb became an ideal plant to cultivate because of its many fine attributes.
Depending on the culture, Its leaves and flower tops were the first, second, or third most important and most used medicines for at least two thirds of the worlds people for at least 3,000 years. Cannabis hemp is by far, the strongest, most durable, longest lasting natural soft fiber, and the worlds most advanced plant family on the planet. Because it is Dioecious, having male, female and sometimes hermaphroditic qualities, it is easy to grow and cultivate. This tall, woody, herbaceous annual, reaching anywhere from 12 to 20 feet in one short growing season uses the sun more efficiently that any other plant on earth.
It can be grown in any climate or soil condition on Earth, and is a premier renewable natural resource. Many countries found the plant appealing because of its abilities to flourish in extreme heat. The Arabs discovered that the sticky goo, or Hashish, that covered the flowers and leaves was a natural protectant against the sun, holding in moisture and repelling damaging heat. Its ability to survive in temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit made it ideal for mass production in the New World. Not to mention that it needs no chemicals to grow and has very few natural enemies.
The Hemp plant was initially cultivated for its main two attributes, its hardiness and its useful fibers. Until the 1820s in America, 80 percent of all textiles and fabrics used for clothing, tents, bed sheets, and linens were made principally from the fibers of Cannabis. Until 1883, from 75-90% of all paper in the world was made with cannabis hemp fiber including that for books, Bibles, maps, paper money, stocks and bonds, newspapers, etc. Everything from rugs, diapers, drapes, quilts, towels, rags, and even our nations flag were made possible by Hemp.
The rest of the world used its fibers well into the 20th century and most countries still rely on it for the bulk of their paper and textile industries. Even the first settlers in the New World arrived here on ships with canvas hemp sails. The word “canvas” is the Dutch pronunciation (twice removed, from French and Latin) of the Greek word “Kannabis. ” The paintings of Van Gogh, Gainsborough, Rembrant, etc. , were primarily painted on hemp canvas, as were practically all canvas paintings. Its strong, lustrous fiber withstands heat, mildew, insects, and is not damaged by light.
Oil paintings on hemp have stayed in fine condition for centuries. The flowers and leaves of the Cannabis plant was used for medicinal purposes first by the Chinese. As the popularity of the plant grew, so did its involvement in medicine. Famous Europeans and Americans, including Queen Victoria and George Washington, have been known to use it for fatigue, fits of coughing, rheumatism, asthma, delirium tremens, migraine headaches, cramps, depression, and PMS. It was one of the very first herbs to be used in medicine and scientists are still discovering new ways of applying it to todays modern medicine.
It is widely believed that Hemp was brought to the New World by Pedro Cuadrado, a conquistador in Cortess Army. When Cortes made his second expedition to Mexico, Cuadrado and a friend when into business raising hemp in Mexico. They became very successful in raising the new cash-crop until 1550, when the Spanish governor, concerned that the natives were using the plant for other uses than rope, limited the two entrepreneurs production. With the discovery of the New World, many europeans found themselves sitting on a gold mine.
Though they found no literal gold mines, they found many other ways to exploit their ventures in the Americas. The new land they found was thick with trees, teeming with fish, overflowing with furs, and controlled by easily overpowered natives. It was Sir Walter Raleigh who first became excited at the prospect of harvesting Hemp in the American Colonies. In 1585, his friend and tutor, Thomas Heriot, told him that he had seen a hemp-like plant growing wild in what was to become Virginia. Heriots hemp was Acnida Cannabinium, a plant which also yields a fiber suitable for weaving, but it is inferior in strength to actual cannabis.
The mercantile system which England adopted as part of her policy towards the colonies was basically one that required the colonists to be the suppliers of raw materials for the mother country. England saw the plant as a way of freeing themselves from their commercial debts, and the possibility of raising hemp in the Americas sent colonial minds soaring. Most early settlers, like the ones who founded Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, did not consider hemp cultivation as a way to strike it rich. Like other explorers, they believed America to be a place to make a quick and easy fortune and planned to return home as soon as possible.
When they found no gold or silver, many colonists became so discouraged that they refused to work or do anything. If it had not been for the Indians in the area who showed them how to raise basic crops, they would have surely starved to death. Finally, in 1611, formal orders from the king to raise hemp were received in the Colony. However, hemp did not last long in the colonies for its popularity was replaced by a new zeal for Tobacco. Across the continent, however, there is a different story. Spain encouraged their colonists to set up hemp plantations and by 1802 California was producing as much as 220,000 pounds of dressed hemp.
Hemp rope factories were sprouting up all over Kentucky and Ohio, and plantations began to be the new aristocracy in the Americas. But at the height of its production, the hemp industry was maimed with the onset of the Civil War and never recovered. Farmers faced with competition in forms of iron wire cables and bands and cheap jute baggage, turned to other staples such as wheat. Not only has our country benefited from the industrialization of Marijuana on an economic basis, but on an aesthetic level as well. Many artists and writers have used Cannabis for their own creative stimulation.
Writers including Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice and Wonderland, Victor Hugo, and Alexander Dumas have attributed their creative instincts, among other things, to marijuana. Classic artists and musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington have used it as well as many modern day artists including; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Bob Marley, Led Zepplin, Jefferson Airplane, Willie Nelson, Buddy Rich, Country Joe & Fish, The Cure, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Grateful Dead, Phish, Pink Floyd.
Cypress Hill, The Black Crows, etc. All have formed a rich culture which our society is reliant on for leisure and entertainment. Though the hemp plant is still widely cultivated all over Latin America and Canada, it is outlawed in the United States despite protests. Even though Americas very first marijuana law, enacted in the Jamestown colony, was created to promote hemp production, the plant is illegal to grow in any state except for Alaska and even then it is strictly supervised.
It is of no question that the cultivation of Cannabis Sativa was one of the main foundations on which this country was built, and it will be again. Scientists are discovering new ways every day to apply cannabis to the fight against disease, transportation, pollution, and the slowing economy. Cannabis has already made an immeasurable impact on the Americas and with its approbation, we that live in todays age may experience an up and coming “New World”.