Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Boston

Historically Healthy Hemp

Sep 26, 2013 02:00PM ● By Jon Napoli

Hemp is one of the most versatile and beneficial plants humankind has ever known. Food, fuel, paper, textiles, plastics, paint, concrete, fiberboard and medicine, among other items can be derived from the ecofriendly cannabis plant.

The first American flag was made from hemp, the original draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on it, landowners were required to grow it and could even pay their taxes with it. In fact, Christopher Columbus could not have travelled here without hempen sails. Unfortunately, this highly profitable crop is illegal for American farmers to grow, even though it once was widely grown and accepted as medicine throughout the 19th century.

Bans against cannabis began in the early 1900s and gained momentum when prohibitionists started to use the term marijuana, a Mexican colloquialism, to confuse and instill fear in the American population. The Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937 which made possession or transfer of cannabis illegal throughout the United States under federal law, excluding medical and industrial uses, in which an inexpensive excise tax was required. The ban was briefly lifted during World War II when farmers were requested to again grow hemp for the war effort, but afterwards reinstated along with continued anti-marijuana propaganda.

There are many environmental and nutritional advantages to growing hemp. It requires no pesticides or herbicides to produce and is not genetically engineered. Clothing derived from hemp is strong, comfortable, mold and mildew-resistant, breathes well and blocks ultraviolet rays naturally. Unlike wood-based paper, hemp-derived paper does not require a chlorine-based bleaching process that results in dioxin run-off. When added to one’s diet, hempseed is nutritionally complete and alone can sustain healthy human life. It also is as versatile as soy and can be grown in colder climates.

American farmers could benefit from growing hemp crops again by capitalizing on the hemp market, rather than importing it from other countries. Consumers can help influence decision-makers and law-makers by purchasing hemp products such as clothing, body care, accessories and bags.

Jon Napoli is founder of The Hempest stores located at 207 Newbury St., Boston; 177 Main St., Northampton; and 36 JFK St., Cambridge. A fourth store is located in Vermont. For more information, visit