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Hemp History CE

1777 - 1810: Spain subsidizes the growing of hemp in their colonies

King Charles IV of Spain by GoyaIn the eighteenth century, Spain's economy began to change and Spain began to turn more and more to her colonies. In 1777, colonial outposts in Spanish America welcomed several hemp experts who were ordered to teach the inhabitants the intricacies of growing and preparing hemp for market. Growing hemp was mandated in all the Spanish Colonies and the viceroy of the New World colonies were encouraging hemp cultivation by providing seeds to the settlers.[1]

Three years later, special orders from the king Charles IV instructed all viceroys to encourage hemp production throughout New Spain by giving subsidies to the farmers.[1] The most important areas of hemp production were Chile, Mexico and California. In 1795 Spain opened up the Mississippi to international trade to encourage hemp exports, some of which was actually transacted using hemp as barter.

In California serious effort was made to raise hemp for market. The results were encouraging:  by 1807, California was producing 12,500 pounds of hemp.  By 1810, California was producing over 220,000 pounds of dressed hemp. But in 1810 a revolution in Mexico isolated California from the government seat. The subsidies that had stimulated hemp production were no longer available, and with the elimination of this impulse, commercial production of hemp ceased and was never started up again.[1]

1791: Thomas Jefferson grows hemp on his farm

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale 1800Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and he was the third President of the United States (1801–1809). Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on his farm. He kept a record of his business, thoughts and ideas about this in his account book, and other  writings.

Among many other agricultural matters he describes how one should grow hemp and make hemp seeds:

"Hemp. Plough the ground for it early and very deep, which should be in March. A hand can tend 3 acres of hemp a year. Tolerable ground yields 500 lb. to the acre. You may generally count on 100 lb. for every foot the hemp is over 4 ft. high. A hand will break 60 or 70 lb. a day, and even to 150 lb. if it is divided with an overseer, divide it as prepared.