Last year, just before summer was about to end, Mount Vernon’s community set upon the task of honoring George Washington. How? By growing Hemp. Just like the first president of the United States of America did in his old plantation house.
Hemp has been a part of the country’s history since colonial times. The Mid-Atlantic States grew it intensively. Hemp was used to create ropes used in ships, while others used it for textile purposes as a replacement for cotton.
Thomas Jefferson even grew hemp on his plantation in Bedford County, Virginia.
Hemp was everywhere. And it has been for thousands of years. Not only in the United States, but all around the world. If you want proof, just take a closer look at the names of some places around Europe and the United States. Hemp was such an important plant that some cities and small towns were named after it.
Currently, the European Union allows hemp to be produced, and its derivatives to be sold. However, to be treated as hemp by the E.U., cannabis must contain less than 0.3% of THC.
Let’s take a quick look at how hemp became such an important crop and how some cities were named after the almighty plant.
A brief history of hemp
According to “Hemp Bound”, a book by Doug Fine published in 2014, China was the first civilization to grow hemp. The Chinese began using hemp to make rope and fishing nets on 4.500 B.C. It was a crop as important as, and cultivated along with, wheat, beans and rice. Yes, as important as rice!
The Chinese were also the first to transform hemp into paper. As hemp interest grew across agricultural communities in China, it was important to record plantation techniques. This is how the very first hemp paper industry was created.
Hemp arrived in Europe through the Mediterranean, through trade routes established across the sea. Ancient Greeks used it for textile purposes, while Moorish Spain created its first paper mill. The British Empire soon became one of hemp’s most important growers. Because of their naval domain, hemp was crucial for ropes used in ships. Fine says in his book that hemp was the most important crop in British economy. Along the coast, some cities were even named after Hemp, and when the British empire arrived in North America, they started growing hemp to fill the demand. These cities across the ocean were also named after the plant. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Hemp crops later expanded to Germany and France. By the eighteenth century, hemp crops were present in Asia, Europe and North America. No wonder there are some places that honor cannabis in their own names, flags and coats of arms.
7 cities and towns named after hemp
Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania, United States
This small community from the Lancaster County was the mecca of hemp during the 18th century. It also included the small townships of East and West Hempfield. William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681 for one specific purpose: to produce hemp for the British. This is where the name Hempfield Township comes from. It is said that between 1720 and 1870, the Lancaster County had more than 100 mills to process hemp fiber.
Remember George Washington’s love for hemp? Well, the Founding Father personally visited and frequently inspected the mills to find new ways to improve his crops in Mount Vernon. You can even visit museums like Landis Valley Museum and Hans Herr House Museum, located in Lancaster County, and find some of the mills used during that time to process hemp.
Cañamares (Cuenca), Castilla La Mancha, España
As we explained above, Spain has also cultivated hemp for centuries. And there are small towns that even have the plant on their flag and coat of arms. Cañamares is one of them. Just a two-hour drive from Madrid, this town with a population of 700, built itself on hemp. The Cañamares economy was based on hemp production during the middle ages. Its name comes from “cáñamo”, the Spanish word for hemp. Although today there are few hemp crops, the town still honors the hemp days.
Santa Cruz de los Cáñamos (Cuenca), Castilla La Mancha, Spain
“Holy Cross of Hemp”, would be the direct translation. Located in the same region as Cañamares, this very small town, with a population of over 500 people, also honors hemp in its flag and coat of arms. The town was named after hemp in the sixteenth century because of the large crops of the plant present during that time.
Furthermore, hemp can return importance to this small Spanish community. The town is suffering from depopulation. With just 500 people, business and schools are suffering because, as time goes on, there are fewer people in town. A group of teenagers is looking to start cultivating hemp again to attract investment opportunities and create jobs.
Way to go, Santa Cruz!
This is also a small town that grew hemp for a living. The French word for hemp is “le chanvre”. And, translatied, the town’s name would be something like “people who grow hemp”. Chennevières is located in northern France and is part of Île-de-France or the Parisienne region. Its population is just over 300 people.
On the coat of arms, you can see that the hemp plant is at the center and is the main object in it. The importance of hemp in this small northern French town is more than obvious.
The German word for hemp is hanf. This town, one of the largest of the North Rhine Westphalia, also is named after hemp. Hennef was first called Hannafo. Later, the name suffered some changes passing from Hannapha, Hanfbach and now Hennef. As you can see, the root hanf is present in all of them.
Hannef has hosted a lot of cannabis related events. It even hosted one of the first big events of cannabis called CannaBusiness Expo, from 1996 to 2003.
Kanepi has an interesting history, related to hemp. Its name comes from the Balto-Slavic language, where the word for hemp is kanep. However, Estonia is not a Balto-Slavic territory. But it has a lot of words derived from it, as does Russia. In their language, hemp is called kanep. Kanepi means “town of hemp”.
This small town, near the Russian border, is one of the oldest towns that has a record of growing hemp in the region. For centuries, Kanepi grew hemp for clothing, ropes and oil. But in 2018, through an online poll, citizens decided to choose hemp as the new town flag and logo.
“Hemp-type cannabis has been used in practical ways for years and it has hundreds of uses”, said Kanepi council member Andrus Seeme.
Last but not least, Italy! The town of Canepina owes its name to the Italian word for hemp, canapa. But the first name of this town from the Viterbo province was Canapina, an even more direct relation to the plant. During the seventeenth century, Canepina was surrounded by hemp crops. Out of hemp, Canepina made paper and textiles products, which were fundamental for the economic growth of the town.
Today, the importance of hemp is still very present. In 2016 and 2017, Canepina hosted an event called “I Love Canapina – La Canapa in Mostra”. There is also a very popular restaurant called Agriristoro Il Calice e la Stella, where the menu is based on hemp seeds and hemp oil.
Hemp, yesterday, today and always
As we saw, hemp is one of the most ancient plants cultivated for industrial uses. Paper, oil, textile and even ropes for ships were created from hemp. In the United States, you can see towns that have hemp on their names, such as Hempfield, Hemphill, Hempstead, NY, Hempfork, among others around the world. It all changed in 1937.
That year, Marihuana Tax Act banned its use, production and sale. This act did not differentiate psychoactive cannabis from non psychoactive cannabis, or hemp. A huge mistake that banned a plant that was fundamental for the economic growth during the colonial ages.
Late last year, President Trump signed the Farm Bill. This bill, among other things, will remove hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) from the Schedule I substance list. The significance is huge. It will reactivate hemp cultivation throughout the country.
According to Forbes, this bill will signify an explosive growth of the industry, which is expected to grow up to 10.6 billion by 2025. A new industry will emerge, thousands of jobs will be created and millions of dollars in tax will be harvested.