Last year, just before summer was about to end, Mount Vernon’s community set upon the task of honouring 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 being 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 being for thousands of years. Not only in the United States, but all around the world. If you want a proof, just take a closer look at the names of some places around Europe and United States as well. 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 considered as hemp for the EU, cannabis has to have less than 0.3% of THC.
Let’s take a quick look on how hemp became such an important crop and some of the cities 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 cultivate hemp. Chinese used hemp to create rope and fishing nets since 4.500 B.C. It was a crop as important and cultivated along with wheat, beans and even rice. Yes, as important as rice!
Chinese also where the first to transform hemp into paper. As hemp interest grew across agricultural communities along China, it was important to record plantation techniques. This is how the ever first hemp paper industry was created.
Hemp arrived to 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 cultivators. 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 cities where even named after Hemp, and when the British empire arrived to 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 included also the small townships of East and West Hempfield. William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681 for one specific purpose: 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 museum 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 centuries ago. 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 700 population build itself on hemp. Cañamares economy was based around hemp production during the middle ages. It’s name comes from “cáñamo”, the spanish word for hemp. Although today there are few hemp crops, the town still honours 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 over 500 people, also honours 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 regain importance to this small spanish community. The town is suffering from depopulation. With just 500 people, business and schools are suffering because as time passes 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 living. The french word for hemp is “le chanvre”. And translating the town’s name, it 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. And its population is just over 300 people!
On the coat of arms, you can see that the hemp plant is at the center and principal object. The importance of hemp in this small northern France 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 story related with hemp. Its name comes from 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 taken from those territories, such us Rusia. 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 on 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. On 2016 and 2017 they 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, which menu is based on hemp seeds and hemp oil.
Hemp, yesterday, today and always
As you can see, 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 other 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. The bill, among other things, will remove hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) from the Schedule I substance. The significance is huge. It will reactivate hemp cultivation throughout the country.
According to Forbes, this bill will mean and explosive growth of the industry, which is expected to grow until 10.6 billions by 2025. A new industry will emerge, thousands of jobs will be created and millions of dollars in tax will harvest.