Evidence from pollen analysis of soil sediments indicates that the production of hemp was widespread throughout the UK 800-1800AD. Its greatest peak of usage was up until 100AD, after which other crops were beginning to be developed. In the 16th Century it was widely reintroduced - Henry VIII encouraged farmers to plant the crop widely to provide supplies for the British Navy. Competitive battle ship construction relied on steady supplies of hemp. The Navy would have used it in the production of ensigns, pendants, flags, pennants, sails, rigging and as a sealant on the timber of ships. It is most likely that the paper used for maps, logs and Bibles on-board was also made from hemp. There is even evidence suggesting that the war with America (and Britain) against Napoleon in 1812 was fought over securing control over supplies of Russian hemp! (Crossby, 1965).
The earliest known woven fabric was apparently made from hemp! The Columbia History of the World (1986) suggests that the weaving of hemp fibre began over 10,000 years ago - this was at the same time as pottery making and before metal working began.
Most of the Bibles in history have been made from hemp. Until the late 1880s, it remained the planet's largest agricultural crop and resource for industry, including the widespread use of hemp oil for oil lamps.
In short, the crop has been grown internationally and extensively for centuries. Even in its psychoactive form, there have been no records of harm to man. On the contrary, it has provided healthy livelihoods and a myriad of products. Communities have relied on it for survival and even to gain power (to enlarge battle fleets). It is still extensively grown in China, Italy and Eastern European countries, although was phased out in North America and Western Europe by the mid-1900s to make way for more profitable synthetic alternatives - the very products with which much of the blame can be laid upon as regards the environmental degradation we are now facing - notably pollution and global climate change.
It is perhaps apt to now quote the infamous hemp supporter and author of The Emperor Wears no Clothes (1984):
CHALLENGE TO THE WORLD : TRY TO PROVE US WRONG... If all fossil fuels and
their derivatives, as well as the deforestation of trees for paper and
agriculture are banned from use in order to save the planet and reverse
the greenhouse effect:
Then there is only one known renewable natural resource able to provide the overall majority of our paper, textiles and food, meet all the world's transportation, home and energy industrial needs, reduce pollution, rebuild the soil and clean the atmosphere - all at the same time - our old stand-by that did it all before : Cannabis Hemp ... Marijuana!' (Jack Herer, 1993)
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