By Ted Smith
By the end of the 1800s, hemp had fallen from the top of the fibre world. Cotton, flax, jute and other crops had chipped away at the dominant position hemp held in agricultural world trade. Ironically, the strong fibers in the hemp plant made it difficult to harvest and process, something economically disastrous during an era of improving technology.
Historically hemp is known for being difficult to cut down and process into fine cloth. Often cut down by hand with simple cutting tools, the hemp plants are then cleaned of the leaves and stems before being stacked in the fields. Then the stalks are usually submerged in water to force it to break down, separating the long fibre stands on the outside of the stalk from the cork like material inside, known as hurds. After these fibres are dried they can be turned into rope, canvas or other fabrics.
Since the hemp plant is so tough, most machines made to harvest and process it quickly broke down. Even Thomas Jefferson attempted to make a hemp processor, though he did no better than others during his era. Indeed, the story of processing hemp is critical for those attempting to understand the prohibition of cannabis. In his groundbreaking book, THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES, author Jack Herer documents the fascinating history of the hemp plant during the 1800s and into the next century.
However, for a more complete picture of the plant, check out my book, HEMPOLOGY 101: THE HISTORY AND USES OF CANNABIS SATIVA. This video is one of many we are making to highlight various fact mentioned in the book, which is packed with information about the plant and people.