Learning from the Past
There is an excitment in the hemp industry these days. It’s similar to how folks felt when Dr. Bronner’s was winning lawsuits against the Bush Administration in the early 2000’s: anything is possible. laws are changing, Native American tribes are beginning to grow hemp, new innovations are making it possible to turn hemp into 3-D printing materials and new medicines. This may not just be another hype. It could be the real deal, the big resurgence of the hemp industry that we have been waiting for. But, as with any resurgence, there is risk. Risk of throwing all of our eggs into one basket, risk of ignoring the limits and difficulties imposed by production and markets. The risk of assuming that we are the “good guys”, just because we have been the underdogs. The risk should not scare us away, but it can give us pause, and remind us to look back and see what we can learn from the past.
In my second installment of “the Old Story of a New Industry,” I will look at the hemp industry in the period between two big, nation-defining wars: the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. In this time, the industry peaked and, almost overnight, declined dramatically. In this era, major issues in the hemp industry emerged that are with us still today surrounding issues of labor, politics, and industry interdependence. This is the story of a booming industry resting on an unstable foundation, which can teach us a thing or two about our modern hemp industry.