The History of Hemp In Pennsylvania
In the beginning
The history of hemp of Pennsylvania is long. The Commonwealth actually created PA with the sole intention to grow hemp. The hemp capital of early America was here in Lancaster county! Its original township Hempfield, formed 1729, named for the large amounts of hemp grown there. Production of huge amounts of hemp seed oil took place in Lancaster County’s 100 water powered processing plants.
Hemp was big business. The plant could be used in over 25 000 applications and that is not hyperbole. Everything used hemp in their production, from paper to Levi’s jeans. In Pennsylvania, ship building relied heavily on hemp. Anchor cables, rope rigging and sails required 60-100 tons of hemp fiber per ship. This solidified the high demand for hemp in PA.
Hemp added value to farms in other ways too. Some varieties grew up to 16 feet high. These plants acted not only as a buffer between crops, but as insect protection for them.
What went wrong?
So, with all that seemed right with hemp production in Pennsylvania, what went wrong? On May 22, 1933, Governor Gifford Pinchot signed a law banning “marihuana” in the state. The law went into effect in September of that year. Hemp was vilified and often confused for its intoxicating cousin. This is why Industrial hemp would would remain illegal in PA until 2015.
What started to change?
In 2017, hemp cultivation was once again allowed in Pennsylvania. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture allowed production on a research basis only. Then came the 2018 Farm Bill. This paved a bright new path for industrial hemp in PA and throughout the US. Hemp production would now be allowed commercially and outside of research pilot programs. The hemp industry has seen a growth in demand. This is thanks in part to the growth in popularity of CBD health and wellness products. Although, production in Pennsylvania still outweighs the number of processors. This has resulted in lower than projected profits. Still, In 2020 more than 500 growers and 60 processors received permits from the state. The history of hemp in Pennsylvania may run deep but the future is another story. For now, the outlook for this budding industry seems optimistic.