from essential to illicit - and back again

Hemp has been used for food and medicine and to make clothes and utensils for thousands of years. It made the ropes and sails of the ships that first explored the world and the American Declaration of Independence is understood to be written on hemp paper. 

Despite this long history, during the course of the 20th century, hemp fell out of favor and was subject in many markets to excessive regulation if not outright prohibition.  As a result, chemically-derived and manufactured products took its place.  Prior uses for hemp are now being rediscovered while new ones are being pioneered. 

Despite its long history, over the 20th century hemp’s fortunes dwindled and manmade products filled the gap.

the range of applications for hemp is growing every day, and it includes:

food and drinks

Hemp seeds are a source of vital protein and hemp oil provides Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Hemp can be used for tea, meat substitutes for burgers, energy bars and it can even be used as an alternative to milk.

clothing and accessories

Hemp fabric can be produced in a wide variety of strengths and thicknesses.  It is used for everything from shoes to bags and from denim to the most delicate of underwear.

beauty and skincare

Hemp oil is used in shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers, body lotion, treatments for dry skin, lip balms, body washes and many other beauty and skin products.


Cannabidiol, or CBD is the best-known of hemp’s isomers.  The compounds are undergoing research to explore their effectiveness for a wide range ailments including Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s, MS and Cancer and also for pain and anxiety management.


Hemp biofuel can be used in place of regular petroleum in cars and, according to engineers at the Colorado School of Mines, an acre of hemp can produce the same amount of power as 1000 gallons of gasoline.


The latest science shows that hemp plastic is stronger – on many measures – than steel and with a significantly lower – or even negative – carbon footprint. Today industries are working towards using it as filaments in 3D printers.

animal feed

Thinking beyond human consumption and the industrial applications, hemp can be a nutritious alternative that’s rich in protein for livestock feed. 

paper products

One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees over a 20 year cycle. The Gutenberg Bible, Thomas Paine’s pamphlets, and the novels of Mark Twain were all printed on hemp.

construction materials

Hemp is a sustainable building material with advantages including being fireproof, breathable and highly insulative. It can be turned into products such as roofing tiles, wallboard, fibreboard, insulation, panelling, bricks and structural building blocks.

from archaeological finds to the modern day, hemp has been central to many societies

8,000 BC

Hemp is used for pottery, food (seed and oil) and medicine, as discovered by archaeologists in China and Taiwan.

600 BC

Hemp rope is used in southern Russia.

500 BC

Hemp seed and leaves dating back to 500BC were found in a jar in Berlin, Germany

200 BC

Hemp rope found in Greece is dated to 200BC

100 BC

Hemp is used to make paper in China


French Queen Arnegunde is buried wearing hemp clothes


Hemp paper begins to be industrialized, and is produced by mills in China and the Middle East


Vikings spread hemp use across their empire


King Henry VIII of England introduces fines for farmers if they do not grow hemp


Hemp use for clothes, ropes and sails is introduced to Jamestown, the first English settlement in the Americas


Several colonies pass laws requiring American farmers to grow hemp


Early drafts of The Declaration of Independence are written on hemp paper


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes findings showing that per acre, hemp produces four times more paper than trees


The US Marijuana Tax Act taxes all cannabis sales (including hemp), production slumps


Henry Ford builds a car body from hemp fiber, which is stronger and lighter than steel. The USDA’s “Hemp for Victory” program during WWII results in more than 150,000 acres of hemp production to help supply America’s war effort.


The Controlled Substances Act classifies hemp as an illegal Schedule I drug, imposing strict regulations on the growing of industrial hemp, as well as marijuana.


The first US hemp licenses are granted to two North Dakota farmers


The Farm Bill allows research institutions to farm hemp


An amendment to the Agricultural Improvement Bill removes the hemp plant, its seeds and derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act

hemp today

a growing market

Industrial hemp is grown in more than 30 nations and innovations in its use continue in areas as diverse as food and drink, personal care, animal feed, textiles, paper and medicine.

As a result today, industrial hemp is one of the fastest growing new international markets, driven by innovation, consumer awareness and the new global consensus on sustainability. It is vital we establish a consistent regulatory framework to maintain this growth and ease its international trade. 

In 2019, the global market was worth $4.7 billion dollars. As the NIHC works to standardize regulations, and consumers become more aware of not only hemp’s benefits as a product and but its sustainability as a crop, this is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.5%, reaching a market value of $14.6billion by 2026.

Driven by innovation, consumer awareness and the new global consensus on sustainability

hemp, the sustainable alternative

Entire Plant

Cell Fluid





Bast Fibres

Hurds (Pulp)


Hepseed Oil

Seed Cake


Consumer Textiles

Industrial Textiles


Building Materials


Industrial Products

Personal Hygiene

  • Boiler Fuel
  • Pyrolysis Feed stock
  • Abrasive Chemicals
  • Apparel
  • Diapers
  • Fabrics
  • Handbags
  • Denim
  • Shoes
  • Fine Fabrics
  • Twine
  • Rope
  • Nets
  • Canvas
  • Tarps
  • Caulk
  • Carpets
  • Brake /Clutch Linings
  • Argo - filber Composites & Molded parts
  • Geotextiles
  • Printing Paper
  • Fine Specialty Paper
  • Filter Paper
  • Newsprint
  • Cardboard / Packaging
  • Fiberboard
  • Insulation
  • Fiberglass Substitute
  • Cement
  • Stucco & Mortar
  • Animal Bedding
  • Mulch & Compost
  • Oils
  • Distillates
  • Isolates
  • Salad Oil
  • Margarine
  • Food Supplements (Vitamins)
  • Cooking Oils
  • Car Parts
  • Bio-Plastics
  • Scooters
  • Semiconductors
  • Animal Bedding
  • Oil Plants
  • Varnishes
  • Printing Inks
  • Fuel
  • Solvents
  • Lubrificants
  • Putty
  • Coatings
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Bath Gels
  • Cosmetics
  • Lotions
  • Balms
  • Animal Feed
  • Protein Rich Fiber
  • Branola
  • Birdseed
  • Cereal
  • Bars
  • Protein Powder

It is difficult to overstate the benefits of hemp

sustainable credentials

hemp must play a part in the global drive to sustainability

Hemp is a CO2 sequestrator, actively taking carbon out of the atmosphere. It reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides. It contributes to biodiversity. It can replace vital soil nutrients and prevent soil erosion. It needs relatively little water to grow. And its products are biodegradable. It is difficult to overstate the sustainability benefits of hemp.

Hemp is a more effective sequester of carbon dioxide than trees – for every ton produced, 1.63 tons of greenhouse gasses are removed from the air. Because hemp’s production cycle is so fast, this process can be repeated several times in a year.

Almost all varieties of hemp are naturally resistant to insect pests and predators which reduces the need for pesticides and encourages the presence of bees, small birds and animals. Hemp is also a great groundcover crop, again meaning fewer herbicides and weed killers are needed.

Hemp’s roots will extend to nine feet deep, reducing soil erosion.  The high quantities of biomass it produces decompose in the soil, replacing vital nutrients. Hemp plants can also be used to clean contaminated land as they absorb heavy metals and toxins.

The hardiness of hemp means it needs far less water than other crops. From carbon to soil and biodiversity to water Hemp delivers the tools that we need to help repair our environment whilst feeding and caring for our peoples.

  • For every ton of hemp produced, 1.63 tons of C02 are captured
  • Hemp reaches maturity in just four months, increasing the number of cycles of carbon capture
  • Natural resistance to pests reduces the need for pesticides
  • Groundcover reduces the need for weed killers
  • Hemp helps provide a habitat for bees, small birds and mammals
  • Hemp plants can clean contaminated land by absorbing heavy metals.
  • Its strength and versatility make it a natural replacement for many manmade products

West Town Payments, in its partnership with West Town Bank & Trust, offers a full-service banking and payments solution catered to the hemp industry.

This allows hemp businesses to bundle financial service solutions for an end-to-end tailored approach, all while increasing revenues, reducing risk and having access to better service.

We know your business from the ground up

We’re a hemp-friendly bank with market specialists who have a deep understanding of the financial challenges you and your industry face.

Connect with a hemp banking specialist to get started.
Email Nely Valcheva [email protected]

There is a $150 monthly compliance management fee associated with Hemp/CBD relationships. This fee will be charged to a designated checking account. Account openings and credit are subject to Bank approval. Individual state licensing and registration requirements apply. Member FDIC

Thank you for your interest in joining the National Industrial Hemp Council of America. Please fill in the below form, and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss our membership options.

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