Industrial hemp is perhaps the world's most versatile fiber, it can be used to make almost anything. It can be substituted for products made out of wood, cotton, plastic, and any other natural or synthetic materials(Herer 104). Hemp cultivation brings along with it many economic, environmental and health benefits, but the government of the United States still chooses to sit on the side lines while other countries make strides in its development. .
"Hemp has played a vital role in world commerce for at least six thousand years" (Roulac 27). The first people to cultivate and use hemp were the Chinese. There is evidence of rope and fishing nets made from hemp in China as early as 4500 BC. The crop was later used in making scrolls, leading to the beginning of the world's first paper industry. Works by Confucius and Lao Tzu were both printed by hand on paper made from hemp, allowing thousands of people across the world today to enjoy their teachings and insights. The Chinese also wove hemp fiber into cloth and used the seeds in making food and oil. They did not waste any part of the plant (Roulac 28).
From China, hemp cultivation spread to Europe, Africa around 400 BC, and later to the Americas. Throughout the 12th century in Europe, the crop was mainly used in the production of rope and fabric for clothing and more importantly during that time period, to make sails for ships(Roulac 30). Who knows what famous explorers may have used hemp sails while making their discoveries. French author, Francois Rabelouis had nothing but good things to say about hemp in his book, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, which by the way was in fact printed on hemp paper. "Without it, how could water be drawn from the well? How would scribes, copyists, secretaries and writers do without it? Would not official documents and rent-rolls disappear? Would not the noble art of printing perish?" (Rabelouis).