Hemp has been stirred up a storm in the news all throughout its process of legalization in the United States. However, what most mainstream media sources may have failed to inform you of is Hemp's role in other countries– specifically China. The Hemp industry is rapidly evolving in China as it grows nearly half of the world’s legal hemp¹. So much is made and sourced in China nowadays – clothing, furniture, electronics – and now, China wants to be the world’s source for hemp, too.
China has been growing hemp for centuries. According to archaeological records, China was the first region to cultivate and use hemp². The Chinese originally grew hemp for its fiber and medicinal uses. It was used to create strong rope, clothing, and paper. The world’s oldest known piece of paper, which dates back to around 140-87 BC, was made from hemp fibers². Hemp has long been known to have medicinal properties. Hemp was used in ancient China to treat a variety of health problems such as gout, rheumatism, and malaria³. Additionally, it was used for food as one of the five staple grains that were eaten in China through the 10th Century ². In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded and cracked down on illegal drug use, even punishing marijuana traffickers with the death penalty in some cases⁴. Because hemp contains trace amounts of THC, it too was banned in 1985, despite its many economy-boosting uses besides consumption, including the production of textiles.
The cannabis plant remains illegal in China. However, hemp, the non-psychoactive variety of cannabis, has been legally grown throughout many regions since 2010, with some regions quietly growing it since 2003. China grows about half of the world’s supply of hemp, with sales totaling $1.2 billion in 2018⁵. Most of the sales came from textiles made from hemp fibers. Now, with the surge in popularity of CBD in Western medicine and beauty, many Chinese companies are rushing to compete. Currently, CBD use in cosmetics is permitted in China but it has not yet been approved for medicinal use. Many hemp companies are sending their products overseas to compete with CBD products in the United States and Canada. As more and more companies rush to grow hemp for sale overseas, there is no doubt that soon, many Americans may be buying their CBD from China, too.
~ Work by Hayley Thomas