Kentucky is remembered as one of the largest industrial hemp producers in the United States because the state has a long history with the plant dating back to 1775. The first hemp crop was grown in 1775, when Archibald McNeil planted the first seeds near Danville, the bluegrass country where the industry started to grow. The plant was first cultivated for the homespun cloth woven by wives, but by 1802 the strong fibers were used for extensive rope walks. Historically, Kentucky has three periods of hemp production started with the very first plant in 1775.
Between the 1770s and 1860s, the industry was just beginning in Kentucky, eventually becoming the largest producer in the United States, with a peak in 1850 yielding 40,000 tons of hemp valuing at $5,000,000. The United States saw this brief peak in production during World War II, producing a total of 60 million pounds of hemp fiber. By the end of the 1950s, hemp was no longer considered an important resource, and by the 1970s, hemp’s cousin marijuana started to become popular. During this time, the War on Drugs also started to gain popularity, so much of Kentucky’s hemp history got lost in all the political debates.