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6 Ways American Colonists Used Cannabis

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, a holiday for us to reflect on the things we’re thankful for in our lives. But if you asked the American colonists living during the time of the first Thanksgiving, one of the things they would’ve been most thankful for is cannabis. Well, technically hemp, but they’re still part of the same family.

Here are six ways American colonists used cannabis:

1. Ship Sails

The British navy was the greatest navy in the world during the time of the American colonies, as evidenced by their victory over the infamous Spanish Armada. And they obviously needed to ensure their navy had the best materials available. Hemp was the best material for making ship sails in those days because it was super durable, so the British required American colonial farmers to devote a certain percentage of their land to growing hemp.

2. Medicine

Ancient cultures used cannabis to help treat any number of conditions for thousands of years, so the American colonists were no different. But they were pretty limited in their uses. The biggest use for cannabis in medicine was boiling the seeds in milk for cough medicine. Colonists tend to use stronger drugs, like opium, for more serious ailments. (In fact, becoming addicted to opium was actually a legitimate medical treatment even into the late 1800’s because opium caused constipation, which helped prevented people from dying of dysentery.)

3. Hardware

The biggest thing hemp was used for was producing items that the colonists needed for their agricultural work. Clothes, rope, sacks and other such items were needed to do their jobs, and hemp was the best way to make them.

4. Stable Income

While tobacco was the big cash crop for American colonists, hemp was a more stable crop to grow. There were less price fluctuations with hemp, and it grows easily and abundantly. So while super rich planation owners may have grown tobacco and cotton to make money, smaller farmers relied more on hemp to get by.

5. The Revolution

The American Revolution caused a skyrocketing need for hemp. The British cut off all exports to the colonies, which meant that colonists needed to rely on themselves for everything. Hemp became a staple for everything, and many hemp farmers became incredibly wealthy because the price of the crop skyrocketed during the war.

6. Not Getting High

This is actually a way they didn’t use hemp, but contrary to popular belief colonists were not getting stoned all the time. As we’ve mentioned throughout this post, colonists primarily grew hemp, which is the non-psychoactive form of the cannabis plant. And while they were definitely aware that they could grow cannabis to get high, they preferred to get intoxicated by getting plastered drinking alcohol.


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