Marijuana is an ancient plant with borderline mystical properties — just ask the 266 million people who smoke it every year. Hemp, the industrial strain of Cannabis sativa, has been used for many purposes — food, fuel and textiles among them — for tens of thousands of years. Unlike its sister strain, hemp can’t get you high. But much like the drug, it has extraordinary qualities.
America is no stranger to hemp. In fact, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag with hemp and George Washington farmed it at Mt. Vernon. Unfortunately, its full potential was never realized; drug restrictions that banned marijuana suppressed hemp, too. This spurious conflation quashed the industry for about 60 years, until a 2014 farm bill defined it as an agricultural crop, leaving the door ajar to American farmers.