Drawing by W. Müller, public domain/CC0.

Drawing by W. Müller, public domain/CC0.

Today, April 20, also known as 420, celebrates cannabis—a plant closely related to hemp. Recent years have rediscovered its many uses, but hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants known, and it has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12,000 years.

Marijuana, a drug often associated with hemp today, was made illegal in many countries around the world in 1925, but recently some of these laws have been loosened, and much research has and is being done on its medicinal properties. Advocates of the plant cite many uses, as well as health benefits and its historic place in many cultures.

Here are five facts about hemp from Wikipedia:

Photo by Natrij, public domain.

Photo by Natrij, public domain.

  1. Hemp was often used to make sail canvas, and the word canvas is actually derived from cannabis. Hemp was the original material used to create canvas. The word canvas and cannabis are believed to be derived from the latin word cannapaceus, which means “made from hemp”.

    Hempseed

    Photo by Erik Fenderson, public domain.

  1. Hemp seeds can be eaten raw. Hemp seeds are a rich source of dietary minerals including magnesium, zinc, and iron, in addition to dietary fiber, and they rank similarly to peanuts or split peas on the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score.
Photo by Ytrottier, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Ytrottier, CC BY-SA 3.0.

  1. The first identified coarse paper was made from hemp. Hemp is a very fibrous material with many useful properties and derivatives, one of which can be paper. The first known coarse paper was made in China during the Western Han Dynasty.

 

Photo by Shizhao, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Shizhao, CC BY-SA 3.0.

  1. Hemp seeds can produce fuel. The crushing of hemp seeds and fermentation of the whole plant can be used to produce Biodiesel or alcohol fuel. Filtered hemp oil can be used directly to power diesel engines.
Video by the US government, public domain/CC0.

Video by the US government, public domain/CC0.

  1. The US government once made a film about hemp and later denied it existed. During World War II, the US government made Hemp for Victory to encourage farmers to grow as much hemp as possible to support the war effort. The government later stated that they had made no such film, but a copy was later deposited in the Library of Congress.

The Wikimedia community is making efforts to improve the coverage of cannabis on Wikipedia. If you would like to help, visit the Cannabis WikiProject.

Andrew Sherman, Digital Communications Intern
Wikimedia Foundation