Hemp history in Tennessee

Special Reports

Hemp has made headline after headline in modern-day Tennessee but its roots date back to the early 19th century.

“Hemp as a matter of fact is part of the warp and woof no pun intended, it’s part of the woven fabric of the world as we know it,” said Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma.

According to history documented by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, by 1850, the Volunteer State produced almost 600 tons of hemp.

“In South-Central Tennessee in Maury County, Coffee County, Sumner County, there was a lot of hemp grown,” said Sen. Bowling.

By 1874, hemp’s reach in Tennessee stretched to Bedford, Jackson, Marshall, and Williamson counties. 

The soil was rich to grow hemp and much of it used for rope and bagging for cotton.

But production declined with the advent of cheaper, synthetic fibers and health concerns.

Fast forward to 2014, the Farm Bill allowed states to license farmers to legally grow hemp. 

Tennessee became one of the first to jump in with its Industrial Research Pilot Program.

Four years later, the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, removing hemp from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances and changed Tennessee’s Pilot Program into a normal crop program, like corn or soybeans.

All day Thursday, Linda Ong has special reports in every newscast investigating Tennessee’s Hemp Surge.

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