Hemp is a common name for Cannabis and the name is most used when this annual plant is grown for non-drug purposes. When grown for industrial purposes hemp is called, often, industrial hemp, and a common product is fiber for use in a variety of different ways. Hemp use dates back to the Stone Age, with hemp fibre imprints found in pottery shards in China over 10,000 years old.
Until its rediscovery in the late 1980s, the use of hemp for fibre production had declined sharply over the past decades, but hemp still occupied an important place amongst natural fibres as it is strong, durable and unaffected by water. The main uses of hemp fibre were in rope, sacking, carpet, nets and webbing. A hemp clothing industry was reborn in the West in1988, and hemp is being used in increasing quantities in paper manufacturing. The cellulose content is about 70%.
There are broadly three groups of Cannabis varieties being cultivated today:
- Varieties primarily cultivated for their fibre, characterized by long stems and little branching, called industrial hemp.
- Varieties grown for seed from which hemp oil is exracted.
- Varieties grown for medicinal or recreational purposes.