Hemp in Colonial Canada

Image retrieved from blogspot.com January 14th, 2013.

After the American revolution, and the loss of her colonies to the south, England redoubled her efforts to promote hemp production in Canada. In 1790, 2000 bushels of Russian hemp seed were brought to Quebec and were distributed free to all the agricultural districts of the province. Only fifteen farmers showed any interest.
By 1800, Russia was charging sixty-one pounds per ton of hemp. England reacted by urging her governors to offer more bounties. A public relations campaign of sorts was also initiated claiming hemp was a valuable economic commodity to colony and mother country alike. If hemp production increased, there would be more money and more employment. The standard of living would rise. Prosperity was within each colonist's grasp if only he would turn his efforts to growing hemp.
The appeal fell upon deaf ears. There were simply too few people to work in the hemp fields. Whatever manpower was available could be more profitably used clearing land to grow food crops essential for survival. An equally formidable problem was the Catholic church. Since hemp was exempt from tithes, the Catholic clergy refused to encourage their parishioners to grow hemp. Even had they had the time and will, French Canadians would not have listened to the English pleas. In Nova Scotia, the hemp shortage became so acute that the legislature complained that hangings had to be delayed.
Not, easily discouraged, Parliament offered a deal to James Campbell and Charles Grece, two experts in hemp production. Should either of them sow twenty-five acres of land with emp during their first year of settlement in Canada, and agree to continue cultivation on a scale thereafter deemed satisfactory to the local authorities, and should they also be willing to teach the settlers the fine points of hemp production and serve as inspectors for all finished hemp, they would be assured of a purchase price of forty-three pounds per ton for any hemp they raised, for five years. In addition, each man would be given annual allowance for two hundred pounds, a loan of four hundred pounds which had to be forfeited if the contract were broken, free passage to Canada, money to to pay hemp dressers, free seed, and 150 acres of land to use for experimentation. And as a frosting on the cake, Parliament promised a lifetime annuity of two hundred pounds if the venture proved a success.
Alas, both men failed. Grece tried very hard to raise a crop in the first year, but a combination of bad seed, late sowing, and poor weather was less than conductive to success. Campbell fared no better. What the spring floods left of his crop, the fall frost destroyed.
Meanwhile, Napoleon's brilliant victories in Europe were beginning to pose a threat to England's Baltic hemp suppliers. If Napoleon defeated Russia, England would no longer have a reliable hemp source. In desperation, she once again turned to Canada. Promises of seventy pounds per ton and 300 acres of land were made to anyone who would raise five tons of hemp in a year. To make sure these offers were heard throughout the country, they were issued from church pulpits immediately after services were concluded. Yet, even with these substantial inducements, little hemp ever made its way from Canada to England.

-pp. 98- 99, from Cannabis Comes to the New World in The First Twelve Thousand Years: Marijuana by Ernest L. Abel (1980)

colonial, hemp
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