Hemp History in Colorado

Colorado flag with cannabis leaf

Hemp was an important crop in America from Colonial times through World War II, when it was last widely planted across the heartland for the war effort.

Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky farmers key in 19th century hemp industry

Hemp crops quickly spread, and arrived in Kentucky  with settlers from Virginia just prior to the Revolutionary War, according to a 1919 article in the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin no. 22. These settlers set the stage for what would become one of the most important and long-standing hemp industries in America.

Along with Missouri and Illinois, Kentucky farmers produced most American hemp until the late 1800s, when demand for sailcloth and cordage began to wane as steam ships dominated the seas.

Hemp farming did not really extend past Nebraska

An article in the 5/26/1907 Denver Post reports that a mill to extract oil from flaxseed was to be built in Eastern Colorado by the Rock Island Railroad. The article explains that there had been enough success dry farming flax to warrant the building of the mill.


Here’s where the real news is though. Fulton S. White, agriculture and horticulture commissioner for Rock Island Railroad, announced plans to grow hemp in large quantities in the same area because, “Hemp always grows where flax will grow.”

His plan was to travel to Kentucky to bring back capitalists to select land to be used to grow the hemp. This was in 1907 and it was the first trip that the railroad had made into Colorado to talk about crops. I could not find any evidence that he was able to make this happen.

I did find mention in newspapers of hemp as a crop and how much it was going for at any particular time, but no other details.

I did find this little gem in the January 1, 1862 issue of The Rocky Mountain Herald:

Even though there is not a huge presence of hemp cultivation in Colorado’s history, there is in Colorado’s future.

Check back tomorrow to learn more about the future of industrial hemp in Colorado and our country.

Cat Stone

Colorado Hemp Clothing

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