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Was The U.S. Constitution Written On Hemp Paper?

Was The U.S. Constitution Written On Hemp Paper?

Culture

Was The U.S. Constitution Written On Hemp Paper?

Considering the current battle over weed legalization, this might be a huge factor: was the U.S. Constitution written on hemp paper? The answer might surprise you.

If you’ve ever smoked weed with another human being—and honestly, we really, really hope you have, because otherwise, that’s a bit creepy—you’ve probably been privy to some urban legends about ganja. But how many of these HERBan legends are true? Take this one: Was the U.S. Constitution written on hemp paper? Or was it scribed on plain old parchment? Is it factoid or fact? Let’s find out.

 Hemp Paper Versus Parchment

Was The U.S. Constitution Written On Hemp Paper?

Before we can ask whether the Constitution was written on hemp paper, we need to know a little about the importance of hemp during American history, pre-, post-, and that tumultuous time in between.

Industrialized hemp was a common crop in colonial era America. The plant was used for paper, textiles, as well as rope, among other everyday objectives of the time period.

While the pulp from the hemp plant was commonplace for the making of “mass-produced” paper—”mass-produced” being the closest term in approximation to the period before the Industrial Revolution—it wasn’t what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, and the rest of America’s most famous dissenters from British rule decided to write their statement of governmental detraction on.

In the words of a reputable source devoted entirely to the making of the U.S. Constitution: “Urban legend is that the Constitution . . . written on hemp paper, hemp being the industrial name for the fiber of the marijuana plant,” the site explains.

“For some reason, this ‘fact’ is touted by those who seek to legalize marijuana for recreational use. First, it is not clear why the use of hemp as a fiber should mean it should be legalized for recreational use.”

Final Hit: Was The U.S. Constitution Written On Hemp Paper?

But there’s an origin story regarding the germination of the HERBan legend that the Constitution was written on hemp paper.

What is that origin point, you might ask? The fact that until 1883, 75 to 90 percent of all paper in the world was derived from cannabis hemp fiber. So while untrue, the notion that the Constitution was written on the same material isn’t that far off the mark.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, like the Constitution, were also written on sheepskin parchment. Sorry, PETA.

So, was the U.S. Constitution written on hemp paper? Sadly for all you history buffs who happen to partake in the occasional puff and pass, the answer is a resounding “no.”

Just a fun fact: when you type in “was the U.S. Constitution written…” into your Google browser, the first searchable phrase that pops up is “was the U.S. Constitution written in German?” I guess that’s another myth to tackle for another day, kids. For this HERBan legend, at least, the case is closed.

J.E. Reich

J.E. Reich is a Brooklyn-based GRD staff writer and a former night/weekend editor at Jezebel. Their work has appeared in Slate, the Toast, the Forward, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere.

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