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Hemp Used to be More Valuable than Cash?

Hemp Used to be More Valuable than Cash?

Can you think of a moment in time when Hemp used to be more valuable than Cash?


In order to maintain their newly declared independence, the American colonies not only had to field an army but they also had to become self reliant in all the resources necessary in order to support that particular army and of course, the civilian population. That being said, grain and beef became the top priorities in terms of "stockings" for the American nation. 

When the food supplies reached pretty high values in numbers, they could start focusing onto something else like raising raw materials for the war effort. Amongst those raw materials, there was also the request for hemp.

Much of Virginia's hemp was produced by small farmers and was subsequently processed into rope and cordage. There were no fewer than eighteen "ropewalks" in Virginia which were basically transforming the raw material such as hemp fiber into very much needed hemp rope (especially during Revolution).

Can you believe that despite all of that, there was still a shortage of ropes?

This particular aspect of "ropes" gained such major significance, so much so that any man who worked at these "ropewalks" used to be pardoned from military duty for at least six months. 

hemp rope making
Ropewalk complex in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. (Metro Group Editorial Service)


In addition to making clothes and rope from hemp fabric, the Americans had yet another equally important need for the precious fiber during the Revolution. The very common yet important - paper. We already know from previous articles that hemp used to be indeed, one of the basic ingredients when it comes down to creating paper.

As time passed by, hemp was replaced by other materials such as flax or cotton in order to obtain paper.  Back then, it was mandatory to go back to the roots of the art of paper making, roots that relied on producing this paper out of hemp, mainly because Americans declared their independence from England which meant that they could no longer count on cotton or flax imports.

Hemp paper
Photo Source

However, once the war broke out, hemp became just as scarce as any other fibrous materials. There was a time when American papermakers had to beg people to bring them old rags or anything they had back home that was made out of hemp so that the United States would have paper upon which money, business accounts, military commands, etc, could be written.


The reason why hemp was more valuable than cash was pretty simple.

Paper money had no value in the colonies. For instance, 1000 $ in Virginia currency was only worth 1$ in silver. Because there was a certain lack of faith in paper money, the American economy operated very much while using the barter system. Because of hemp's comparative uniformity, its comparative freedom from deterioration, the universal and steady demand for it and its value , hemp was recognised as the standard commodity for the first three or four decades of the new American republic.


Anything and everything could be bartered for hemp, from the local newspaper to the services of stud racehorses.

This only proves us once again, how important Hemp used to be back in the days. Starting from the variety of purposes it used to serve from creating textiles, cordage, food, drinks and basically almost everything you could think of (check our previous articles) into creating one fundamentals thing that resides into our homes today and we don't ever really stop to think about it: paper.


Stick around for more Hemp Facts as well as interesting Hemp stories collected throughout the years from books, poems and people.

This Hemp Blog Article was written using bits & crumbles from “Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years”, by Ernest L. Abel

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