Some notable moments in the history of cannabis, marijuana and hemp in North Carolina, colonial America and the United States.


1723: The government establishes a value for using hemp in lieu of money.

1734: North Carolina Gov. Gabriel Johnston asks farmers to try growing hemp.

1760: North Carolina Gov. Arthur Dobbs asks the legislature to offer a premium to encourage farmers to grow hemp for export to Great Britain and to be competitive with other hemp-exporting colonies.

1766: North Carolina’s legislature approves two hemp inspection warehouses. One is in Campbellton, a town that later became Fayetteville. The other is in Halifax. The legislature also renews for four years a program that pays a bounty to hemp farmers.


1860: American hemp production is mostly in Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri.

1890s: Cotton is supplanting hemp in fabrics. Imported coarse natural fibers compete with American hemp for other uses.

20th century

1937: The federal government passes the Marihuana Tax Act. Critics say it effectively outlaws hemp along with marijuana.

1940s: “Hemp for Victory” — despite the 1937 law, the federal government encourages hemp farming to supply material for rope, parachute webbing and other military needs during World War II. Hemp production rapidly declines after the war.

(Timeline continues below video.)

1957: Last known commercial production of hemp in the United States in the 20th century.

1969: Marihuana Tax Act overturned by the Supreme Court.

1970: Congress passes the Controlled Substances Act, which critics say effectively bans hemp farming when it bans marijuana.

1996: California becomes the first state in the country to legalize medicinal marijuana.

21st century

2012: Voters in Colorado and Washington state vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana. These are the first states to make this legal.

2013: A Colorado farmer risks arrest by growing commercial hemp.

2014: Congress passes a law to legalize experimental hemp production.

2015, January: A survey says 69% of North Carolinians support legalization of medical marijuana.

2015, March: A committee in the state House of Representatives considers a bill to legalize medical marijuana and unanimously rejects it.

2015, July: The North Carolina legislature legalizes the use of cannabidiol oil — which comes from the flowers and buds of marijuana or hemp plants — as an alternative treatment for intractable epilepsy.

2015, October: North Carolina authorizes a pilot program for hemp farming under the federal program approved in 2014. To avoid being classified as marijuana, the farmers’ hemp must have no more than 0.3% THC content by weight. THC is the chemical that causes marijuana’s psychoactive effect in people. 

Read all about it: Trump signs farm bill making hemp federally legal, boosting promising NC cash crop

Learn more: industrial hemp could be the next frontier of North Carolina agriculture

It isn’t easy growing non-THC weed: Eastern North Carolina hemp growers face challenges

2017: North Carolina farmers begin growing experimental plots of hemp.

2018: The United States fully legalizes hemp farming.

021, January: A public opinion survey says 73% of North Carolinians support legalization of medical marijuana, including 64% of Republicans.

2021, April: Republican Sen. Bill Rabon files legislation to legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina. It begins passing committees in summer 2021, but passage into law is uncertain.

2021, May: In the mountains of western North Carolina, the tribal government of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians votes to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the tribe’s territory. This is a step toward legalizing medical marijuana there.

2021, July: As of this month, recreational use of marijuana is legal in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. Another 18 states allow medical marijuana.

2021, August: The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approves an ordinance that creates a legal framework for the cultivation, sales, and usage of medical marijuana in their territory and plans to open a dispensary. It plans to begin sales in 2022. Non-members of the tribe will be allowed to buy it.

Read all about it: Legalizing weed in North Carolina gets support from powerful lawmaker

More: Virginia becomes first southern state to legalize recreational marijuana

Sources: Interview with Adam Watson of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, 2018; The Colonial Records of North Carolina; Laws of North Carolina 766; The American South, A History; North Carolina Historical Review; Frontline: Busted — America’s War on Marijuana; The Denver Post; Schaffer Library of Drug Policy; The Agricultural Act of 2014; North Carolina General Assembly website; WebMD; The National Conference of State Legislatures; the archives of The Fayetteville Observer; the Staunton News Leader; USA TODAY; “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity,” Congressional Research Service, June 22, 2018; North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services; news accounts.

Senior North Carolina reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and


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