Ask Our Experts: Hemp Myths


Q: Was the Constitution really written on hemp paper?


By Trevor Yahn-Grode, Data Analyst, New Frontier Data

A: Hemp is an incredible plant with a wide variety of uses, a rich history, and a bright future. However, it is also the subject of many myths, half-truths, and exaggerations. Here is a short list of commonly repeated examples:

CLAIM: The Constitution was written on hemp paper.


The official version of the Constitution on display today was written on animal parchment. There may have been some versions of the document drafted on hemp paper, but without having any known surviving copies, none can be confirmed.

CLAIM: Hemp was used to decontaminate soil at Chernobyl.


In the 1990s, a research team investigating phytoremediation (i.e., the use of plants to absorb contaminants from soils) planted several acres of hemp at Chernobyl. The results were very promising, and hemp is demonstrably among the world’s most effective plants for phytoremediation. However, the scale of the experiment was limited to a few acres at maximum, and most of Chernobyl remains in an exclusion zone.

CLAIM: Japanese Samurai used Hemp to make armor.


Samurai helmets (kabuto) were lined with hemp covered in silk. Hemp was also used to reinforce shoulder, sleeve, and thigh protectors. In addition, the clothing of the imperial Japanese family was traditionally made from hemp, as it remains to this day.

CLAIM: Henry Ford built a car made from hemp.


In 1941, amid steel and oil shortages caused by World War II, Henry Ford unveiled a car concept made from bioplastic which ran on biofuels. The fenders and car body were made from a highly durable plastic derived from agricultural waste. Hemp was part of this agricultural waste, but so were soybeans, wheat, corn, and flax.  Hemp was likely no more than 10%-20% of the mixture.

CLAIM: One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four acres of trees.


Still often repeated, the once-true statement dates to a USDA bulletin from 1916, more than a century past. Since then, forestry and paper manufacturing practices have improved dramatically, and commercial papermaking operations in the U.S. have begun planting more trees than they consume each year.