As you nervously check your account balance to see if you have enough to cover your taxes and still stock up at the dispensary this weekend, you should know that your Great-Great-Great-Great Grandparents could have cut out an entire step and paid their taxes with cannabis plants.
If you’ve ignored the hundreds of TurboTax emails you’ve received over the last three months reminding you to fork over Uncle Sam’s vig, let me remind you that your taxes need to be filed by Tuesday, April 18th.
When you offer your annual monetary sacrifice to the Lords of Infrastructure, Education, and Homeland Defense, you’ll be allowed to do so via check or electronic bank transfer. But believe it or not, there used to be some even more convenient payment options at tax time, including forking over some cannabis.
For over 150 years, Americans were able to pay their taxes with stacks of cannabis. This alternative payment arrangement was instituted to encourage more farmers to cultivate hemp. Farmers were growing and using the hemp plant for its especially strong fibers, as utilizing cannabis to achieve a psychoactive effect didn’t become popular among Americans until many years later.
Back in the early-1600s, when the original colonies were still in their infancy, industrial hemp flourished. Hemp had a wide variety of applications for early-American settlers, most notably in the production of clothing, paper, ropes and sails that were vital for life in a new world. In 1619, Virginia cemented hemp’s vitality by requiring farmers to grow the versatile crop on at least a portion of their lands. Similar requirements were placed on Massachusetts farmers in 1631 and in Connecticut the following year. During this period, hemp was approved for use as general currency in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.
As we battle tooth and nail in 2017 to restore some of the cannabis-based resourcefulness our forefathers bestowed upon us, it’s truly fascinating to see just how ingrained cannabis was in everyday life for early Americans. As the stench of prohibition drifts away, an increasing number of states are reverting back to the mentality of their ancestors and embracing one of Earth’s most precious resources. In 2016, seven states replaced archaic laws with new legislature, breaking down barriers that previously stood in the way of industrial hemp farming.
While it’s disappointing we cannot satisfy our current tax debt with a pile of hemp, it’s at least somewhat reassuring to know that Americans had their head in the right place at one point regarding this plant.