As most of you know, it is hemp history week, and I’ve decided to dive into something that I find very interesting and thought provoking. I want to hop into a time machine with you and go back to the 1930’s, where industrial hemp grew freely in the Country, and was considered just another normal cash crop. Government officials used to grow it, industrial hemp farmers, and your average family could and would get in on the action by planting their own hemp seeds. Great for a number of things, industrial hemp is a plant that grows virtually anywhere, and takes very little maintenance, making it one of the more tantalizing crops to consider when starting a business. And starting a business, many did.
Enter William Randolph Hearst. A newspaper mogul who led a nationwide campaign called “Reefer Madness” which would begin the deconstruction of industrial hemp’s good name. People across America were not only starting to not like marijuana and hemp, but they were becoming fearful of it. Since the public feared marijuana for making you “crazy”, the hemp plant was quick to follow. Being the cousin of the marijuana plant (without any of the TCH), industrial hemp had been labeled another drug and had been tossed into a jail cell right along with its more psychoactive family member. And there they sat.
Except, industrial hemp isn’t a drug at all.
But these were, after all, the days where the American people thought smoking marijuana would cause you to grow dragon wings and viciously eat your next door neighbor, so blaming them for being afraid of a plant would be a little insensitive, but we’ll get back to that; let’s now fast forward to the present. The American public is just more educated and no longer afraid of marijuana, let alone industrial hemp, so why is it still banned in most of the country?
Let’s get back into our time machines.
In 1896, a man by the name of Rudolph Diesel created the Diesel engine. He figured this engine would run off of vegetable oil and seed oil, with hemp seed oil being his number one assumption, but the idea that growing our own fuel instead of harvesting it out of the ground didn’t last long. In the 1920’s, as oil companies became larger, DuPont Petrochemical took over General Motors and began to develop new additives for gasoline. In the 1930’s Ford Motor Company had been extracting all the key ingredients for their natural fuel that were also in the fossil fuels that General Motors had been creating. Although DuPont had started patenting many synthetics like paint, rubber, plastics, and photography film, General Motors and their natural source of energy still posed quite a threat to their bigger interests.
In 1937 DuPont wrote “The revenue raising power of government may be converted into an instrument for forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization” in an annual report and shed some light on the events which were quickly to follow. Here comes William Randolph Hearst, who was a major tree-pulp consumer and, like said before, had a major newspaper company, (a company that had used only tree paper of course), and all of this low quality paper they planned to make by deforesting trees was on the verge of being outgunned by all natural paper made from hemp. Do you see where this is going?
It didn’t take long for the prohibition-loving Hearst to begin publishing stories about marijuana, stating that it was the cause of “murderous rampages”, as well as demanding that cannabis be listed on all anti-narcotics bills. Whether or not cannabis was a drug didn’t matter at this point, the mission was to outlaw industrial hemp and take control over the paper and fuel market. After all, big fossil fuel businesses were scratching Hearst’s back, and vice versa.
And so it was. With the government in his pocket, Hearst’s “Reefer Madness” campaign had begun, and marijuana along with its cousin hemp, were officially banned shortly after.
Only now are we beginning to loosen the stranglehold of our descendant’s concept of the industrial hemp plant, and only now can we begin to do things like pass bills to start up industrial hemp lots across the country. We’re starting to see more and more why banning this absolutely harmless crop was a silly thing to do, and maybe now we can start to brush aside the notion that industrial hemp is somehow a bad thing, and start to view it for what it is and what it was meant to be: a cheaper and more convenient source of fuel and material.