Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Speech: American History of Hemp

• Before I begin there is a common misconception regarding the hemp plant that needs to be cleared up. The cannabis family tree consists of two different segments. The first segment is marijuana, which has high concentrations of THC and is used for medicinal purposes. The second segment of this family tree is hemp, which contains little to no THC, cannot be used as a drug , and is used for industrial uses and has an estimated 50,000 uses.

Industrial hemp has been entwined in American History since our countries very beginnings and this history requires closer examination.

• From George Washington writing in his diary about separating male and female plants, growing it on his farm, and quotes from the first president like, “Hemp is greatly viable for winning the war and sustaining a future fantastic for America” and, "Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!"

• Benjamin Franklin created the first paper-mill and turned hemp into paper. Some like to speculate that the string Franklin used in his electricity experiment was hemp string.

• Thomas Jefferson wrote a book called Garden Book, which had passages about how to grow hemp. Jefferson went to great efforts to establish the use of hemp in America. In wrote one particular letter Jefferson urged Congress to grow hemp, instead of Tobacco, because of the rejuvenating benefits the hemp plant has on the soil. Tobacco drains nutrients and nitrogen from the soil, where-as hemp replenishes the soil with nutrients and nitrogen.

• There is hemp correspondence from Hamilton, John Adams, and other politicians, all of whom wrote about the cultivation of Russian Hemp.

• The first draft of the declaration of independence and…

• our first American flag are both speculated to have been made of hemp. Unfortunately, after contacting the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the National Museum of American History I am unable to confirm, or deny these speculations.

• Jumping ahead to what we’ve been learning in class, starting with Reconstruction – Hemp is entwined into the history of all Americans, both native and foreign.

• From the freedmen, to the indigenous peoples, the vaqueros, to the Irish and Scottish, and the Asians - they all came from and brought with them their culture rich with hemp. All of these groups were forced into some form of servitude and discriminated against highly. Imagine something that is so deeply entwined into one’s culture, such as hemp, dating back to the dawn of the agricultural revolution, and suddenly, that commodity is removed from everyday life and deemed criminal. The criminalization of hemp further tightened the reigns of control upon these groups of people.

It’s not hard to imagine that hemp was one of the crops harvested in the times of sharecropping. Economists say that America became the richest nation in the world and our main focus was agricultural and our number one crop was cotton. However, any good farmer knows that cotton, as well as tobacco, drains the soil of nutrients and nitrogen to the point of creating un-sowable soil. As I already said, the hemp plant has been used since the dawn of the agricultural revolution and one of its many attributes is that it is a year-round crop-rotator, hence returning nutrients and nitrogen into the soil.

• Inventions such as the loom allowed hemp to be more easily crafted into clothing and other industrial products.

• In 1899, The U.S. census counted 16,042 acres of hemp, 11,750,630 pounds of hemp harvested at a total worth of $546,338 nationwide. Kentucky was one of the top producers of hemp.

• The cattle frontier was rich with the history of hemp and items such as saddles, boots, rope, hats, clothing, oil, canvas, and blankets were brought along with the settlers. Hemp was used pre- and post – Modernization, and America and those within benefited greatly from its presence up until the 1900s when monopolies sprang forth.

• Thomas Edison used hemp in some of his experiments

• and Mark Twain, who coined the phrase “Gilded Age,” wrote his first books on hemp paper.

The Gilded Age was born and with it came this shiny, gold covered ball of crap and I wish we didn’t have to touch it, but we do. Just remember when you leave class today to wash your hands thoroughly. Instead of using a picture of a golden ball of crap I decided to use the device that was the downfall of the ancient city of Troy:

• A Trojan Horse. Now for the final paintbrush touches… walla,
• a Trojan Horse covered in gold representing the misleading “success” of the Gilded Age.

Just like the ancient city of Troy, Americans had no idea what they were accepting in when they brought in this horse.

• The Rockefeller name has gone down in history, as a family of humanitarians and philanthropists, due to the multitude of their donations and activities. We all learned in class that Rockefeller owned 93 percent of the world’s oil and was deemed the richest man in the world, and that title would still hold true today. But, how does Rockefeller fit into the American history of hemp? The answer and the one powerful word that controls all our lives to this very day is: Oil.

• Harry Anslinger was appointed to the newly formed Bureau of Narcotics and Anslinger was the husband of DuPont’s niece.
• Dupont owned industrial companies that created chemical, energy, plastic, yarn, food, and paper products.
• William Randolph Hearst owned newspaper publications and had vested interests in the paper/timber industry.
• Andrew Mellon was the Treasure Secretary and headed the Bank of Pittsburgh at the time, which loaned DuPont 80% of its money and whom had vested interests in all parties mentioned. All of these men worked together to aid in the criminalization of hemp for their own personal and financial gains, despite the negative impact it would have on America.

Anslinger wrote “The Gore Files”, which were later proven to be fake newspaper reports of marijuana use gone violently wrong, and Hearst published them. Racism was the determining factor in the criminalization of hemp and marijuana, both in the end being lumped into the same category in the newly created Controlled Substance Act – Category 1 – Most lethal, addictive, and dangerous drugs in 1937.

• This was the age of Reefer Madness,
• and many other racially motivated movies, that portrayed race as the key factor for marijuana use and proposed that by getting rid of the plant you would be getting rid of the “minorities who brought these plants with them.

• To reiterate, Rockefeller’s incentive to criminalize hemp was his oil / kerosene business. Hemp was widely used to make kerosene oil, and due to that fact, any hemp grown in the U.S. was direct competition to Rockefeller’s desired monopoly of oil distribution, and we all learned how what happened to his competition, they were crushed, ruined, and defeated.

DuPont’s incentive was his paper, plastic, food, textiles, fuel, and fabrics business. Hemp is a natural and affordable alternative resource to produce these items and was used regularly at the time and is still being used to make these items today worldwide in many other countries outside the U.S. Hearst’s incentive was his paper/timber business. Hemp paper can be recycled up to 8 times while our current paper can only be recycled 3.

Mellon funded DuPont and at the same time tightened his financial grip upon the farmers involved. With their combined interests and economic powers they campaigned for the removal of hemp and marijuana from public use successfully. That negative and false perception created, continues to current times.

Before I move on from this depressing moment in our history, also known as the Great Depression, which is probably why it is so depressing… I must mention something about the most powerful gentlemen of our country at that time: In World War II these companies, these dynasties came under scrutiny by our government for collaborating with Nazi Germany and assisting them in their war effort and war profiteering. There was a specific fuel component that only Rockefeller’s company, Standard Oil made, which was used specifically for the German Airplanes that did the Blitzkrieg. All of these men fell under heavy scrutiny and trials were held, although no one ever was indicted.

When I came across this history a question immediately formed within my mind, “Should a person, a group, or an organization be considered a philanthropist, or a humanitarian for the hundreds of good deeds and actions they perform… even if they put their personal and capitalistic gain before the well being of the millions who died in the holocaust?” Because to me, by supporting Nazi Germany in any way, shape, or form, during World War II, is supporting the genocide that occurred from Nazi Germany. After learning this information, I took a second glance at this picture of the most powerful men in our country at that time and to this day their Dynasties remain strong and entrenched, and well, I don’t know for sure, but it’s easy to speculate that a couple of them kind of do look like Nazi’s. But, we all know that assumptions make an arse out of you and of me, so we won’t go down that road.

During the time of propaganda and stereotypes surrounding the hemp plant,

• J.B. Duke was beginning his monopoly with tobacco. There was much historical data about Duke purchasing a great many tobacco farms, specifically farms in Kentucky,

• which was the #1 state for hemp production in the U.S. , as shown in the 1899 census.

• Henry Ford created a new plastic and it was made from hemp. In a demonstration that is on film, Henry Ford strikes the fender of the hemp-plastic car body with an axe and it doesn’t even leave a dent.

• Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 76, No. 6, December, 1941 was titled Title, “ Auto Body Made of Plastics Resists Denting Under Hard Blows.” This hemp plastic was 2,000 times stronger than steel and 1,000 pounds less in weight.
Criminalization of the hemp plant soon followed and I found that the DuPont Company now owns the Hemp Plastic Patent, as well as other hemp industrial patents, such as hemp yarn and hemp fuel for example.
When World War II occurred our government went to all lengths to find resources to use for the war effort.

• The Hemp for Victory program was initiated and it encouraged people all over the country to grow hemp for the war effort.

• Posters were created and even instructional videos for the public, on how to grow hemp.

• Licenses were sold that allowed the growing of hemp, despite the licenses stating it as Marihuana. Odd spelling.

Once the war ended, the prohibition went back into effect and the DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement began cutting down any and all cannabis related crops. Even if a farmer had a license, the Controlled Substance Act trumped those licenses and allowed the government to seize and destroy all hemp crops. Just recently it was ruled by a State Supreme Court that hemp plants can be seized and destroyed, because the Controlled Substance Act doesn’t state how much THC percentage is required in a plant to consider it a drug, but only that if it contains ANY, even 0.01% THC, than it will be deemed a Category 1, most lethal, addictive, and dangerous drug.

Currently, over 30 countries have legalized and produce industrial hemp, and some of those same countries have criminalized marijuana. The United States has around 9 states that have legalized industrial hemp and oddly, there are 13 states that have legalized medicinal marijuana, the taboo side of this debate.

• It makes me wonder about back in 1938 when Popular Mechanics declared Hemp to be the new billion dollar and if we equated that into today’s terms, then how much could hemp make this day and age? Imagine the boost hemp could give to our current economy, how it could aid in reducing the national deficit, and the countless jobs it could create…

I wanted to provide to everyone a list of A-Z products that can be created from hemp and even attributes to the plant that could benefit society. This isn’t even the complete list, or even the tip of the hemp iceberg, because there are an estimated 50,000 uses from the hemp plant. I really wanted to have the Star Wars music for this part and the scrolling text from top to bottom, unfortunately I’m not computer savvy enough, so it’s imagination time, ready?
• A-Z (hum music)

I wanted to point out a few quick uses and attributes, which I think are very important…..
(go through list)

Well, I hope that everyone learned today how vitally important the hemp plant has been for America throughout our history. The hemp plant benefited America and Americans up until the Great Depression and it can benefit America again!. The first step is with all you here today. Simple word of mouth can begin correcting the public’s misperception of the hemp plant. I’ve met hemp advocates that still talk of the hemp and marijuana plant, as the same plant with the same uses. Hemp Con was recently in Los Angeles and it was on the news, and the six people they proceeded to interview from the expo all talked about, marijuana. It was a little disheartening to say the least.

So, I’ll end with saying,

• “Seek the facts, Confront the Truth, and Pass it on.”


  1. Thank you so much for making this informative blog. It's excellent and I'm passing it on.

  2. Bonjour,
    i' m writing a 160 pages book in France about hemp...
    Is it possible to illustrate it with the picture of Henry ford hitting his hemp car?, i've found it on your website (photo 28)
    Is this picture in the public domain?
    where can i have the authorisation to use it…? 
    Thanks a lot for answering my request, and for the building of a nice futur. Grâce to grass!

  3. Let's make the next page in US history on hemp the petition to the White House -
    also check out for the latest on events.