By Rand Clifford
crossposted at Thomas Paine’s Corner
America was just starting to crawl, and hemp was such an essential crop that farmers could be fined for not growing it—even jailed during periods of shortage in the mid 1760s. Hemp was legal tender in most of the country until the early 1800s. By 1850, over 8,000 farms of 2,000 acres or more were growing hemp, mostly where slave labor could satisfy the extreme labor-intensity of the hemp industry.
The slavery issue changed after 1865…but by the 1930s, hemp-harvesting machinery was coming out that drastically reduced labor demands. Popular Mechanics magazine ran a cover story, February, 1938, hailing hemp as “The New Billion-Dollar Crop”. Imagine the wealth a billion dollars meant in 1938. Imagine the wealth William Randolph Hearst had amassed by 1938. Twenty years earlier, Hearst had seen hemp looming on the horizon as a threat to his paper-making empire. As soon as new machinery made superior hemp paper competitive, Hearst, as well as Pierre Dupont, owner of patents for the sulfuric-acid process for making paper from wood pulp, both stood to loose vast profits to hemp. Through connections to the very core of American politics, their stealth campaign of sensational lies and propaganda, manipulation, racism and even terrorism, culminated with an illegal tax law essentially outlawing hemp in 1937—yes, the year before Popular Mechanics published their “New Billion-Dollar Crop” article lauding hemp. Talk about stealth! Imagine the chagrin of all the people involved in our domestic hemp industry in 1937 when they suddenly learned that hemp had been banned in America because of “The Killer Weed from Mexico”. Except for during the reprieve of several years in WWII, under the government’s “Hemp for Victory!” campaign, not a single acre of hemp has been legally grown in America since 1937.
The sordid tale of hemp prohibition in America is a superlative example of power working against the population, of corporate profits trumping We the People. Today, if we follow the money, we quickly find the War on Drugs, and the kinds of insanity our various “Wars on Things” engender. For instance, during research for the novel, Castling, I found a most Twilight-Zonish story from Nebraska. A project to elevate a Boy Scout to an “Eagle” involved jerking 40,000 “marijuana” plants…though in fact they were “ditchweed”—wild remnants of industrial hemp varieties bred and cultivated by the Department of Agriculture from 1900 to 1935, and also during the “Hemp For Victory!” war campaign. Ditchweed grows wild across several states, and like all industrial hemp varieties, has no drug potential because of ultra-low THC levels. Undeterred by reality, the young Scout, aided by gung-ho! adults and supervised by police, jerked the 40,000 plants and saw to their entombment in a landfill. For the press, DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents estimated the street value of the plants at over fifteen million dollars. That’s called blatant lying.
The monetary value was zero—if those weeds were on the street, somebody would have to pay to have them hauled away. However, the weeds had plenty of value if they’d been left in the ditch where they belonged; migrating birds prefer hemp seed above all other foods. So in reality the whole farce simply wasted a lot of time and energy to rob migrating birds of a vital meal. To top that, the DEA pours tens of millions every year into state and local police forces to dig up ditchweed. What’s next, a DEA proclamation of America’s War On Birds…?
Industrial hemp is not marijuana. Yet, unlike in countries advanced enough to farm the world’s most useful plant, where the issue of hemp is handled by agricultural, or food or health agencies, in the U.S., it’s the DEA standing in the way of hemp. Industrial hemp has nothing to do with drugs, yet the road to restoration of hemp farming goes straight through our drug enforcement bureaucracy. An end to hemp prohibition in this country is perhaps the DEA’s greatest fear because, they believe, decriminalization of marijuana would automatically follow, killing their ultimate cash cow.
Without marijuana, the War on Drugs might suffer an attack of peace—disaster for any war profiteer such as the DEA. Half of all drug arrests nationwide are for marijuana. Nearly 15% of America’s bloated prison population represents incarceration mostly for marijuana possession. Privatization of America’s prison industry is one of the country’s top growth industries, along with slave labor provided by prisoners. The statistics are as horrifying as primary testimony of high-ranking government official Harry Anslinger before Congress in 1937 regarding why America’s hemp industry should be killed: “If the monster Frankenstein should come face-to-face with the evil monster marijuana, he would surely die of fright….” Hey, that’s good enough for…ahem, good enough for seventy-years-and-counting of denying We the People all the benefits of the world’s most valuable crop, don’t you think?
Representative Ron Paul from Texas doesn’t think so. Dr. Paul certainly seems to have an affinity for truth. Even before he rattled the GOP presidential primary debates with the truth that “The Terrorists” hate us because we’ve been terrorizing them for decades, and not because we cherish apple pie…or certain other freedoms, Dr. Paul introduced H.R. 1009, the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007″. Obviously, the DEA is hissing and spitting about this, throwing heavy lobby lard against the bill. But the DEA has recently taken a big hit to their credibility (such a small target!), and they’ve been burping up a lot of crow.
It’s beyond another case of estimating the street value of a truckload of weeds at $15,000,000; that kind of insanity is so common it goes pretty much unnoticed anymore. This SNAFU actually exposed itself in that bastion of bastionism, the New York Times, and might be called: “DEA Saves Civilization by Seizing Deadly Granola Bars and Narcotic Birdseed.” The real trouble started when Canada advanced as a nation and restored the Canadian hemp industry. This sets our DEA in even starker contrast to thoughtfulness, with Canada enjoying the benefits of again growing the world’s most valuable crop. Faced with appearing sillier, the DEA countered with authoritarian authoritarianism, circling the wagons in the maximized rigidity of Zero Tolerance! No amount of THC would be permitted to cross into this country—Repeat, ZERO!
Again, our DEA has had a bone to pick with Canada since 1998, when Canada looked that evil monster Frankenstein in the eyes, and declared: Industrial Hemp IS NOT Marijuana! Frankenstein broke into tears, blubbering about how it felt to be unloved—our DEA whisked him to Guantanamo, for a little playful and therapeutic waterboarding with Dick Cheney…. Canadian culture did not implode with the resumption of hemp farming, but rather, Canadian farmers and entrepreneurs demonstrated some modern potential of the world’s most valuable crop. So our DEA seized 40,000 pounds of hemp birdseed when it came across the border, impounding the seed in a Detroit warehouse. Also on the Zero Tolerance! Most Wanted List was Nutiva Granola Bars because they were made with the same sterilized hemp seed which tests had shown contain .0014% THC, picked up from contact with other parts of the hemp plant. Coincidentally, that percentage of THC is in the ballpark of the percentage of opiate alkaloids contained in iceberg lettuce. Our DEA isn’t seizing shipments of lettuce–HEY! Zero Tolerance means Zero Tolerance, doesn’t it? Could it be an international borders thing? Perhaps…but after exhaustive consideration of the data, and our DEA’s record, I’m ready to posit that they acted preemptively for the safety of any citizen who may recently have seen news of a man eating something like 52 hot dogs in 15 minutes to set a World Record. Should the desire to get high team up with determination to set a similar record (Guinness Book—the Real Thing!), an American citizen could attempt to eat 100 pounds of hemp seed in a sitting. The citizen might not get high (that’s a super-low THC concentration), but it’s possible they would establish themselves in the Guinness Book of World Records! Remember, though, our DEA is concerned, above all other considerations, with the safety of American Citizens. And of course, eating 100 pounds of hemp seed in a sitting—even though it is one of the healthiest foods on the planet—carries health risks. I mean, why would our DEA even be involved, if not to protect Americans from risk? And if this seems far-fetched, think about declaring the “street value” of a truckload of weeds at $15,000,000. Or, birdseed being yet another casualty of the War on Drugs.
Back to eating crow…our DEA has now reversed its Zero Tolerance dictum, allowing Canadian hemp seed to cross the border. No more seizing birdseed as a schedule I narcotic—a major victory for the birds! And no more “FREEZE! DROP THE GRANOLA BAR AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP”!!
And now, thanks to Rep. Ron Paul, we stand on the verge of joining the world’s advanced nations. The crucial text of H.R.1009, the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007″ is very simple, as truth usually is—it’s the lies that get so convoluted. The essentials of Ron Paul’s amendment to the Controlled Substances Act read:
`The term “marihuana” does not include industrial hemp. As used is the preceding sentence, the term “industrial hemp” means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.’.
Thank you very much, Dr. Paul, and Godspeed!
In “King Hemp” part 2, read of the fantastic potential of hemp uniting with modern technology in the world’s agricultural and entrepreneurial superstar! Benefits extend all the way to countering the Devastating Duo: global warming, and globalization.
Rand Clifford is a novelist and essayist living in Spokane, Washington, with his wife Mary Ann, and their Chesapeake Bay retriever, Mink. His novels CASTLING and TIMING are published by StarChief Press: http://www.starchiefpress.com