MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924
Hemp for Victory
by Edward Miller, M.D.
"Hemp for Victory" is the title of a propaganda film, produced by the US Department of Agriculture for the Department of Defense during WWII encouraging American farmers to resume the growing of commercial hemp. In 1942 the US found itself cut off from Russia, our dependable supplier of hemp, a
product needed for ropes and hawsers to secure ships at the wharves, tie down cargo and supply canvas for wrapping. Though the American farmer had long been forbidden from growing this valuable crop, (the Uniform Drug Act, crumunalizing cannabis, passed in 1932, was followed in 1937 by the Marijuana Acr, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt) Our patriotic American farmers responded to this challenge and our Armed forces, particularly our Navy were adequately supplied with hemp products.
At the end of the WWII, American farmers, now wise-again in the ways of hemp cultivation were eager to maintain this crop. but the DEA had other plans, and as writer Richard L. Miller noted : "Toward the end of the war, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics decided to regard mature hemp stalks as marijuana if
A single leaf remained on them, a stand later modified to permit 10% of the leaves. Marijuana taxes ranged from $1 to $100 an ounce, and stalk harvests were measured in tons. Narcotics Bureau chief Harry Anslinger told the industry that the tax would include the entire stalk and come to about $32,000 a ton."
The American Industrial Hemp Council, a coalition of farmers, politicians, manufacturers and environmental groups, has many times since WWII petitioned the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) to end its classification of industrial hemp as an illegal drug., but the DEA has
repeatedly refused, citing its concern that industrial hemp might be diverted as an illegal drug. Though industrial hemp contains too low a level of the active psychedelic component, THC (tetrahydro cannabinol) to interest the underground drug market, the DEA has not changed its mind. Hemp has no
natural enemies except the US Government.
Last year a bill passed by our California legislature to allow California farmers to grow commercial hemp was vetoed by our Governor. Recent polls Show 71% support for Industrial hemp farming in California, and Assembly Bill 684 the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, authored by Assemblyman Mark
Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) was just passed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, March 27. If passed and signed into law, AB 684 would regulate commercial industrial hemp farming in California. Similar bills are pending in five other states However there remain powerful commercial interests determined to keep commercial hemp out of California and the United States.
Big Business campaign to destroy hemp as a commercial crop began in the early 1930s when DuPont chemists developed their first petrochemical fiber, NYLON, and patented the sulfate and sulfite processes for making paper from wood pulp. About that time William Randolph Hearst, newspaper giant, was investing widely in lumber holdings as pulp for newsprint. Since hemp was a cheaper and better source for paper than wood pulp, and hemp's superior fiber length, strength and low cost competed with nylon, the two commercial giants connived to destroy the hemp industry. (Cotton with a fiber length of 1 1/2 inches compared to hemp's 15 feet plus cotton's extensive water and pesticide requirements offered no threat to DuPont.) Also, about this time other industrial chemists were developing plastics from such biomass products as hemp. Henry Ford, at his secret biomass conversion plant, had already built a model automobile of plastics derived largely from hemp with only the frame of metal. The car's fuel was also derived from hemp.
For those interested in the details, I recommend either of two books: The Great Book of Hemp by Rowan Robinson (Park Street Press) or The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer (Hemp Publishing, Van Nuys, CA). The story of Hemp, criminalized as "marijuana," its resurgence as a vital commercial crop during WWII and its second demise after the defeat of Germany and Japan is a fascinating chronicle of commercial greed and media compliance.
The history of hemp, or marijuana as it is commonly known in this country, goes back thousands of years. In a Chinese pharmacy book as early as 2737 BC, hemp was recommended for rheumatism, ulcers, earaches, menstrual cramps and malaria. The Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramses I, recommended it as an eyewash. Hemp was the first plant known to be cultivated by man, and both its healing and mind-altering properties were understood across the ancient world. Hemp fibers were used in the first woven fabric. Carbon dating places some such weavings as far back as 8,000 BC. Hemp was used for paper long before linen or papyrus, whereas wood pulp as the mainstay for paper manufacture became popular only after the 1920s
Early settlers in America were encouraged, even instructed by colonial governments, to plant hemp. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations and Benjamin Franklin
started one of America's first paper mills, using cannabis (hemp) as the basis. Both America's Bill of Rights and our Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. Until 1921, all
official federal documents were ordered to be written on hemp paper because of its durability. During the days of sailing ships, the canvas for their sails, ropes and rigging were of hemp, and early Americans traveled west in wagons covered with hemp canvas. "Canvas" is the Dutch word for "cannabis." Levi Strauss made trousers for the Gold Rush pioneers from hemp canvas. The 1850, the U.S. census
counted 8,327 hemp plantations (minimum 2,000 acres), but did not include the millions of hemp patches on family farms The mood-altering qualities of hemp (marijuana or hashish) have been understood and used both socially and in religious rites since man's pre-dawn history.
Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio, a strong supporter of a viable American hemp industry, recently posted these advantages of hemp on his Website: The industrial hemp plant has a surprising number and variety of uses, including textiles, paper, food, paint, bio-fuels, bio-composites, automobile
parts, plastics, and fiberboard.... In France today, houses are being built from hemp that are fire- and termite-resistant. Hemp paper can be made without dioxin and can be recycled 10 more times than tree-pulp paper. An acre of hemp produces more pulp than four acres of trees. In 1916, USDA Agriculture Bulletin 404 reported that our forests were being cut down three times faster than they grew. It called for alternatives to the use of timber and recommended using hemp pulp for paper instead of tree pulp. For textiles, an acre of land will produce two to three times as much hemp fiber as cotton, and hemp requires
little to no pesticides or herbicides. Hemp seed plays an important role in nutrition for humans, livestock, and is a complete source of protein, second only to soybeans, containing the highest concentration of essential amino and fatty acids found in any food. It contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids..."
The criminalization of hemp as marijuana has produced monumental personal and economic problems. Today, with more than a million young men imprisoned for marijuana use and drug-related crimes, and while our prison-building and prison-maintenance industries grow exponentially, we are increasingly threatened by the intrusions of local, state and federal drug squads. Proponents of continued criminalization of marijuana are those who most stand to benefit from this on-going campaign: the DEA and their increasing state and local battalions; the petrochemical industry who fear the competition which
today's biomass derivatives offer their products; those who build, maintain and staff prisons; and American businesses which enjoy cheap prison labor; the military, who are elbowing their way into the anti-drug scene; and finally, our INS and their supporting court system.
Recent statistics show: It Costs Over $7 Billion Annually to Fund U.S. Marijuana Prohibition. Nearly
Three Quarters of a Million Marijuana Arrests Occur Each Year. $4.2 Billion is Lost in Productivity Wasted by Locking Them Up. There are 135,488 currently behind bars for Felony Marijuana Offenses, and it costs $2 Billion Annually to House Them. In addition, 20,000 Defendants Locked Up Awaiting Trial
For Felony Marijuana Charges American's fight for that personal right to control their state of conscious
awareness will be a tough one. No one has ever died from marijuana use, though millions have succumbed to both alcohol and cigarettes. Marijuana is not addicting, with over 70,000,000 Americans admitting to have tried "reefers." The story that marijuana use leads to hard drug use has never been substantiated.
Holland and Switzerland accept marijuana use.
As for marijuana's therapeutic value, oncologists recommend it for the nausea associated with chemotherapy, ophthalmologists say it lowers intraocular pressures in their glaucoma patients, pulmonologists note its use in asthmatics. Marijuana relieves the pain of arthritis. Cannabis use in insomnia, alcoholism, drug withdrawal and migraine has been reported worldwide.
The time has come for Americans to re-introduce commercial hemp in this country as a first step in re-examining our attitudes toward a much-maligned but potentially valuable natural resource. All nineteen countries of the European Union presently permit the growing of commercial hemp, as does our neighbor Canada. Just how the on-going legal battle between California's state initiative permitting marijuana's limited medical use and the powerful Federal Drug Administration will resolve is anyone's guess.
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