In 1775 an anonymous farmer penned “An Essay On Hemp” as a call to action for what were still the 13 Colonies. In that essay he wrote:
AS it has been thought requisite, by a continental association, to put a stop to the importation of manufactures into America, it is absolutely necessary to fall speedily on some effectual method to furnish, at least, the coarsest articles of our cloathing.
OUR country produces wool, cotton, hemp and flax, materials amply sufficient to answer every demand of necessity and convenience. The quantity may be increased by attention and diligence, and wrought up with a degree of skill easily attainable.
WE see already many families, scattered throughout these provinces, almost entirely cloathed in their own home-spun manufactures; why therefore should any of us despair of accomplishing that which is actually practised, before our eyes, by so many?
BY beginning with coarse manufactures we shall begin at the right end, we shall, every succeeding year, improve upon the past, and, after a fair exertion of the means in our power, we shall look back, with wonder and astonishment, at our present apprehensions.”
The good farmer was admonishing the Colonists not to despair. The Continental Association had been created by the First Continental Congress in 1774 to implement a trade boycott with Great Britain. Folks were apprehensive about their future. This man recognized that the production capability of what would become The United States of America was “amply sufficient” to meet their needs. In the materials he referenced being produced, Hemp was included.
As this country was formed and during its growth, hemp was an important crop. From its fibers cloth, paper and rope were produced. Its growth was even mandated by some local governments. Hemp remained a staple crop in America until 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed by Congress.
The Marihuana Tax Act was actually drafted by Harry J. Anslinger, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Anslinger argued that, during the 1930s, the Bureau had seen an increase in the number of folks using marijuana. (The country was in The Great Depression, so I suspect that may have contributed to that increase.) Anslinger’s bigotted, false rhetoric played the largest part, he convinced Congress that marijuana was evil, and the Act passed. Then, just as the Bureau of Prohibition (of which Anslinger was a deputy commissioner) did with alcohol, the FBN tried to enforce it through unpaid taxes, by prohibiting transportation or concealment of marijuana by one who acquired it, without having paid the transfer tax, which required registration for the Stamp. The IRS eventually incorporated the Tax Stamp Act into the 1954 Internal Revenue Code. Of course, marijuana’s cousin Hemp was included in the Act, and since the Stamps weren’t issued anyway, the Hemp Industry withered.
Then WWII rolls around, and suddenly the Nation’s military found itself in need of fiber for rope and other military uses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Army produced a film called Hemp For Victory, urging farmers to grow Hemp. Stamps began to be issued and from 1942 to 1945, without any legislation, Hemp cultivation was suddenly legal and authorized. Over 400,000 acres of Hemp were cultivated during the war years. Of course, after the war ended and Hemp was no longer needed for Victory, the issuance of stamps dried up.
In 1968 Dr. Timothy Leary challenged the constitutionality of The Marihuana Tax Act after he was arrested in Texas for possession of marijuana and charged under the Tax Act. In May of 1969, The Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Leary v U.S. It was then repealed by Congress in 1970. Ever wonder why the 400,000 folks at Woodstock weren’t hassled about weed? Apparently, it was legal from May ’69 until The Act was replaced by The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. That Act included the Controlled Substances Act. In the Controlled Substances Act, Congress specifically exempted hemp under the definition of marihuana, which excludes hemp seed, oil, and fiber.
The DEA ignored the exemption, not differentiating between hemp and marijuana in its eradication efforts, arresting growers of both under the Controlled Substances Act.
1985 …. In a release entitled • USE OF MARIJUANA FOR INDUSTRIAL PURPOSES, the DEA published its intent to establish 3 “rules”, one of which concerned THC levels in Hemp used for human consumption.
2001 ….. DEA publishes an “Interpretive Rule” that keeps hemp illegal, based on its THC content. That rule was invalidated by a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2003.
2003 ….. The DEA issues its “Final Rule”, which is almost word for word the same as the “Interpretive Rule”. The Ninth Court invalidated the “Final Rule” in February 2004. Of course, this ruling only applied to the Ninth, so the DEA continued its War on Hemp and Hemp Products elsewhere.
In recent years, several States have passed legislation allowing Hemp cultivation. An August 2016 article on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website states:
“At least 30 states passed legislation related to industrial hemp. Generally, states have taken three approaches: (1) establish industrial hemp research and/or pilot programs, (2) authorize studies of the industrial hemp industry, or (3) establish commercial industrial hemp programs. Some states establishing these programs require a change in federal laws or a waiver from the DEA prior to implementation.”
While all the results aren’t in, most of these programs are fledgling. Some states, such as Kentucky and Tennessee, have seen progress.
The new President wants to “Make America Great Again”. We know that Hemp cultivation and processing played a major role in the sustainability of the newly founded America. We also know that Hemp fibers carried us through several wars, including WWII. Seems to me it makes sense to go back to basics. President Trump should urge Congress to specifically tell the DEA that the exclusion of Hemp from the definition of Marijuana is not something they can “interpret” in a rule, not something that is “open to debate”.
Hemp helped make America great in the first place. Let’s let it help make America great again, Mr. President.
Footnote: Much of this information came from various articles on Global Hemp. It’s a great place to dig up related info if you’re interested.