The War on Hemp

hemp meme

The Internet went nuts over this meme the other day. Obviously we gotta grow more hemp. Do it, and you’ll go to jail.

It is one of the first crops cultivated by humans, and was a staple crop for the American colonies. It requires less water than  most crops, and no pesticides at all, to grow, and while growing it detoxifies soil and sequesters CO2. Its seeds are a superfood, yielding highly nutritious flour, bread, cereal, “milk”, oil and protein additives — as well as fuel, paint, ink and cosmetics. Its fast-growing stalk yields one of the strongest and most useful fibers known, used in superior paper, canvas, ropes, insulation, cardboard, clothing, shoes and plastic — plastic that is, by the way, biodegradable. This one plant can provide many of the products an industrial society needs, sustainably, while drastically reducing pollution, energy consumption, deforestation, fossil fuel use and providing income for millions of farmers (in places like West Virginia, where glum people sit around in fertile hollows mourning the death of coal).

So, of course, planting, harvesting, or even studying hemp is mostly illegal in the United States and has been for decades.

Ask anyone in American politics why this is so, and you get mumbles. “Mumble mumble mumble marijuana.” Yes, hemp is related to marijuana, but it is not marijuana, and you can smoke it until your black lungs fossilize and you will not get high from it. So why is it classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government? “Mumble mumble mumble looks like marijuana.”  And so it does, sort of (but not exactly). So does okra (guy in Georgia got raided by police intent on destroying the okra in his garden). So does the chaste tree, Texas Star (hibiscus), Japanese maple and spider flower. Yet you can plant any of those puppies without fear of going to prison. (If you plant a Schedule I drug you have committed a felony.)

I used to attribute this breathtaking stupidity on the part of the American government to, well, stupidity. Hemp, I thought, was collateral damage in the nuclear explosion of stupidity known as the War on Drugs (now in its 45th successful year….), whose regulators got so lathered up they could not tell one plant from another. Plus, years ago I learned that if a thing happens either because of conspiracy or stupidity, and you’re not sure which, always go with stupidity, and your batting average will be stellar. But there is a little more than simple dumbness at work here.

Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. Hemp is cannabis sativa and marijuana is cannabis indica. So when regulators wanted to prevent people from getting high on cannabis indica, they criminalized cannabis, which included cannabis sativa, which made it illegal to use one of the most useful and sustainable crops the world has ever known.

Stupid mistake, but easy enough to fix: add one word to the prohibition, so as to ban indica and leave sativa alone. It’s kinda like filling all the blanks in an indictment so that instead of arresting everyone with the last name “Smith” for a murder, you make it more specific.  Funny how in nearly a hundred years no one has got around to making that one word change.

Funny, until you count the number of existing industries that would be negatively impacted by a flourishing hemp industry; start with paper, textile, oil, pharma, plastic, food, and just keep going until you get tired. Then consider who benefits: the land, the environment, the climate, the farmers and the consumers, none of whom has a lobby in Washington. Bingo.  

There is evidence now of some substantial changes in public attitude, accompanied by some glacial, begrudging changes in the law. The other day, a meme (put up on the Facebook page  “End the Drug War” pointed out that we could replace all the persistent, oil-based plastic that are befouling our world and killing wild creatures at an appalling rate, with hemp-based plastics that biodegrade in 60 days. The meme went viral. Thanks to activists including actor Woody Harrelson, hemp and hemp products enjoy high public approval ratings.

Thus, in a few states now, one can get permits to grow small plots of hemp for research purposes. All you have to do is submit to approximately the same amount of red tape, inspections and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo as it would take to start up a nuclear power plant. West Virginia, one of the states that considers hemp far too dangerous to unleash on its impoverished citizenry without careful supervision, just removed all restrictions on carrying a concealed firearm.

Maybe if we showed them how to make guns from hemp?  


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13 Responses to The War on Hemp

  1. Mike Kay says:

    My own take, for what it’s worth, on the topic of legislative morality is that it provides cover for something else. Never mind that a society awash in various poisons, toxins, and mountains of refuse has zero ethical basis for morality by law, the fact is this approach covers the rapacious greed that benefits from this ersatz morality.
    A child can understand that those who traffic in contraband owe their profit to the fact it’s illegal. Eduardo Saviano has extensively documented how this works.
    I do wish I could honestly say that the intense criminalization of life forms was simple stupidity. Unfortunately, I cannot ignore the willingness of certain people to advance the corruption.

  2. Tom says:

    Wow, finally an article that dares to confront the standard (as the guidance counselor on South Park would say) “hemp is bad, mmm-koi . don’t use it for anything, children” advice, with, you know, FACTS!

    Thanks for that Mr. Lewis, though you didn’t mention its stress-busting and pain relieving medical use that’s FINALLY gaining some inroads.

    I agree with Mike Kay’s point above. When alcohol, which has ruined more lives than any other available drug (I suspect, with the only exception being maybe tobacco) is both LEGAL and peddled practically everywhere, while a HISTORICAL cash crop in early America gets banned, it becomes a no-brainer that poisons like Monsanto’s Round-up get a pass.

    Marijuana, as I understand it (cough, cough) comes in the two flavors you mentioned, with many mixtures being grown now. The sativa high is an energetic, concentration-enhancing, energy booster, while a strong indica variety has the quality that Cheech and Chong movies are famous for, rendering the user couch-locked and ‘contemplating reality.’

    There are so many myths, lies and nonsense associated with its criminalization that it’s tough to get the truth out there sometimes (and, of course, the best way to convince someone is to have them TRY IT). People who try it suddenly find themselves smiling (although many times they have to overcome a PARANOIA that has been imposed on them by negative propaganda put out by the government), often their appetite improves, and they become more communicative. Its long-term effect on intelligence is not necessarily true either (unless, like any substance it becomes an obsession). Yeah, it’s all backwards and upside down with respect to the law and vested interests as you pointed out.

    Great points made with HUMOR to boot! I really enjoy your writing, Mr. Lewis.

  3. colinc says:

    Just “WOW!” Mr. Lewis, I would NEVER have even dreamt that you would broach such a subject, let alone MOSTLY correctly. It MAY be “news” to you but there ARE more than a few strains of Cannabis Sativa whose flowers, when dried and smoked, provide more than an “adequate” high, rivaling, if not surpassing, anything from an indica variety. (Indeed, some of the MOST potent, psycho-pharmacologically speaking, ARE “hybrids” between indica and sativa varietals.) Moreover, the uses for “hemp/marijuana” go FAR beyond what you claim or allude. For “further study,” if one should be so inclined, I highly (no pun intended) recommend “The Pot Book” by Julie Holland, M.D.! Obviously, any variety of cannabis (or all of them combined) is NOT a panacea, whether one is speaking physiologically or ecologically. Yet, as you indicate, one or more of them COULD go “a long way” in “righting” a plethora of the “wrongs” for which “humanity” could be indicted!! Kudos, again, to you for such a forthright article and continuing to “tell it like it IS!” Bravo, good sir!! Alas, as Mr. Kay has rightly, succinctly and accurately noted in the first comment in this thread, I would summarize tersely as “it’s all about the mutha’-fuckin’ money.” Too bad, so sad, thus we ALL “suffer,” whether ANY of us realize it or not. “Reality” is merely an amalgamation of “perceptions” and some perceive “better” than others. Why, do you suppose, is that?

    Pardon this addendum for the residents of Ohio. Delete/snip it if you, Mr. Lewis, deem it “unnecessary.” To my “fellow Ohioans,” WTF is WRONG with you? WE had a chance, last November (2015), to LEGALIZE marijuana, for medicinal as well as recreational purposes! Yea, okay, it WOULD have given a limited number of “corporations” a de facto “trust” for, what, about a decade as the proposal was written. Who fucking cares? Did you NOT notice that that law would ALSO have made it LEGAL to GROW your own?!?!? Neither YOU nor I, or anyone else any of us know, would have “had to” buy from that minority of original, state-sanctioned growers/sellers! (UNLESS, of course, you/they are too stupid or lethargic to do otherwise!) What part of THAT did you NOT understand?!?!?!? “WE” could have been “high and happy,” LEGALLY, NOW, if it wasn’t for the abject fuck-wits among you that did NOT grasp that latter aspect and voted AGAINST the bill, or didn’t bother to vote at all. Fuck me, I find “humans” less and less “understandable” with every minute of every day! Okay, I’ve got that off my chest, not that I think more than a handful of other Ohioans even visit, let alone “read,” let alone “understand” ANYTHING on this blog. Alas, that’s probably “true” for the preponderance of the population of any and all other state populations. :(

  4. Rob Rhodes says:

    There is substantial evidence that hemp was originally outlawed nationally because a large owner of newspapers has just invested deeply in craft pulp mills to supply his papers just as an industrial process was unvented to make paper from hemp (until then it had been labor intensive). Pot was suddenly a dangerous drug and hemp was wrapped in the same bag. Hemp was always the target, never the collateral damage, not at the federal level.

    Until then the feds had been happy to let individual southern states outlaw it. They did so because they employed lots of Mexican migrant labour and as pot was part of their culture, employers could call the local sherif and have him arrest any labour activists that troubled them.

  5. Mike H says:

    Tom, there was a very interesting and well researched postgraduate thesis titled: ” Unravelling and American Dilemma: The Demonisation of Marijuana by John Craig Lupien,1995. Lupien carefully unpicked the shift from a commonly grown agricultural crop to illegality. Thoughtful and insightful I have found little to disagree with Lupiens thesis. If it can still be found, you can trace as Lupien did how it came to be that cannabis sativa/indica as a plant was outlawed. The rest they say is history. Lupiens thesis is that the forestry industry (wood for free) outgunned and ran down the US Forestry departments who had very good data as far back as th 1900’s that growing cannabis was a far superior return for obtain cellulose products that cutting down US Forests or Dupont who with the support of Hearst and others made sure that the oil of the seeds, which as a viable and organic alternative to synthetic petroleum based products for a huge range of products was never used or could be allowed to compete. So as you look at your Declaration of Independence, remember that it was written on hemp paper.

  6. Mike Kay says:

    It takes an enormous amount of courage to write on this topic. Mr. L. must be commended for even broaching this topic. The empire’s propaganda is so successful in diminishing and eradicating any dialogue, that one runs the risk of dismissal for merely airing an opinion herein.
    This proves the point that corporate government has a far different set of objectives than your well being.
    The shitheads pulling the levers on this unfolding train wreck are not good people temporarily misled, nor are they worthy of your deference. They are in fact, small minded profiteers at best, interested merely in setting themselves up, or at worst, demented lying psychopaths eager to try to fill that enormous black hole inside with abuse and powermongering.
    I know, I’ve been there.
    In terms of why government policy is abusive, vicious, and terminally dysfunctional, one need look no further than the shithead at the controls.
    I do so wish it was just a case of stupidity.

  7. The book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” is a must read.

  8. Clay says:

    Of course, both types should be legal. But one question about the biodegradable plastic made from hemp. If it is mostly degraded in 28 days, how would it be useful for consumer products like a bottle? The contents would leak out before the product could get to the shelf in the market.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      Interesting question, like “If I invent the universal solvent, what do I keep it in?” I’m not sure, but I think the decomposition requires microbes, heat and moisture, in combinations not likely to be encountered by a clean, refrigerated bottle until it’s in a compost heap. Or a ditch.

  9. “Plus, years ago I learned that if a thing happens either because of conspiracy or stupidity, and you’re not sure which, always go with stupidity, and your batting average will be stellar. But there is a little more than simple dumbness at work here.”

    Actually, Hanlon’s Razor presumptions are usually WRONG!

    “Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. Hemp is cannabis sativa and marijuana is cannabis indica.”

    That statement is a misleading over-simplification. The link provided to back that assertion up is so full of mistakes that I will not bother to try to list all of the required corrections and qualifications.

    However, the rest of the article was mostly correct.

    Depending upon how far down the rabbit hole you want to follow Alice, or how far up the tornado you want to follow Dorothy, you could look at the more than a decade of bla, bla, blah that I have published on the Marijuana Party of Canada Web site, since I have been registered as the Leader of that political party since the end of 2004.

    Furthermore, as indicated there, I have been researching the topics discussed in the article above since the 1960s. Only a culture that was criminally insane, and corrupt to the the core, would have criminalized cannabis. Marijuana laws are the single simplest symbol, and most extreme particular example, of how almost everything else is dominated by integrated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence.

    Tragically, the more one learns about that, the worse it gets. At this point in time it appears that “legalizing marijuana” will be too little, too late, and too trivial to matter much. While the relationship between people and a plant is relatively easy to understand, doing so has to consider the deeper degrees to which everything else is being controlled by systems that enforce frauds, which are becoming exponentially more fraudulent. Hanlon’s Razor presumptions are almost always totally wrong. Civilization actually almost totally operates according to applications of the methods of organized crime.

    Governments are the biggest forms of organized crime, which are controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals. Those bankster dominated governments deliberately picked on hemp to transform into “marijuana, which is almost as bad as murder” because the “Drug Wars” (which were about 75% the War On Marijuana) were one of the episodes of the overall history of debt slavery, backed by wars based on deceits.

    Civilization has always been based upon being able to back up lies with violence. Prodigious progress in physical science has enabled doing that to become exponentially worse. Criminalizing cannabis was merely the most salient symbol of the ways that civilization controlled by organized crime has become runaway criminal insanities. Most of the people who superficially begin to understand that tend to not want to understand the deeper reasons for how and why that is the case.

    The Drug Wars were special cases of warfare in general. In order to attempt to understand that the War On Marijuana was the backbone of the Drug War, one has to go through much more profound analysis of how and why warfare exists, and was the foundation for the development of Neolithic Civilization. Of course, the vast majority of people are not interested in doing so … which is merely another indication of the degree to which the excessive successfulness of controlling civilization through the methods of organized crime has become runaway criminal insanities.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      1.The choice between malice and stupidity, given in Hanlon’s Razor, is different from the choice between conspiracy and stupidity, given in Lewis’s Dictum. It works for me.
      2. Plead guilty to oversimplification. It would have been better, I think, to make the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana.
      3. Much appreciate your input here, and your years of effort.

      • I was not previously aware of “Lewis’s Dictum” … a quick Internet search did not find anything to enlighten me about that. However, it seems obvious that there would be no significant difference between malicious conspiracy versus stupidity or incompetence, because any such conspiracy would automatically be malicious, or else it would not attempt to be kept secret.

        The vast majority of people are victims of a long, long history of enforcing frauds, whereby, for generation after generation, they have adapted to their personal circumstances by accepting and adopting the huge lies which were backed up by violence. In that sense, cannabis culture was another slave society, which tended to take pride in the stupid things that it had to do to survive. On the flip side, those who made their living by depending upon the Drug Wars followed the first rule of ideology, which is that people tend to rationalize and justify the ways that they make their living.

        The lower level people tend to become incompetent and stupid. When one only looks at or listens to them, then it appears that incompetence and stupidity are the most valid explanations. However, the overall systems are political puppets voted for by enough of the masses of muppets, all of which have been brainwashed to believe in the biggest bullies’ bullshit social stories for many generations.

        Hanlon’s Razor is a valid application of Occam’s Razor in the absence of evidence to the contrary. However, it is willful blindness to think that there is an absence of evidence for the criminalization of cannabis not being due to a prolonged, international, malicious conspiracy, which fit into the overall ways that the biggest gangsters, the international banksters, had effectively captured control over governments, such that the vicious spirals of political funding enforcing frauds had directed the development of the industrial revolutions.

        The physical steam engine and the social debt engines were invented at about the same time. Those developed to become gunpowder weapons backing up paper money frauds, to more recently become atomic weapons backing up globalized electronic money frauds. The funding of the political processes were always the maximum leverage point for all of that. Throughout history, it has tended to be that less than 1% of the people have funded almost 100% of the political activities, while almost 100% of the people funded practically none of the political activities.

        The history of the industrial revolutions were directed through that history of the vicious spirals of the funding of politics, resulting in the enforcement of frauds which benefited a tiny minority, while screwing the vast majority. In particular, since cotton can not generally compete with cannabis, it was Egypt, due to the Egyptian cotton industry, which one of the earliest countries to start to influence international organizations to criminalize cannabis, since about the end of the 19th Century. Then, in the first few decades of the 20th Century, that was adopted by more countries, and promoted by more international organizations. Doing so was always based upon Huge Lies.

        The people who originally promoted those Huge Lies to the public knew that they were lying. Most of the people towards the top of the social pyramid systems knew that they were lying, i.e., they were engaged in a malicious conspiracy to criminalize cannabis, through the propaganda campaign that transformed hemp, the single best plant on the planet for people, for food, fiber, fun and medicine, into becoming “marijuana, which is almost as bad as murder, because marijuana was an addictive narcotic that made people become criminally insane before it killed them.”

        While those pyramidion people knew they were publicly promoting Huge Lies, for their evil ulterior purposes, most of the lower level people in those social pyramid systems became incompetently stupid by believing those Lies. Therefore, for most people, the Drug Wars were based upon incompetent stupidity, however, that in turn was originally based upon malicious conspiracies.

        I REPEAT that the link to the Leafy article, embedded in that article, to back up your assertions, should be qualified by the ways that most genuine marijuana experts regard Leafy as goofy.

        Cannabis is one species, which has been mistakenly named in the scientific nomenclature as being a Genus, when it is actually one species, since all of the variety can interbreed. A good analogy is between different races of human beings, and different strains of pot plants. Industrial hemp is legally required to be albino pot. Medical marijuana is black pot, which is legally allowed when it come wrapped in the white lab coat of a medical doctor. There are deep isomorphic analogies between pot plants and people. I could go on for several pages to discuss the details, but I will not do so here. Suffice it to say that there is NO good language that has general public understanding with which to discuss that plant. It is all drowning in bullshit! In the same ways as the economics of slavery drove racism, to the point where coloured people were not regarded as human beings, so too, there were similar manifestations in the history of criminalizing cannabis.

        Although I have spent several decades studying these issues, the most consistent theme has been the more I learned, the worse that got. Marijuana laws were a relatively insignificant example of the overall ways that civilization has become so completely dominated by enforced frauds that civilization has become runaway criminal insanities. It currently appears to be politically impossible for enough people to go through enough levels of comprehending how and why civilization became almost completely dominated by malicious conspiracies, while marijuana laws that criminalized cannabis were merely the single simplest and most salient symbol of that.

  10. Big Paper, Big Plastic, Big Oil aside, by the logic that marijuana is illegal, so too should be nicotine and alcohol – and vise versa.

    This nation is no stranger to throwing good money after bad and repeating the same mistakes, but the billions wasted on the War on Drugs could have been put so so much better use. We learned truly nothing from Prohibition.