Seed head of Ukrainian hempseed variety. Photo credit:
Seed head of Ukrainian hempseed variety. Photo credit:

Was Hemp the Reason Marijuana was Illegalized?

Let's dig into the root of legalization

Posted by:
HighChi on Thursday Jan 28, 2016

Why Hemp was the Reason Marijuana was Illegalized

Was Hemp The Real Reason That Marijuana Was Made Illegal In 1937? from CannabisNet on Vimeo.


Over the past twenty odd years, we have made great strides in the legalization of marijuana. However, there are many people these days that are unaware of the ‘reason’ why marijuana was made illegal in the first place. While factors such as racism, classism and control do have a big influence in the initial illegalization of cannabis…the main reason why marijuana was prohibited is because of Hemp. 


Allow me to illustrate how Hemp was the main contributing factor to the illegalization of marijuana by taking you on a trip down memory lane. So pack a bowl and strap yourself in, because the following will provide you with a new perspective on marijuana prohibition and drug prohibition in general. The rabbit hole is deep Alice…so let’s dive in! 



Hemp – America’s Wonder Crop! 



When America was young and still finding its feet, Hemp was considered the most valuable crop and in fact, at some point, growing it was mandatory. The first ever Hemp law was established in 1619 and was actually illegal to not grow it. It was used for everything from making rope to clothing, feed for livestock and even a common ingredient in most medicines. 


The practice of Hemp cultivation continued unhindered in the United States for roughly two hundred years and was considered one of the most valued crops in the country. 


At one point in US history, you could even pay your taxes with Hemp. Can you imagine paying your taxes in Hemp? 


Hemp was positioned to become the first ever billion-dollar crop as published in an article by Popular Mechanics in the early 1900s. Before Hemp, a billion-dollar crop was unheard of, but hemp had potential to absolutely revolutionize the lives of every American. 


Then…something went horribly wrong! 




A threat to the petrochemical industry!



While hemp continued to gain importance in America, there was a small group of people who didn’t think Hemp was ‘all that grand’. These individuals were working hard on making petro-chemical processes the ‘wave of the future’. The only problem they were facing was that hemp could virtually do everything that their petrochemicals could do, meaning that if hemp were to remain legal, they would have stiff competition. 


They had invested a lot of money to developing their patents and seeing that the petrochemical industry would be controlled by a handful of people, having a natural crop that could compete with their products was definitely not in their best interests


Thus, these individuals conspired to make Hemp illegal. The only question was ‘how.' 



The birth of the Marijuana Conspiracy


The initial group of people who conspired to make hemp illegal was formed by three main figureheads; Randolph Hearst, Harry J. Anslinger and Irénée du Pont. Hearst owned several paper mills, several Newspapers across the country and had timberlands in the northern regions of Mexico. Anslinger was the official who spearheaded alcohol prohibition in 1920 and lasted for roughly 12 years. Finally, DuPont was responsible for the development of petrochemical patents and attempting to usher in a ‘new era’ for America. 


As mentioned, Hemp was the only crop that could compete with DuPont’s dreams and negatively affected Hearst’s paper industry seeing that Hemp could create superior quality paper and required fewer chemicals to process. Anslinger essentially was out of a job when Alcohol Prohibition ended in the United States. 


They all had incentives to derail Hemp but seeing that America was wholly in love with the plant, they had to figure out a way to dupe the American people into outlawing their most valued crop. 



The Process of Elimination



They obviously couldn’t run a campaign against hemp as many families depended on it as their livelihoods; medicines were made from it and so on. In turn, the devious trio set out to demonize another ‘scourge’ that was allegedly ruining America; Marijuana! 


One of the main motivations for this calling it Marijuana and not Cannabis/Hemp was because Americans were unfamiliar with this ‘Spanish term.' Hearst took a slang word for cannabis used by Mexicans and promoted it in all his Newspapers as the new scourge that is plaguing America. He had a particular disdain for Mexicans especially since Doroteo Arango, or commonly known as Pancho Villa, was responsible for sacking his Haciendas in Mexico during ‘La Revolucion Mexicana.’ 




His soldiers would smoke cannabis prior to fighting to rid themselves of the fear of battle. It’s even mentioned in the song “La Cucaracha”. Nonetheless, being perfect fuel for Hearst and with the deeply entrenched racism in America, the opportunity to demonize hemp presented itself. 



He began fabricating lies about “marihuana” and how “Blacks and Mexicans” where smoking it, turning violent and causing havoc wherever they go. Anslinger helped push this agenda by creating fictitious horror stories of people hacking up their loved ones under the influence of “marijuana," white girls turning into whores and people going insane after one puff. 



This period is commonly referred to as “Reefer Madness” and several films were made to help drive in the message that “marijuana is bad." 



The prohibition of Marijuana


After a few years of drilling in their anti-marijuana rhetoric in the minds of the people, it was time to make the illegalization of hemp official. In 1937, Congress voted to prohibit marijuana in all forms and it immediately became a crime to grow, possess and consume marijuana. 


It was only after cannabis was made illegal that the AMA realized that ‘marijuana was hemp.’ However, by this time, it was too late and the laws were in effect. Anslinger pushed hard and kept on spreading lies and pushing for more power in terms of enforcement. In fact, he was the father of the DEA. 


Bottom Line


So there you have it, marijuana is not illegal because it’s bad for you…but bad for several industries that depend on its illegality to maintain control and power. It’s important to understand the history surrounding marijuana prohibition since the very same reefer madness that happened in the 1930s still continues to this day. Just remember, marijuana prohibition has nothing to do with your health or safety and everything to do with profits, control and power. 













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