The History of Hemp - Part VIRead More
by Christie Lunsford
The beginning of the end for industrial hemp products and cannabis medicines began with the Marihuana Tax of 1937. By making each person or company purchase a tax stamp on hemp and cannabis at every point of sale from farmer to middle man to manufacturing facility, the tax act stifled and then halted the cultivation of hemp and cannabis in the U.S. The lead architect of the Marihuana Tax Act is undeniably Harry Jacob Anslinger.
Anslinger’s impact on agriculture, medicine and industry may never be fully realized. After laying a foundation for his prohibition efforts internationally in the 1920s, Harry Anslinger continued to manage prohibition efforts in the U.S. until the 1960s. Historical research indicates that there was never a real problem with the euphoric effects of cannabis, but a conflict of interest between hemp and government and private interests in vast tracts of southern forest wood pulp for newspapers and books, as well the rise of synthetic products.
The 1930s saw World War II beginning to ramp up with Germany expanding its military reach in Europe and the Empire of Japan at war with the Republic of China.
With cannabis prohibition in full effect in 1937, a new cultural reality surfaces: traditional textiles like hemp, flax and to a lesser extent cotton were replaced by synthetic fibers like cellophane, nylon and Du Pont Dacron made from fossil fuels. A new modern manufacturing economy was born. For the first time, more people in the U.S. live in cities than in rural areas. Pharmaceutical companies start making most of the medicines used for pain relief and doctors were trained almost exclusively by guidelines approved by the American Medical Association.
World War II impacts the international fiber trade with demand for twine and rope-producing "Manila Hemp" increasing beyond supply.
Cannabis is formally removed from the United States Pharmacopeia as a plant medicine and is no longer studied in medical schools across the U.S.
World War II has a significant impact on hemp as a companion plant. Internationally, participants wagered their entire economic, industrial and scientific capabilities to win the war. Japan’s invasion of the Philippines severs U.S. access to "Manila Hemp," a hemp plant substitute made from a plant related to the banana and used almost exclusively as a substitute for twine and rope. This disruption of the fiber trade lead to a resurrection of the domestic hemp industry in the United States. On December 7, Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy prompting the U.S. to enter World War II.
The cultivation of hemp is illegal in the U.S., however the government policy regarding hemp was soon forgotten and ignored by the Federal government, who established a new program for hemp cultivation to support the war effort. American farmers were recruited into service to cultivate hemp and produce valuable products for the war effort such as twine, rope and oil.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture promoted the War Hemp Industries Corporation program to encourage U.S. farmers to cultivate hemp.
To reeducate farmers on the cultivation and uses of hemp, the Department of Agriculture produced a film called "Hemp for Victory". The film shows a history of hemp and hemp products, how hemp is grown, and how hemp is processed into rope and cloth. Farmers were recruited to watch the film, sign that they had seen it and read a booklet on hemp cultivation and fiber processing. Families who grew hemp were waived from military service and in 1942, 50,000 acres of seed hemp were planted in the U.S.
(In an act of colossal censorship, records of the "History of Hemp" were stricken from the archives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Audio Center. But copies of the film, "History of Hemp" were owned by various marijuana legalization groups such as NORML, The California Marijuana Initiative and The Oregon Marijuana Initiative and were presented to USDA and the Library of Congress. The response given was that the USDA had never produced such a film and it was not in listed in the U.S. archive. Thanks to the efforts of hemp historians, Jack Herer, Mia Farrow, Carl Packard and Jim Evens the film records were found after years of searching the archives in the National Union Catalogue, (Vol. 28, Motion Pictures and Filmstrips) and The Library of Congress acknowledged the existence of the film in 1989.)
To meet the demands of hemp production for the war, 4-H Clubs were recruited in 1942 to grow hemp seed for the seed crop needed in 1943. Ironic, as just 10 years prior this very same plant was called the "Assassin of Youth".
The program pamphlet states:
"Growing hemp gives 4-H Club members a real opportunity to serve their country in wartime. It requires a small amount of fertile land and little or no special machinery; labor requirements do not interfere with school work."
New York Mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, formed the La Guardia Committee to study the effects of smoking marijuana. The study was prepared by the New York Academy of Medicine and much like the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission of 1894 found that smoking cannabis does not lead to addiction or hard drug use.
Specifically, the report stated that:
➢Marihuana is used extensively in the Borough of Manhattan but the problem is not as acute as it is reported to be in other sections of the United States.
➢The distribution and use of marihuana is centered in Harlem.
➢The majority of marihuana smokers are Negroes and Latin Americans.
➢The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
➢The sale and distribution of marihuana is not under the control of any single organized group.
➢The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine, heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.
➢Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
➢Marihuana smoking is not widespread among school children.
➢Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marihuana.
And most importantly: "The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded."
Since the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act, many in the medical and hemp industry had challenged the law and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was under fire to prove the law was just. Anslinger stifled the distribution of the report and condemned the report as unscientific.
Between 1942 and 1945 over 400,00 acres of hemp were cultivated in the U.S. Overseen by the Hemp War Industries Corporation, the hemp industry swelled to 12,000 jobs, harvested 150,000 acres of hemp and had built 42 hemp mills throughout the United States.
World War II ends and along with it the U.S. quietly shuts down all hemp cultivation and processing. The last pockets of hemp cultivation end in 1957 with the last commercial hemp field in Wisconsin. Economic recovery from the dark times of the Great Depression is now a certainty with the added stabilities of modern governmental systems to secure the U.S. as a world power.
From the dawn of civilization cannabis has given medicine, food, rope, clothes, paper, pottery and fuel to emerging cultures. After 40 years of yellow journalism, cannabis has been made illegal and been stricken from the U.S. pharmacopeia. No other plant has been more resilient to our legislative disdain or as supportive as a companion to mankind, shaping our history and one day our future.
The History of Hemp Part VRead More
by Christie Lunsford
From the Roaring ‘20s to the devastation of the Great Depression to World War II, the impact of industrial hemp and its maligned cousin "cannabis marihuana" can be seen in medical, political and economic stressors of the era. On January 16, 1920, the Volstead Act closes every bar, saloon and tavern in the United States, driving the manufacturing and consumption of alcohol underground and creating a lucrative black market for organized crime to thrive. Yellow journalism, linking crime to cannabis, continues to be used as a tool to defame African Americans and Mexicans. Hemp and cannabis begin to lose ground as companion plants supporting modern society.
The U.S. enjoys a healthy economy. Bobbed hair and short skirts of flapper fashion take hold in the speakeasy era of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. For the first time, more people live in cities rather than pastoral farm communities. The first U.S. middle class grew and were subject to nationwide advertising, national radios shows, music, dances, and slang. Almost every home had a radio and the women of the 1920s were empowered in a different way than any other of previous time with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing their right to vote in 1920.
Social tensions are reflected in the passing of the National Origins Act, restricting immigration from places like Asia and Eastern Europe in favor of Northern Europe and England. In addition, African Americans migrating from the southern countryside to northern cities and the rise in popularity of jazz and blues music creates unease among the new white middle class. A rough estimate of 4.5 million Americans belong to the Ku Klux Klan.
Egypt and Turkey resolve that cannabis be added to the International Convention on Narcotic Control. Cannabis prohibition is based upon an interpretation of Islamic law and fear of addiction. The U.S. representatives were not present at the hearing. They walked out of the convention earlier due to opium not being outlawed internationally.
The 1927 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture is published with a report from botanist, Lyster H. Dewey of the U.S. Office of Fiber Plants, Bureau of Plant Industry. This four-page report outlines the current state of hemp cultivation in the US, highlighting various strains, most of which have been lost.
Recreational use of Cannabis is banned in Britain.
October 29, 1929 the stock exchange crashes. Fifteen million Americans lose their ability to earn a living and spending comes to a halt. Over 9,000 banks closed between 1929 and 1931 and deposits totaling 2.5 billion dollars are lost. President Herbert Hoover does little to deal with the crisis asking states to bear the burden of job creation and economic stimulus. The Great Depression begins.
The Yarkand region of Chinese Turkestan exports 200,000 pounds of hashish legally into India. Legal taxed import of hashish continues into India from Central Asia.
After showing promise in international law enforcement in the late 1920s, Harry Jacob Anslinger was appointed as first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics on August 12, 1930, by Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew W. Mellon. Alcohol prohibition was in full force and narcotics agencies and law enforcement of the time were subject to scandal and corruption. Anslinger had a reputation of honesty and was to clean house.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected as president and uses the Federal government as a platform to launch the New Deal. Roosevelt’s New Deal creates sweeping social benefit programs to ease the financial tribulations of the Great Depression.
The U.S. Congress repeals the 21st Amendment, ending alcohol prohibition, Budweiser delivers a wagon load of beer to the White House drawn by Clydesdale horses.
Anslinger, now the head of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was focused on outlawing all recreational drugs. After receiving reports of an increase in marijuana usage migrating from the Mexican border up to the population centers of the mid-eastern U.S., the Federal Bureau of Narcotics then begins work with members of Congress to mandate the distribution of marijuana be placed under its control. Anslinger also starts an anti-marijuana campaign on radio and in the media.
Yellow journalism was a staple of American newspapers. Highly sensational, anti-marijuana stories featuring crime, rape, and murder were published daily. Many modern critics allege that the anti-marijuana campaign had a hidden agenda to eliminate hemp as an industrial competitor in the form of William Randolph Hearst benefiting from timber sales for paper to be used in publishing and DuPont benefiting from a lack of competition from hemp oil and hemp based fiber.
Anslinger personally wrote graphic crime-based marijuana stories for The American Magazine. He became famous for his use of unsubstantiated quotes taken from police reports. The "Gore File" was a collection of narratives based on police reports linking marijuana use to graphically depicted crime with racially biased themes.
The Dust Bowl begins as massive drought affects the midwestern states of the U.S. Due to mechanized farming, poor soil stewardship, and high winds, the unanchored soil is churned to dust creating choking black dust storms that last for days. One dust storm expanded from Oklahoma to Chicago. A mass migration to California starts.
Reefer Madness, is released at the box-office. The movie, a morality tale about the dangers of smoking marijuana, is considered among movie critics to be one of the worst movies ever made.
October 2, The U.S. Congress passes The Marihuana Tax Act without a roll call. The Marihuana Tax act took two years to write, and only a brief unpublicized hearing lasting two hours occurred. During the poorly attended debate, Anslinger called for a total ban on marihuana. He stated under oath "This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effects of which cannot be measured." Anslinger uses articles he wrote from the "Gore Files" to support the tax act.
Also, present at the debate are Ralph Loziers of the National Oil Seed Institute and Dr. William C. Woodard of the American Medical Association. Loziers testified that hemp oils were useful and an essential commodity to industry. Most importantly, Dr. William C. Woodward, testifying on behalf of the American Medical Association, told Congress that:
"The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug," and warned that a prohibition "loses sight of the fact that future investigation may show that there are substantial medical uses for Cannabis."
Dr. Woodward also protested the way the bill had been written in secret, replacing the word cannabis known to doctors and farmers with the new and unfamiliar word "marihuana." Dr. Woodward defended cannabis medicines and testified that there was no certain data that marijuana use had increased. He is quoted as stating that the "newspaper exploitation of the habit had done more to increase it than anything else," noting the yellow journalism impact of possibly increasing recreational use. When asked if regulation of medical cannabis was needed, Dr. Woodward is further quoted as stating, "I do not .. it is not a medical addiction that is involved."
The Marihuana Tax of 1937 taxed farmers producing hemp and cannabis and textile companies and doctors prescribing cannabis remedies. It was assumed that no one would incriminate himself by buying a tax stamp. Eventually, ruled to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the law was used to stifle and then completely halt the cultivation of hemp in the U.S. by making it a crime.
Four days later on October 6, Samuel R. Caldwell of Denver, Colorado, was arrested for marijuana after the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Henry J. Anslinger personally came to the trial to see Samuel Caldwell tried and convicted. Samuel R. Caldwell was America’s first drug war victim. He served a sentence of four years hard time in Leavenworth prison for less than a few grams of cannabis.
Due to the moderate gains of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and technological advances in chemistry and industry, U.S. companies start to patent and manufacture new consumer products. Du Pont starts manufacturing synthetic fibers like cellophane, nylon, and Dacron made from fossil fuels that displace natural hemp products. General Motors corners the American automotive market, securing a market for DuPont’s paints, varnishes, plastics, and rubber, all which could have been made from hemp. With competition from hemp, now outlawed, the market is open for synthetics to replace everything from tires, photographic film, insecticides, and agricultural chemicals.
Popular Mechanics publishes an article touting hemp as the "New Billion Dollar Crop." With new advances in hemp harvesting and processing, hemp would have replaced cotton as a superior material. The article explains the mechanization of hemp harvesting using a new machine called a decorticatior to manufacture over 25,000 different products, "from cellophane to dynamite." Sadly, the editors of Popular Mechanics did not realize that cannabis and marijuana had already been outlawed one year prior when they published the article.
By the end of the 1930s, the New Deal had come to an end. With slight gains in the economy, President Roosevelt had little support from Congress to introduce new programs. Alcohol is legal again and bars, taverns and nightclubs reopen to serve demand. New synthetic materials replace hemp fiber, bio fuel, oil and cannabis medicines. The Great Depression begins to ease as Harry Anslinger continues his mission of international cannabis prohibition. For the first time in history, cannabis and hemp are no longer companion plants to mankind.
The History of Hemp: Part IVRead More
by Christie Lunsford
From the dawn of mankind to the Industrial Age, cannabis was regarded as a global commodity. A creator of trade routes and an agent of civilization, cannabis was cultivated as a medicine, food source, for textiles, and prized as oil used for heating and lighting homes, churches and factories. Almost every aspect of daily life was entwined with the cannabis plant. The birth of global colonialism was supported as tall ships robed in hemp sails and rigging allow colonial powers to claim ownership of the farthest reaches of the globe. The British, Spanish and French settled the new world, claiming sovereignty over indigenous peoples and fighting wars to divvy up the new land.
The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and spread to Western Europe and the United States within a few decades during the late 1800s. The Industrial Age was an exciting time in the United States as the country transitioned to new manufacturing processes. Hemp was challenged by new fuels in the form of coal and petroleum. Innovation gave way to capitalism and generations of robber barons and captains of industry were born.
Publishing magnate, William Randolph Hearst loses 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa in the Spanish American War. Hearst manufactures a yellow journalism campaign against Mexicans and Blacks. For over thirty years cannabis is rebranded "marihuana" and is blamed for a majority of rape, murder and alcohol related crime of the time.
Also in 1898, Inventor Rudolf Diesel receives patent #608,845 for an internal combustion engine, known as the Diesel engine. This engine is designed to be fueled by bio-fuel made from plants, specifically hemp seed oil.
In 1904 the American Medical Association created the Council on Medical Education to reform medical education in the United States. The study was funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Abraham Flexner was hired to visit and vet each medical school. Flexner was a scholar and an entrepreneur, not a physician, scientist, or a medical educator, and would be characterized as an efficiency expert in today’s terms. Flexner surveyed over 155 medical schools across the US.
The Flexner Report found that medical schools were overcrowded and lacking in scientific method. Recommendations for basic prior education requirements and training in physiology and clinical work were made. The sweeping effects of the Flexner Report closed inadequate schools and also recommended funding to herbal schools because they lacked the proper laboratories or texts. In addition women were no longer allowed to attend medical schools as a method to ease overcrowding. Standardization of medicine and pharmacology was born in 1906 when the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act comes into effect and cannabis herbal remedies become commodities of the nascent pharma industry.
The United States Department of Agriculture institutes the Office of Fiber Investigations, appoints Dr. Andrew Wright of the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station as industry steward. Wright recognizes the necessity of large-scale manufacturing bast production, manufacturing of hemp into useable fiber. He also positions hemp mills close to railways to further the technological and economic progress of hemp fiber.
Botanist, Lyster Dewey, joins the USDA’s Office of Fiber Investigations. Dewey collects, evaluates and cultivates hemp strains from around the world. In 1912 Dewey begins to actively breed hemp from seeds obtained through the agency of American missionaries in China. Dewey introduces a unique hemp variety developed for a hollow core and production ease, which was known as "Kentucky hemp". Sadly this cultivar was lost to the prohibition of the 1940s. Dewey’s yearly reports are greatly valued as some of the most extensive writings on hemp ever produced.
Industrialists saw the value of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of coal during the Industrial Revolution. Fossil fuels seemed to be the ideal energy source fueling steam engines, the quintessential machines of the Industrial Revolution. Hemp oil and bio-fuel now had serious competition and the world would never be the same.
This move toward coal and wood based fuel was noted by industrialist Henry Ford who said: "Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?"
In 1908, Henry Ford made his first Model T with hemp and flax fiber plastic, fueled by hemp ethanol. Research on bio-fuel was of interest due to the demand of the industrial age.
In 1925, Henry Ford told a New York Times reporter that ethyl alcohol was "the fuel of the future". "The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that tree out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust -- almost anything," he said. "There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.
Later in 1941, Popular Mechanics, profiled Ford’s bio-plastic car made from hemp and flax. The car, "grown from the soil" had hemp plastic panels whose impact strength was 10 times stronger than steel.
Henry Ford opened his first auto assembly line featuring cars built with the Rudolph Diesel Engine which was designed to run off of vegetable and seed oils, especially hemp seed oil, which was at that time superior to petroleum. The same year Gulf Oil owned by Andrew Mellon of Mellon Bank opened its first drive-in petroleum-based gas station. Gulf Oil eventually became Texaco-Chevron 1985.
As the First World War begins in Europe, Pierre S. du Pont purchases stock in the fledgling automobile industry, seeking to further his fortune with General Motors. In 1915, du Pont was invited to sit on GM’s board of directors and several years later was appointed the company’s chairman. Du Pont would later assist the struggling automobile company further with a $25 million purchase of GM stock. In 1920, du Pont was elected president of General Motors. Under his guidance, GM became the number one automobile company in the world, surpassing The Ford Company in sales. Eventually du Pont had to divest his shares of GM to avoid the antitrust laws of the time. Du Pont then turned his interest to developing new synthetic materials made of petroleum.
USDA Bulletin No. 404 shows that hemp produces four times more paper per acre than do trees. The U.S. Government predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and forestry production would cease.
The Wisconsin Hemp Order was inaugurated by Dr. Wright "To promote the general welfare of the hemp industry in the state." Textiles, primarily hemp, flax and cotton were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution in terms of employment, value of output, and capital invested. The textile industry was also the first to use modern production methods during the second industrial revolution.
George Schlichten designs the hemp "decorticator." The decorticator separates the long hemp fibers from the center of the hemp stalks, dramatically reducing the exorbitant labor and workforce costs associated with hand retting hemp.
McCormick’s and John Deere further mechanized hemp bast fiber produc tion. Machines were built to address the various stages of fiber processing: harvesting (cutting and retting), breaking, and hackling. This allowed hemp to compete with cheaper fibers. Dr. Wright was able to boast that Wisconsin had more hemp mills than all other states combined, with hemp mills operating on both the east and west of Wisconsin in the late 1920’s.
The Burning Question, an early film was produced by the Catholic Art Association in 1919. A seductive mix of dark Catholic guilt and earnest prohibitionist’s sincerity, the film was riddled with cliché drug use, much of which has nothing to do with modern medicinal and euphoric cannabis use. Prohibitionists continue to embrace the film as a media tour well into the late 1940s and beyond. Oddly, the anti-marihuana campaign also spawns an outlet for salacious films highlighting the euphoric effects of cannabis.
The 18th Amendment of the United States Constitution made alcoholic beverages illegal to produce, transport or sell (although possession for medicinal or religious use were unaffected). Law enforcement, courts and prisons were unprepared for the onslaught of new cases, organized crime and corruption bled into law enforcement and politics. The 18th Amendment was repealed in its entirety by ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933.
Ford Motor Company operated a successful biomass fuel conversion plant using cellulose at Iron Mountain, Michigan. Ford engineers extracted methanol, charcoal fuel, tar, pitch ethyl-acetate and creosote from hemp. Simultaneously, the DuPont chemical company developed new synthetic materials such as cellophane, nylon, and Dacron from fossil fuels. DuPont became a leader in the development of paint, rayon, synthetic rubber, plastics, chemicals, photographic film, insecticides and agricultural chemicals, many of the same items hemp was used for. The US began to struggle under the depression and hemp fiber products were losing to the cheaper-to-produce sisal and jute in addition to the exciting synthetics produced by companies such as DuPont.
Though a century has passed since the heyday of the great industrialists like Ford and du Pont and financiers such as Hearst, Mellon and Carnegie, debate continues around both cannabis for medical use and industrial hemp production. The emergence of the modern capitalist economy and government influence (or manipulation) of technology, farming and medicinal practices of the era steered the world toward the culmination of full prohibition of cannabis medicines and industrial hemp products. Next month’s History of Hemp will outline the manipulation of government as Andrew Mellon becomes the Secretary of Treasury under President Hoover and secretly drafts a cannabis prohibition law.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the History of Hemp
The History of Hemp Part IIIRead More
by Christie Lunsford
The history of hemp is a long and storied one. In fact there is so much to this next time period that a comprehensive timeline was the only way to fit it all in.
Hemp in Europe
14-15th Century: Renaissance artists committed their masterpieces to hemp canvas. For thousands of years virtually all good paints and varnishes were made with hemp seed oil and/or linseed oil.
1456: Guttenberg Bible printed on hemp paper.
1492: Hemp sails and ropes make Columbus’ trip to the new world possible (other fibers would have decayed somewhere in the mid-Atlantic).
1535: Henry VIII passes an act stating that all landowners must sow 1/4 acre of hemp or be fined.
1563: Queen Elizabeth I issued a decree commanding that landowners holding sixty acres or more must grow hemp or pay a fine.
1564: King Philip of Spain mandated the cultivation of hemp for food, fiber and medicine throughout the Spanish territory in Central and South America.
Settling the New World
Commerce in hemp, which was primarily valued for the strength and versatility of its fibers, was profitable and thriving. Hemp ropes and sails were crossing the sea to North America with explorers. By 1621, the British were growing cannabis in Virginia, where cultivation of hemp was mandatory.
1545: Hemp grown in Chile
1629: Hemp grown in New England.
Hemp and the Revolution
1775: Hemp moved west with the Pioneers. Kentucky was the principal producer of hemp fiber until the Civil War.
Many of the planters prepared large pools and water-retted the hemp they produced.
The work was so hard on slaves that the practice was abandoned. Many slaves died of pneumonia contracted from working in the hemp pools in the winter, and the loss of life became so great among hemp hands that the increase in value of the hemp did not equal the loss in slaves.
1776: The Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp paper.
During the Revolutionary War farmers could pay their taxes in hemp.
The first U.S. flag sown by Betsy Ross was made out of hemp.
1787 The U.S. Constitution was printed on hemp paper.
Hemp and Our Founding Fathers
Both President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson were advocates of hemp as a valuable cash crop.
“Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!” (George Washington in a note to his gardener at Mount Vernon in 1794, The Writings of George Washington, Volume 33, page 270, Library of Congress).
George Washington was actively engaged in hemp farming, and devotees of the intoxicant properties of cannabis have read much into some entrees made in his diary in 1765.
Excerpt from Washington’s Diary: 1765, May 12-13. Sowed Hemp at Muddy Hole by Swamp. August 7, began to separate the male from the female hemp... rather too late.
The entries from George Washington’s Diary show that he personally planted and harvested hemp. As it is known that the potency of the female plants decrease after they have been fertilized by the males, the fact that he regrets having separated them clearly indicates that he was cultivating the plant for medicinal purposes as well as for its fiber.
When George Washington and Ben Franklin were in France raising money for the Revolution, Washington told the King of France that he would leave Franklin in charge of the negotiations because he had to return to Virginia. He is quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t miss the hemp harvest at Mount Vernon for all the tea in China.”
1791: Thomas Jefferson “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.”
Jefferson urged farmers to grow the crop in lieu of tobacco.
Jefferson smuggled rare Chinese seeds into America. He also experimented with different genetic varieties and designed the hemp brake.
1794: Eli Whitney filed a patent for the cotton gin, a machine that automated the separation of cottonseed from the short-staple cotton fiber.
1812: U.S. ship ‘Constitution’, better known as Old Ironsides needed over 60 tons of hemp for rigging, including an anchor cable that was 25 inches in circumference. 90 percent of the sailcloth and rigging lines used for all sea-going vessels is made from hemp at this time.
In America, homespun hemp —called “Kentucky jeans”–was commonly used to clothe the slave population and soldiers of the era.
1850: hemp had become the third largest agricultural crop grown in North America.
The U.S. Census of that year recorded 8,327 hemp plantations, each with 2,000 or more acres in cultivation. But the invention of the cotton gin was already bringing many changes, and cotton was becoming a prime and profitable textile fiber. More change came with the introduction of the sulfite and chlorine processes used to turn trees into paper. Restrictions on the personal use of cannabis as a mood-altering, psychoactive herb, were soon to come.
1853: The wagon covers the Pioneers used were old sails made of hemp, these were then made into the original Levi’s Jeans.
1861 -1865 The Civil War
The Civil War disrupted Kentucky’s hemp economy because the primary consumer of hemp fiber was the Southern cotton industry. During the war, a federal commission was directed to identify cotton substitutes: it focused on flax and hemp as alternatives.
With the end of the war, cotton agriculture revived. Cheap imported fibers, particularly jute – a weaker fiber with no resistance to rot, but suitable for common twine and cotton bagging- cut into the hemp market. Gradually farmers in Kentucky shifted to more dependably profitable crops that required less manual labor, principally cotton and tobacco.
1882: The self-binding grain harvester, which needed binder twine, brought about the final evolution of the harvesting machine.
1890: The cabinet office of Secretary of Agriculture was created and encouraged domestic hemp bast fiber production. Its first director, Charles Dodge, opined: “There is no reason why hemp culture should not extend over a dozen States and the product used in manufactures which now employ thousands of tons of imported fibers.” Hemp’s greater tensile strength per unit weight made it ideal for binding wheat crops. Writing to Charles Dodge in 1890, one binder manufacturer testified:
“There is no fiber in the world better suited to this use than American hemp. It is our judgment, based on nearly ten years experience with large quantities of binder twine each year, that the entire supply of this twine should be made from American hemp....There are 50,000 tons of this binding twine used annually, every pound of which could and should be made from this home product.”
1894: During this time the British government appoints a special scientific body, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, to investigate the biological and social effects of cannabis use. The Commission published its report, a unique scientific document of 1,281 pages in seven volumes.
Their findings are summarized below:
- Occasional use of cannabis can be beneficial.
- Moderate use has no negative biological or psychological effects.
- Moderate use is the rule, abuse is the exception.
- The damage caused by abuse affects the user and no one else.
Stay tuned for next month’s installment of our History of Hemp.
The History of Hemp Part IIRead More
by Christie Lunsford
From the dawn of civilization cannabis and hemp and have given medicine, food, rope, clothes, paper, pottery and fuel to emerging cultures throughout China, India and the Mediterranean. No other plant has been a more resilient to our legislative distain or supportive as a companion to mankind, shaping our history and hopefully our future. Our hemp history timeline focus now turns from Asia and India to The Middle East, Europe and Northern Africa.
What cannabis historians know of early hemp is found in many scholarly works on agriculture and medicine and substantiated via modern anthropological research. Trade routes brought both hemp and marijuana to the Mediterranean and into Europe during the middle ages. Hemp becomes the world’s largest agricultural crop, providing materials to support civilization’s most important industries: Agriculture, ship building, trading, providing food, medicine, fiber and lamp oil fuel.
30 BC to 200 AD
The Roman Empire extends from The Middle East across to Britain including Gaul (modern France), Spain and Northern Africa. A time of peace and commerce under Roman rule, hemp and cannabis are cultivated for both industrial and medicinal effect. In Pliny the Elder’s The Natural History (Naturalis Historia, 79 AD), writes about hemp rope and marijuana’s natural analgesic effects. Many other medicinal texts (or pharmacopoeia) hail cannabis’s restorative effects, and also list their descriptions of preparation and use. Pliny’s notation validates this. "The roots [of the cannabis plant] boiled in water ease cramped joints, gout too and similar violent pain."
Lucius Junius Columela of Spain, was a Roman soldier and farmer who penned an extensive 12 volume agricultural work, The De re Rustica. Columela’s work outlined the methods of hemp cultivation of the time. The De re Rustica could be considered the first "grow book" of the Roman Era.
Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus, a Greek physician, surgeon and herbalist catalogued over 600 medicinal plants, included a detailed description of cannabis in the material medica. Published about AD 70 it became the most important medical tome of the next 1500 years. Dioscorides postulated that "the plant (hemp), both kannabis emero and kannabis agria (the male and female of the plant were cited) in the making of rope also produced a juice that was used to treat earache and suppress sexual longing." Extensive, although not clinical research regarding medicinal extracts from hemp have not proved or disproved this theory.
Claudius Galen, also of Greece, often called the ‘father of physiology and internal medicine’ prescribes cannabis for its medicinal value.
Hemp rope appears in Britain. Ancient mariners from Germany, France and Viking lands dominate the seas with ships outfitted with hemp sails, rope, nets, and caulking. Hemp shoes and ruminates of clothes from this era are found on ships and at burial sites.
Chinese surgeon Hua T’o uses marijuana as an anesthetic and also lists it in the first Eastern pharmacopoeia.
At least one account exists of a Jewish woman given cannabis by her doctor to ease the pain related with childbirth. Many biblical scholars maintain that the Israelites made extensive use of cannabis, taking their evidence from passages in the Old Testament. Some scholars maintain that ‘calamus’, kaneh-bosm, in Hebrew mentioned in the Song of Solomon is cannabis.
The fall of the Romans fractionizes the empire and smaller kingdoms rise to govern the land. Hemp rope and fabric are utilized thought Asia, North Africa and Europe. In The French queen Arnegunde is buried in hemp cloth shroud. Arnegunde’s grave is discovered in 1959 and pieces of the burial cloth are still intact. Cloth made from a mixture of hemp and flax fibers were common during this era.
Sanskrit writers in India record a recipe for pills of gaiety, a combination of hemp and sugar.
Isochanvre, a French building material made from hemp herds mixed with lime was used to reinforce the Dordogne Bridge in the south of France around 751 AD. The lime petrifies into a mineral state with the hemp supports the bridge.
Arabic merchants capture Chinese craftsman and learn to make paper from hemp, starting Europe’s first paper mill. Stronger than paper from wood pulp, hemp paper was used for Bibles, books, maps, contracts and money. The English word ‘Hempe’ is first noted in a dictionary in 1137. Its definition explains the plant as useful for paper, medicine and food for both humans and domesticated animals. Around the same time hemp seed pulp is mixed with milk to make hemp butter.
The Magna Charta is printed on hemp paper under the authority of King John of England. This historic document limits the sovereignty of the King of England and outlines the rights of the citizens.
The decline of the Roman Empire promulgates conflict between smaller kingdoms and the beginning of the Middle Ages. Religious factors have played an important part in the spread of cannabis from the Far East and India to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. The peoples who embraced Islam found in cannabis an ideal substitute for alcohol, which was strictly forbidden to Muslims.
The Emir of Joneima in Arabia, Sudoumi Shekhoumi, made the first recorded attempt to ban cannabis. The Emir mandated that all cannabis plants cultivated in his kingdom be destroyed. Using cannabis during this time would result in the painful forced extraction of one’s teeth. But citizens continued to grow and enjoy cannabis and 15 years later the Emir conceded that `the use of this substance in Arabian territory had increased’ while the law had been in effect.
Pope Innocent VIII (who was anything but) outlawed the use of hashish, a concentrated form of cannabis. While, hemp and cannabis cultivation continued because of its economic value, severe measures were levied against anyone caught using the plant medicinally or for its pleasurable aspects.
Francois Rabelais, a theologian and physician of the late middle ages had focused botanical and mystical attention to cannabis as a profound healing herb. This mythical tail (1490-1553) offers a full account of hemp which he called "the herb Pantagruelion" This descriptive political and tale outlines the travels of a giant named Panetagruelion, who was named after the cannabis plant. Excepts offer some insights to his passion for cannabis.
Regarding the physical appearance of the cannabis cultivars. "The leaves sprout out all round the stalk at equal distances, to the number of five or seven at each level; and it is by special favor of Nature that they are grouped in these two odd numbers, which are both divine and mysterious. The scent is strong, and unpleasant to delicate nostrils.
Rabelais goes on to describe the domestic uses of the cannabis plant during this time. "Without this herb, kitchens would be detested, the tables of dining rooms abhorred, although there were great plenty and variety of most dainty and sumptuous dishes of meat set down upon them; and the choicest beds also..."
Rabelais was so enamored with hemp that in his estimation it stood at the very pinnacle of plant life: "in this pantagruel ion (hemp and cannabis) have I found so much efficacy and energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity, and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature
So ends the tale of hemp and cannabis history of the late Middle Ages. Almost every aspect of daily life is entwined with the cannabis plant. From the rope used to lift water from the well to the shrouds of royalty this humble companion plant has allowed mankind to archive organized civilization.
Stay tuned for more on the history of hemp in future installments of THC Mag.
The History of Hemp Part IRead More
by Christie Lunsford
Hemp is hot. It’s in the news everywhere as a "new" crop but it’s been around for a very, very long time. Flash backwards to the end of the Neolithic era around 10,000 BC in China where an imprint of one of the first woven hemp fabrics was found in a pottery shard. The first woven fabric found in Mesopotamia was dated by archeologists at around 8,000 BC, and structural analyst indicates it was also made from hemp.
As people shifted from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural one, they utilized hemp as a companion plant. Seed was utilized as the main grain and eventually pressed into oil. Hemp was ideal to support mankind through the dietary demands hunter-gatherer societies would need. Hemp seeds are high in protein, fatty acids and fiber as well as essential amino acids, vitamin E and trace minerals. Hemp became Earth’s first agricultural industry.
Hemp foliage was used as food and also as medicine (more on this below). The inner core of the stalk, the hurd, was retted by soaking in water for a season, separated by hand, washed and spun into yarn for rope or woven into fabric. Hemp allowed people of the Neolithic era to graduate from wearing animal hides to wearing clothes and shoes fashioned from cloth. Hemp proved to be a durable textile with its insulating and absorbent qualities.
Left over plant material was dried and used for fuel. Because hemp is so strong it is difficult to harvest by hand, so people of the Neolithic era also became skilled toolmakers, manufacturing tools to harvest and process hemp and other crops such as sickle blades and grinding stones.
The first historical record of utilization of the hemp plant for its stem fiber comes from the Chinese who called hemp ma. Historical texts credit Emperor Shen Nung for introducing hemp in the 28th century BC to the people of China.
The symbol for ma is two plants drying in an enclosure with a roof, suggesting that hemp plants were valued for their ability to be a companion plant to mankind. Anthropological horticulturists think the wild ancestor to modern cannabis originated in the general area between western China and the eastern Caucasus, north of the Hindu Kush.
Modern cannabis, or cannabis sativa, is a member of the mulberry family. Cannabis sativa encompasses both industrial hemp and the plant we commonly refer to as marijuana. Through the years industrial hemp has been bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana cultivators have sought to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).
But there is still confusion about hemp. Is it marijuana?
While hemp is cannabis, it is not marijuana. The THC levels in industrial hemp are very low, between 0.05 and 1 percent. Marijuana’s THC levels test between 3 percent and 25 percent. Simply put, industrial hemp does not contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol to make it worth your while. Ironically, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of CBD, which can enhance the medical aspects of THC from marijuana. As it turns out, hemp is the "antimarijuana" and if ingested after THC can actually block the psychotropic experience.
In ancient times hemp was cultivated for foods, rope, fishnets and eventually sails. As trade routes were established by nomadic peoples hemp was incorporated into virtually all cultures of the Middle East, Asia Minor, India, China, Japan, Africa and eventually Europe. Egyptians used hemp rope to haul and lift large blocks of stone to construct the pyramids.
The earliest reference to the therapeutic uses of cannabis is found in the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung’s Digest of Herbal Medicine and recommends cannabis for treatment of a large number of symptoms and illnesses. Chinese tombs offer insight into several of the medicinal preparations of hemp in creams and other treatments. Cannabis sativa was most likely used as a treatment for pain, inflammation and to ease childbirth for both the mother and child.
The holy Hindu text, Atharva Veda is the earliest reference to cannabis in India. The Atharva Veda indicates cannabis sativa as a sacred plant used in various religious rites. Other texts document a deep relationship with the delightful psychotropic effects of Cannabis sativa as a relief for daily life and as a supplement to sexual relations. Cannabis sativa infused into the traditional Indian beverage bhang has become an integral part of Hindu tradition in India.
Hemp continues to be cultivated in Egypt. The tomb of Pharaoh Alchanaten at El amarona offers some insight into the hemp fabrics of the time. Apothecaries at the time of Ramses III suggest hemp’s use for an eye health concern.
Hemp sails and ropes (and significant brawn) allow the Carthaginian fleet (current site of modern Tunisia) to dominate the Mediterranean. Archeologists identified hemp onboard a sunken Carthaginian galley near Sicily after 2,300 years of salt water exposure.
It is said that Buddha was nourished with one hempseed a day for seven years as a he sought and attained enlightenment. It is important to note that the fifth precept of Arhat mandates Buddhists abstain from intoxication and do not use cannabis for its euphoric delights
The formula for making paper is credited to Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese bureaucrat. Fibers were crushed then mixed with water and mulberry and made into paper. Paper was slow to catch on, so the inventive Ts’ai Lun claimed that burning paper at funerals would raise the dead, even faking his own death to prove his invention’s worth. Soon, inexpensive hemp paper replaced bamboo and silk paper.
Chinese now call hemp "Tai-Ma" or "great hemp" adding the pictogram "Tai" as a large man above hemp, further acknowledging humankind’s deep relationship to the companion plant cannabis sativa.
Cannabis sativa, whether hemp or marijuana supported early civilization and allowed us to achieve and evolve Earth’s first agricultural industry. Grown for shelter, food, medicine, paper, rope, fabric or for its delightful altering effects, Tai Ma is humankind’s chief companion plant.
Stay tuned for more on the history of hemp, in future installments of THC.
The Seven Deadly Sinners of Cannabis ProhibitionRead More
by DJ Reetz
In the debate over the legalization of marijuana, like most debates in this country, it’s not enough to be correct. No, you have to show, unequivocally, that your opponents lack moral character. You could argue (correctly) that opposing legalization is enough to designate someone an asshole. After all, arguing in favor of continued prohibition means you argue against social justice, in favor of massive incarceration, against alternative medicine, in favor of a broken and draconian war on drugs, against personal freedom, and of course against the governance of reason that our country’s forefathers advocated so strongly for.
If you attack cannabis legalization you are a douche-bag, whether it’s out of ignorance or actual malice. But hey, I’m kind of a douche bag too, so let’s get on to the personal attacks on people who I disagree with.
The Emperor Palpatine of marijuana prohibition, Anslinger was the original head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He may be the single most influential prohibitionist ever, giving a template for all other over-zealous, misguided and outrightly racist law enforcers to follow. Anslinger is famous not just for propagating the myth that marijuana makes users violent, but also for doing a 180 in the ‘50s and claiming that marijuana turns users into pacifists susceptible to communism.
While the message from Anslinger was inconsistent, his motivation was pretty clear: racism. At the time he began his crusade of righteous fire, the criminalization of marijuana was aimed at migrant field workers and jazz clubs – clubs where whites would mingle with coloreds and hell, maybe learn some fucking tolerance.
Good...Let the hate flow through you. And racism. And ignorance.
William Randolph Hearst
Hearst is pretty much the money-hungry douche bag that stoned conspiracy theorists espouse upon. A captain of industry in a time when that designation earned a person the equivalent title: robber baron. Hearst is famous for lending the strength of his media empire to the fight against marijuana; often printing fabricated stories about hopped up reefer addicts doing unspeakable things.
Hearst’s motivations for attacking marijuana are often speculated to be linked to his interests in the printing and timber industries, which would mean his clandestine repression of hemp makes economic sense, at least for him. We can only speculate on how things would be different today had hemp continued to be a viable source of fiber, food, oil, building materials… you get the idea, read the rest of this magazine.
Hearst’s edificial douche-bag status is also seen in the rise of yellow journalism, a style of reporting – for lack of a better word – that usually revolved around inciting populous fervor through the creative construction of facts; a style that is still used by some of today’s faux news outlets. While Hearst can’t be solely blamed for this aberration of the American media, he did use this less-than-factual style of journalism to assist in the criminalization of marijuana. Oh, and get the U.S. into a war with Spain. Yup, pretty much started a war with Spain.
The big Dick of marijuana prohibition. Historians may debate as to whether Nixon will be remembered as an asshole, or a douche-bag, but we can all pretty much agree he was definitely one of those things. Whether it was spying on his political opponents, yelling at his dog, his involvement with the House Un-American Activities Committee, redacting the clandestine tapes he made of his nefarious dealings before they could be subpoenaed by congress, or just generally being unpleasant, it’s pretty much universally understood that Nixon was not a very good guy. He’s also the guy that taught Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld how to do their thing.
What may not be as emblazoned in his historical profile is his involvement in the current state of marijuana criminalization. Nixon signed The Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970 and designated marijuana as a schedule 1. Nixon then ignored a report from the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse that found, "the actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior." The "War on Drugs" is also a product of his administration, because ceaseless and unwinnable war against a formless enemy makes for good executive policy.
A reasoned and informed examination of the criminalization of marijuana? No thanks. I’d rather put the boot to those damn hippies.
Nixon may have started the party, but under Reagan the war on drugs started hitting the crack pipe. Reagan ushered in a tough on crime (or lucrative on crime) approach to "justice." Some notable advancements in the policing of the poor to come from his administration include mandatory minimum sentencing, three strikes laws, harsher sentences for crack than cocaine, and the real reason behind all of this: the rise of the private prison industry.
Saint Reagan, whose shit doth not stink, is the reason that as you read this there are people in prison serving life sentences for non-violent drug crimes, including for the sale and distribution of marijuana.
All of this could just be written off as the creeping dementia that was steadily overtaking the man during his presidency, if his administration wasn’t also funneling cocaine into the U.S. at the same time. But hell, maybe he just had a serious habit.
Finally, someone who’s still close enough to living to sue me. Adelson is a well-known backer of many far-right political causes and candidates, but recently he’s made news by donating $2.5 million to the fight against medical marijuana in Florida. Adelson is the billionaire owner of the Sands casino, so when he dolls out bags of money to cut the balls off of federal oversight into the gaming industry the reasons are pretty clear. However, when the guy invests the couple mil he found in his couch to prevent cancer patients from seeking alternative treatments demonstrated to be beneficial in other parts of the world, his motivations seem a little murkier.
Some speculate the reason for Adelson opposing medical marijuana centers on the fact that technically speaking, those under the influence of illegal drugs (i.e. marijuana) aren’t legally allowed to gamble. Maybe someone should tell him that you can’t piss away your money on penny slots if you’re dead from an opiate overdose either.
Then again, maybe Adelson is taking the moral high ground afforded to a casino owner to try to prevent an industry from taking root that would be attractive to criminals. Because, history has shown no link between gambling and crime… Just kidding.
One of the founders of Project SAM (which stand for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, because Proven Failed Approaches to Marijuana didn’t make for quite as spiffy an acronym) Kennedy is a former U.S. congressional representative who left the halls of Congress to advocate for idiotic drug policy.
In his defense, his opposition to marijuana is rooted in his own, well-documented drug abuse. Did I say rooted? I meant dubiously connected through enormous leaps in logic.
Kennedy’s own experience abusing cocaine and OxyContin like they were mouthy foster children seems to be motivation for him to support the continued criminalization of significantly less harmful behavior. But if delusional hypocrisy alone isn’t enough to convince you this guy’s a douche, how about the time in 1991 when he allegedly lied to police to protect his cousin from being charged with forcefully raping someone.
But really, who hasn’t, at some point in their youth, lied to police to derail a rape investigation? Decent people? Yeah, I guess that’s probably the correct answer.
Perhaps if Kennedy was a little more open to the use of marijuana he wouldn’t have crashed his car on the way to a "vote" at 2:45 in the morning on Capitol Hill.
A former member of the Bush administration, Frum now finds work championing what neoconservatives wouild call values anywhere he can. Not surprisingly, this also includes attacking legalization efforts and espousing tired stereotypes to further the cause of prohibition. To this end Frum has authored several recent articles that falsely and prematurely proclaim the dangers of legalization in Colorado and Washington.
Lumping all marijuana smokers into the category of dopey stoners makes Frum an asshole, or at least a bigot. What also makes Frum an asshole is co-opting patriotism to mean blind support of war. Frum is also famous for coining the term "axis of evil" for Bush during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. Perhaps equating a pissed-off dictator that can barely use the weapons we sold him to kill his own people, to the combined global threat of the Japanese and German nations circa 1940 is a tad hyperbolic.
There’re plenty more assholes, douche bags, dumbasses, and fuckwits that have tried to prevent legalization, but since this is a magazine and not a compendium of idiocy we’ll have to save it for another time. Personal choices aside, a person doesn’t need any other reason to be considered an asshole beyond blocking legalization. The vocal support of prohibition is all it takes. I guess that makes this list unnecessary…
Did You Know....Read More
by Caroline Hayes
…that the first United States flag was made of hemp? Yes! The first flag sewn by Betsy Ross was made up of hemp fibers, according to the legend.
Hemp has come a long way and now, at least here in Colorado, it’s making the biggest comeback of its existence. As we all know, hemp is one of the strongest fibers known to man, so it’s no wonder that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Henry Ford all grew it.
Members of the Continental Committee (George Washington, Col. George Ross and Robert Morris) visited Ross’ store in Philadelphia and asked her to sew a flag, which was to have 13 stripes and 13 stars, representing the 13 colonies. The stars were to be white on a blue background to "represent a new constellation," according to ushistory.org.
To further explain how impactful hemp was back in the day, the first drafts of the Declaration were printed on hemp paper.
In fact, last Fourth of July lobbyist Michael Bowman and Jared Polis requested that a hemp flag be flown over the U.S. Capitol. It was the first hemp flag to fly in more than 80 years.
So this Fourth of July when you are helping decorate with cheaply made flags from China, remember that the first ever American flag was made of hemp and sewn by a sweet woman named Betsy Ross. Perhaps it will inspire you to take up sewing….or growing hemp!
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
Are You Kidding Me?Read More
by DJ Reetz
Seems like long ago, but marijuana was once looked upon rather negatively by some rather influential people. Sometimes, these people went to extreme lengths to convince an uneducated populace of the dangers of the demon weed marihuana, even going so far as to bend the truth.
We here at THC have compiled a list of some of our favorite attempts to demonize marijuana, so that we may all bask in their profound ignorance and maybe learn something about the nature of the prohibitionist.
You can’t have a list of anti- pot propaganda without the grand daddy of them all. Although wrapped around a cannabis-induced murder - an oxymoron, to be sure - this 1936 film aimed to scare parents about the budding problem of reefers being pushed to schoolchildren by sharply dressed gangsters whose only goal was to create addicts.
The film features innocent high schoolers seduced by the allure of marihuana, thrust into a world of insanity, murder, and frantic dancing. Originally released in black and white, the film was later colorized, and the clouds of reefer smoke gained green and purple tints to differentiate when these innocent kids were smoking reefers instead of the cigarettes they sucked down throughout the film like soda from the fountain.
The film was so ridiculous in its claims, it’s not even mentioned by current drug-war propagandists. Instead, it lives on only as ironic fodder for stoners to chuckle at while themselves imbibing. Perhaps anti-drug propaganda is a little ridiculous when reflected upon years later. Wonder if that’s going to be a theme on this list.
“I learned it from watching you!”
Another classic, this one from the age of Reaganomics. The ad features a young man being confronted by his father about the cigar box full of marijuana his mother has found. When asked how he learned to do something so shameful the son dramatically replies, “I learned it from watching you!”
The message here is pretty simple: Be a hypocrite. Sure, you have lots of experience with marijuana and use it yourself, but you should be ashamed for so clearly demonstrating that a responsible adult is capable of making decisions about his own body. For shame!
This is a pretty recent attempt. The ad begins reasonably enough, a relatable young dude looking straight at the camera and telling us that he smoked weed and nothing happened, no car crash, no overdose, nothing but sitting on the couch for 11 hours. The ad concludes that you’re much more likely to find harm doing other things, like ice skating with a girl or “driving hard to the rim.”
While it’s not hard to understand what the intent is here (weed makes you lazy) the ad also seems to undercut the crucial argument of propagandists by clearly stating that marijuana is notdangerous.Seriouslyguys,tryastrongsativastrainnext time. Let’s see you spend 11 hours on the couch.
SLOM- sticking leeches on myself. This ad shows an epidemic sweeping a nondescript school in which students are sticking blood-sucking leeches on themselves. Administrators don’t understand it, but all the kids are doing it and it’s hard not to if you want to fit in.
So the point here is don’t let your friends talk you into doing stupid shit? Perhaps this ad would be more effective if the analogy was better, something that actually had psychoactive effects, rather than something that’s only gross. Maybe a group of poop-smeared kids talking about how popular jenkem is these days.
Anyway, the lesson here is if people are doing something you find weird, and you don’t understand why they are doing it, you should make them feel bad about it. ‘Cause this is ‘Merica.
CDOT’s drive high, get a DUI
In case you thought we were only doing vintage bullshit, here’s one you might see today. These ads win points for a slightly more reasoned depiction of stoners than some of the others on the list, showing people doing normal things like hanging a TV, or attempting to ignite a barbecue. Of course something goes wrong and hilarity ensues; man stoners are a dopey bunch.What’s wrong here is the knee-jerk approach to this “new” problem. There is little consensus about the impairment of driving skills caused by marijuana use. Some studies suggest it is far less dangerous for drivers than alcohol or cell phone use. Couple this with the incredibly low THC threshold for a DUID here in Colorado and it seems like the Colorado Department of Transportation is espousing on something they don’t fully understand.
What if the joint were in somebody else’s hand?
Another one of the ‘80’s finest. In this ad a young man lies on an operating table while a surgeon with the disposition of a Batman villain dopily cackles over him. The surgeon, too potted up on marijuana to listen to his un-anesthetized patient, menaces with his scalpel, and the ad asks the question: “What if the joint were in somebody else’s hand, like your surgeon, your lawyer, or your local police man? Would you still say marijuana is harmless?” Yes, yes I would. Not really important how professionally successful the person smoking it is, it’s still harmless. I’d actually really like it if my local policeman smoked a bit more weed.
Thanks for making us consider it though. Maybe the ad should just advise kids not to perform surgery while stoned. That we can get behind.
Marijuana: four times the cancer-causing tar of cigarettes
This one’s another recent entry, building on past scare tactics. The ad shows a young man slinking into his room only to cut open four cigarettes and dump their contents into a rolling paper, all while a voiceover informs us that marijuana contains four times the cancer causing tar of cigarettes.
Well, smoking an unfiltered joint may actually cause more particulate to end up in your lungs compared to a filtered cigarette, but there may still be some discrepancy with the truth here. The claim of cancer is complete bullshit. Marijuana has more cancer causing agents than tobacco smoke? Perhaps this could be verified by a single demonstrable instance in all of human history. Oh wait, it’s not.
While only a sub-moronic, lobotomized chimp would make the argument that marijuana is more harmful than tobacco, this ad gets downright reckless when one considers the mounting evidence that marijuana may actually fight cancer. So you may actually be less susceptible to lung cancer if you smoke it, but at least we’re spending money to tell people otherwise.
Knight Rider’s ‘80s PSA
The 1980s were such a goldmine for asinine anti-drug propaganda. We could have made this a list of just your childhood icons lying to you. Mr. T, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Run DMC, and many others, well, they all had their chance to convince you that drugs weren’t at all “rad.” Still, this one stands out as especially stupid.
In the ad, a young David Hasselhoff banters back and forth with his sentient car over how to best communicate the dangers of marijuana to the kids.The car decides concocted scientific evidence is the best approach, but David “I eat my burgers off the fucking floor”Hasselhoff is too cool for all that, settling to just let us all know that drugs are bad, m’kay.
In an era when the First Lady was championing abstinence from drugs, even as her husband’s foreign policy funneled cocaine into the inner city, there was plenty of ridiculousness to go around, but the Hoff really makes this one into something special.
SAM’s Super Bowl ad
Yep, this one’s from this year’s Super Bowl. In a game between the two teams hailing from cities where weed is legal, idiots have to do something to remind us all that they are still idiots and they won’t be ignored. The group Smart Approaches to Marijuana bought billboard space around MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and put up ads that depicted a footballer with the words “Motivation, perseverance, determination” above his head, next to a pot leaf with “None of the above” spelled out over it.
While I’m sure none of the athletes in the NFL ever have or ever would consider using marijuana for any reason, the insistence that marijuana use prevents success may be a tad overblown. After all, even though there’s never ever been an instance of marijuana use by a professional athlete, the President of the United States did it.
I support terrorism
Hopefully we haven’t all forgotten about this case study in emotional manipulation that started circulating shortly after 9/11. A series of ads from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, these usually began with a plain-looking white person being confronted by the ghosts of all the people who were killed to bring them their weed. The ad ends with the stark revelation that “Drug money supports terrible things.”
While the threat of terrorism was certainly an easy string to pluck at the time (see the invasion of Iraq), equating any level of drug use to murdering innocent people qualifies as bona fide, five-star idiocy.
So the ad says it’s your fault. You, the person who chooses to use recreational marijuana, have the blood of thousands of innocents on your hands. You monster. It’s not the fault of a destructive drug war that forces a benign plant into the realm of criminals, or even the fault of the people who carry out these acts of violence.
True, marijuana has sometimes been the largest source of income for Mexican drug cartels, but blaming users seems like diverting responsibility from the people actually creating demand.
Given the recent allegations of cooperation between U.S. law enforcement and the Sinaloa cartel - and possibly even the arming of the group by the Justice Department - it seems as though the blame for the thousands of deaths a year in Mexico might be a little more equitably spread around.
Besides, buying your weed legally means your money supports local businesses, school construction, and even more stupid-ass anti- marijuana ads. And that’s why we here in Colorado aren’t kept awake at
night by the ghosts of dead little girls.