Why Cant US Farmers Grow Hemp In America?
There are many truths on why farmers cannot grow hemp in America. Throughout the 20th Century, and now into the 21st, two reasons may be: hemp is easy to grow and hemp is sustainable. Anyone can grow hemp with minimal knowledge and skill. Anyone can yield a fine harvest with only a few acres. Anyone can benefit from the abundance of the plant. Anyone can do it again year after year with little environmental impact.
Sounds contradictory, especially since hemp is what helped Americans gain independence from the British by 1776 and helped win World War II in 1945. As more and more people now are seeking healthier and more sustainable alternatives in a rapid human-population increasing generation, hemp is again sparking interest. And questions are arising of why a beneficial plant like industrial hemp had ever left American agriculture in the first place.
Perhaps the reason why hemp is so conflicting is because it is not dependent upon humans to survive. Industrial hemp is a weed. The plant is adaptable, vigorous, and strong. It grows abundantly and competitively in any barren soil (ditches, dirt-roads, trash dumps, etc.). It will bully other weeds out of space and is more drought resistant than most plants. The cannabis plant has been around since before humans started cultivating it, and with its ability to absorb toxins, it is likely to be around long after we are gone.
Here then, in the human desire to control and conquer nature and ourselves, we may find the true reason why farmers cannot grow hemp in America today: to grow hemp does not require herbicides and pesticides. Simply put, hemp does not need human intervention to grow wild and free.
Unlike cotton that requires a lot of chemicals to grow abundantly, and unlike corn that requires a lot of water to survive, cannabis is more self-reliant. The wide fan leaves of the cannabis plant canopies over weeds, preventing others the opportunity for growth. While also, the sharp taste of the plant’s leaves and resins are disagreeable to bugs, rodents, and wildlife. The deep tap-root finds water far from its source, and the plant does well and seeks lots of sun.
In February 1938, Popular Mechanics Magazine published an article, “New Billion-Dollar Crop,” about industrial hemp and modern technology being applied to hemp production. Up until this time, hemp was trailing other agriculture crops in industrial crop processing. Processing industrial hemp, particularly separating hemp fibers, can be difficult and challenging due to the fibers renowned strength.
1937 Marijuana Tax Act
Unfortunately, the magazine’s article publication was released just after the 1937 introduction of the Marijuana Tax Act, a bill drafted by the U.S. Treasury Department to criminalize the production and use of cannabis – the single act that eliminated industrial hemp from American farmlands.
During Herbert Hoover’s 1929-1933 Presidential term, Andrew Mellon of the Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh, was the U.S. Treasury Secretary. During the late 1920s and 1930s, Mellon Bank did banking for DuPont (a company that produces chemicals to grow cotton and to make timber-paper, among many other chemicals). Coincidently, Mellon Bank also did banking for William R. Hearst, an American newspaper publisher and timber and mill owner.
Hearst’s publication, the New York Journal, was in competition with Joseph Pulitzer’s publication, the New York World. The two competing newspapers’ business tactics and influencing articles are known for the creation of yellow journalism. Yellow journalism – bias and opinion representing fact – helped spread misleading thoughts about cannabis as not a useful medicine, textile, and industry, but as a plant known to be quiet dangerous.
Special interests began to dominate the media, influence politics and law, while at the same time stifle scientific truth and research about the cannabis plant. Bigotry, fear, and government/corporate dependence had led the American people and US farmers toward giving up their personal rights and privacy in exchange for “security.”
Prior to 1931, A. Mellon’s niece married Harry Anslinger, a man who was Assistant U.S. Commissioner for Prohibition. After alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, Anslinger was hand-picked by his uncle-in-law to head the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics – an agency of the U.S. Treasury Department.
To add importance to his new position, Anslinger spread rumors Mexican migrant workers and black jazz musicians who smoked the hemp flowers (the Spanish slang term: marijuana) became violent towards white men and raped white women. “Marijuana” then became known as a narcotic (with no medical value and highly addictive) and criminalized, making cannabis and industrial hemp illegal. This was the beginning of the Drug War, a war (like the War on Terrorism) is abstract and lacks distinct enemies.
A thing to remember is: the medical cannabis people use today in the year 2016 is significantly different than what was used even in the 1960s and 70s. Over the years, geneticists have been able to naturally select and encourage plant characteristics from certain cannabis plants to produce higher THC percentages – these days reaching 30% THC in flowers and 100% in concentrates. Over 100 years ago, 10% THC was a high percentage, and a slight buzz was mostly the result from ingesting.
Everything bad seemed to happen at once to encourage this hiccup absence of industrial hemp in American agriculture. Steam powered ships lessened the demand for sail ships – ships heavily loaded with hemp ropes, rigging, and sails. Plastics and synthetic fibers (particularly steel cables) created a new interest and understanding in fiber strength. And other forms of fuel, like fossil fuels, seemed to be more abundant and cheaper to retrieve and use.
All this began happening before the late 1930s, just when industrial hemp processing was on the verge of improving. The chemical, petroleum, timber, cotton, and pharmaceutical industries began to feel threatened. (If you can grow your own medicine, why would you visit the pharmacy?) At this time, special interest and government control held more importance than individual rights and environmental health.
Misinformation and misdirection can only cover-up for so long. People started demanding for a better life of happiness, health, and freedom. Today in America, more and more State legislation are demanding the re-understanding of cannabis and drug regulation. U.S. House and Senate representatives are beginning to voice the demands of their constituents.
Special interests will always have an influence on the economic market. The irony of criminalizing cannabis and the bringing of the market underground is that the industry became a culture. And that cannabis culture has ingenuity, rebellious, and pro-active behavior that a black market environment encourages. Today, more individuals have access to “do-it-yourself” knowledge and technology than ever before.
As with most consumables, the United States imports more hemp products than any other nation in the world. Yet American farmers are not federally allowed to grow the plant. Reintroducing the hemp cash crop back into American farmlands will create jobs, strengthen the American economy, and balance the world free-trade.
Currently, every State is independent on their stance with the cannabis plant. Some States have legalized it, others are in the legislative process to legalize it, while few are still holding on to old biases to keep cannabis illegal. In Colorado, the State Department of Agriculture will introduce certified industrial hemp seed for farmers within the next few years.
Still, why cannot all farmers grow hemp in America? …because growing hemp establishes independence, freedom, and revolution from big corporations and government. In a capitalistic democracy, it is the quality in the products and the voice of the people that create true change.
Support Farming & Farmers Right To Grow Hemp
If the American people want farmers to grow industrial hemp in American soil, they should let their State representatives know to support the Industrial Hemp Farming Acts, H.R. 525 and S. 134, and federally decriminalize industrial hemp. American farmer and the American people will then have one more way to take back control of their own lives.
Article Written by: Thomas Ivory, Jr.