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Hemp is amazing, but political skullduggery put a stop to its use. What is the truth behind why hemp got banned?

It’s been around for over 6 000 years and can be used to make food, plastic, oil, paper, fuel and clothing, so why are we not using it more? Unfortunately, hemp has a stigma attached to it as if it means you are a ‘hippy or a pot smoker’! Unfair and untrue! What is the truth behind why hemp got banned?

Before we explore the benefits of hemp, the plant, let’s expose the reason for its blackened name. It all comes down to money, politics and three men: Richard Nixon, William Randolph Hearst and Harry Anslinger.

William Randolph Hearst

In the 1920s, Hearst owned the largest US newspaper and media outlet, then became a politician and is considered the inspiration for Orson Welles’ character, Charles Foster Kane, in Citizen Kane. Hearst also owned an acreage of trees.


Paper from hemp

Hearst knew that paper from hemp was a far more efficient process than using trees. This posed a serious threat to his industry, so he used his platform to demonise hemp.

He popularised the name ‘marijuana’ so he could link it to drug use and began publishing anti-cannabis messages to turn the American people away from hemp and towards the wood-based paper.

Harry Anslinger & Richard Nixon

Next up was Harry Anslinger. He was a US politician in the 1930s, later running what we now know as the DEA. Anslinger held the same views as Hearst and shared his anti-hemp/marijuana thoughts to further demonise hemp.

Controlled Substances Act & Tax Act

Hearst and Anslinger managed to push their agenda so strongly that they wrote and enacted the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. This didn’t make cannabis illegal, but its production much more difficult and it also damaged hemp by false association.

This work then allowed Richard Nixon to issue the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 which included marijuana. Again, hemp was damaged by association.

Benefits Of Hemp

So, enough about what hemp isn’t, instead what is it? Hemp is extremely versatile and may have been one of the very first plants to be cultivated on a mass scale.

Dating back to 8 000BC, with hemp cords found in Taiwanese pottery, hemp cloth has been discovered in Mesopotamia, as a food source in China around 6 000BC, then in textiles around 4 000BC, recorded in Egyptian paintings around 2 800BC, used in fashion, like a bowstring for weapons, and also as paper in China around 200BC.

Declaration of (Hemp) Independence

Hemp paper was used for the original drafts of the US Declaration of Independence. It is said that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington were all keen hemp farmers, with Jefferson patenting a hemp threshing machine. Even Benjamin Franklin produced his own hemp paper for distribution! Hemp really is that versatile!

Hemp also offers various ecological advantages. It grows quickly and only requires around 20% of the water required to grow cotton. Hemp is also naturally resistant to harmful insects and weeds, which eliminates the need for pesticides, it improves the quality of the soil and can actually thrive on land that has been polluted by heavy metals. Hemp is carbon negative. It removes 5 times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees. Finally, hemp cloth has a silky texture which is more porous than cotton, allows it to take dyes better and is more durable.

Its only real downside is cultivation. Hemp is more difficult to harvest and requires costly and time-consuming hand labour techniques.

Hemp production is an industry waiting to take over from cotton and tree felling, back to where it rightfully belongs – at the heart of the industry. Now you know the truth behind why hemp got banned.

Maybe our modern day William Randolph Hearst types are also to blame for the lack of positivity on hemp.


1 comment

  • Posted on by Robert
    Very well documented and insightful article. It proves there are still people spreading the truth and caring for our planet. Thank you !

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