Prohibition of Hemp: How Two Men & a Tax Act Stunted America’s Most Versatile Crop

Updated: Feb 25

In the U.S., cannabis was widely utilized as a patent

medicine during the 19th and early 20th centuries, described in the United States Pharmacopoeia for the first time in 1850. Federal restriction of cannabis use and cannabis sale first occurred in 1937 with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act. Hemp and Marijuana were added as a Schedule 1 Drug that demonstrates no medicinal value and a high chance for abuse in 1970. This event prohibited the research potential for medicinal uses of the plant. This is why

most physicians cannot speak to the evidence-based data when they are asked about CBD. Even though the U.S. holds 2 patents on CBD for the use of seizures (but that is a whole other giant- a similar demonstration of how the government has had its hands in the success for hemp and marijuana for decades).


Prior to 1937, the American government required farmers to grow 1 acre of hemp. Citizens could pay taxes with hemp and Former U.S. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned hemp farms. The United States relied on hemp for fiber use for rope, building material and clothing. In 1916, agricultural scientists discovered that one acre of hemp produces 4x the amount of pulp than that of one acre of wood producing pulp for paper. Scientists announced that the process of bleaching hemp paper was a more sustainable than that of bleaching wood pulp. Hemp showed consistent promise for its ability to capture carbon out of the air and trap it back into the soil where it helps diversify soil conditions. Carbon gives soil the ability to retain water and gives soil it’s fertility. By all angles, hemp seemed to be a miracle crop.



That is unless you own a mega newspaper company that recently invested in thousands of acres of timber and woodland acres for paper pulp cultivation. I’ll begin the story with William Hearst; owner of one of the largest newspaper and media outlets in the 1930’s. Hearst realized the threat that hemp posed to the paper industry and used his newly found political power to demonize the crop into non-existence. Hearst began publishing anti- hemp/cannabis propaganda with his media outlets; blaming immigrants as the reason marijuana was on its way to ruin society. Reefer Madness spread far and wide and the negative stigma of the hemp plant became ingrained in the minds of communities across the nation. By the 1930’s, Hearst’s media outlets reached around 20 million people. Hearst sensationalized reefer madness to save his paper company and he soon gained an ally with a similar mission. His name was Harry Ansligner.


Harry Ansligner became the director of the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Narcotics with a political agenda on his mind. Anslinger held this position for over 3 decades. In 1934, tax revenues were suffering after the Great Depression and Ansligner’s department was on the chopping block. With a racist veil and jobs to save, Ansligner and Hearst teamed up to promote racially based propaganda and convict Mexican immigrants for cultural marijuana use with harsh jail sentences. As concern among communities in the U.S. grew surrounding the use of marijuana, the difference between hemp and marijuana became indistinguishable and both varieties became subject to the Marijuana Tax Act. This tax act was presented in 1937 by Rep. Robert Doughton that sought to increase the tax on marijuana so high that it became an unaffordable commodity.


Just two years after the prohibition started, Japan bombed Hawaii and World War II began. America’s hemp import supply could not sustain the demand for war efforts. During this time, the United States government skirted around prohibition in an effort to entice civilians to grow hemp for the war. The propaganda slogan changed from “Reefer Maddness” to “Hemp for Victory”. The Allies of the U.S. were in desperate need of fiber hemp to make rope, uniforms and parachutes and the growing of hemp increased dramatically. Once the war was over, hemp retained its status as illegal.


This video was all but erased from history and recently was found by pro-cannabis advocates.






For the last several decades, the United States have relied on China and Canada as our main importers of hemp. In 2019 America imported $66.6 million dollars of hemp from Canada. Can you imagine what that $66.6million could provide for America over decades if there had never been prohibition? Can you visualize what our medical system might look like if cannabis was not a Scheduled 1 drug? If we would’ve had the ability to research cannabis like Israel has? (look into it).


It’s an interesting time to be alive, folks. We are excited to see where the industry goes and what advancements are made to provide a stable marketplace for hemp. This issue is much bigger than you think, and this crop could be on it’s way to disappearance again if we can’t get it off the scheduled list. Next time you have the opportunity to vote for full legalization, please remember the history told above and how you can change the future for generations to come.




Sources


[1] Bridgeman, M. B., & Abazia, D. T. (20


17, March). Medicinal cannabis: History, pharmacology, and implications for the Acute Care Setting. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312634/