How Marijuana and Hemp Developed Their Bad ReputationPosted by On

Marijuana Hemp reputation

How did marijuana and hemp developed their bad reputation? Cannabis and CBD have many supporters who tout its therapeutic properties alongside the fact that CBD is non-addictive and non-hallucinogenic. 

While there are plenty of arguments for rethinking our classification of cannabis as a “dangerous and addictive substance” it’s going up against a lot of misinformation. A lot of that misinformation can be traced back to a “conspiracy” that dates back to the 1930s.

A side effect of prohibition

According to Jack Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes, prohibition – which was technically focused on banning alcohol – resulted in hemp and cannabis getting a bad name.

Harry Anslinger was the greatest proponent for the prohibition of cannabis during the 1930s. He was joined in his quest by Andrew Mellon, the DuPont chemical company, and supported by William Randolph Hearst.

Through the efforts of this mean, the 1936 Marihuana Tax Act was put in place. This effectively banned the two major forms of cannabis, hemp and marijuana.

Hearst was especially instrumental in the propaganda campaign against marijuana that got people to support the act. He used his newspaper empire to portray marijuana users as “dangerous”, associating its use with criminals and Mexican immigrants.

Allegedly, all the conspirators didn’t just want marijuana banned because of concerns about drug use, but they were also trying to kill the nascent hemp industry.

Hemp had started to gain popularity for its ability to be used in the production of fabrics, paper, and clothing. If hemp became widely used, it would impact all of the “conspirators” businesses.

Fueled by racism

There was a definite racist element to the campaign against marijuana and its bad reputation. It was supposedly used by “dirty Mexicans”.

This was a particular pet theory of Hearst. Who had a lot of personal animosity for “marijuana smoking Mexicans.”. He had lost land that he owned in Mexico to the revolutionary Pancho Villa, who along with his men smoked marijuana.

While Anslinger’s motives for making Mexicans’ a marijuana “bogeyman” are less clear, he did dig into it in his campaign.

He testified in Congress that the US needed to look out for Mexican immigrants selling joints to “white high school students”.

“That’s why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our [cannabis-smoking] population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions,” he told congress.

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To discourage “undesirable use”

Congress, on the other hand, did not have any particular desire to “kill” the use of hemp in other industries.

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For them, the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act was seen as a way to discourage the undesirable use of marijuana for recreational use.

By taxing marihuana, congress also intended to ensure that the hemp plant would be used for “industrial, medical, and scientific uses.

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What did we lose when the hemp industry was stifled?

While hemp is still used in industry today, it has not lived up to its promise. This is mostly due to misinformation about its use.

One big industrialist who saw promise in hemp use in industry was automotive giant Henry Ford. He thought hemp and hemp derived material held great promise in the automotive world.

Ford himself had build a prototype car out of plant fiber. Which was supposed to enable the conservation of metal in preparation for war time. This prototype was featured in Popular Mechanics in 1941.

Ford’s plant based car was made of hemp, yes, but it was actually a mixture. The plant fibers used also included flax, wheat, and spruce pulp.

Ford also looked into ethanol, a biofuel, as way to power his cars before settling for gasoline. Though Ford was thinking of ethanol derived from potatoes’, hemp can also produce ethanol.

Hemp can actually be used to create two different types of biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel. If the hemp industry was not stifled, this could have been developed better and we might now be driving cars fueled by hemp.

As it stands, the Environmental Protection Agency began mandating the use of biofuels. In the automotive sector as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program. This means, gasoline sold in the US has about 10% ethanol. But this ethanol isn’t usually from hemp, rather it’s from corn.

Since hemp cultivation is now legalized, due to the 2018 Farm Bill. There’s now a chance that hemp might be used to expand the biofuel content in gasoline.

Would hemp truly be a sustainable fuel?

Eric Steenstra, president of the hemp farming advocacy group Vote Hemp. Noted that one big hinderance to hemp-based biofuels would be the fact that it is still a lot more expensive than gasoline.

It would also take a “significant amount of resources” to grow hemp and convert it to biofuel, so it’s not that sustainable.

Biofuels are considered carbon neutral by the United Nations and the US Energy Department. Since, when the plants that make up biofuel are grown, it absorbs CO2 from the air. It effectively offsets and carbon that is released when the biofuel is burned for energy.

Another advantage to hemp biofuels is that hemp is not a food crop, unlike corn or sugar cane. Biofuels from food crops are often criticized for contributing to global food shortages. As agriculture land is now being diverted from the production of food to the production of fuel.

However, it should be noted that croplands don’t release oxygen or absorb carbon as well as forest land. Environmentalists caution that the clearing of forests for biofuel crops. Be they hemp plants or corn, will end up offsetting any of the gain that might have come from switching to biofuel from fossil fuels.

There would also, however, be the need to convert cars to be able to run on hemp biofuel and also build the fuel. Infrastructure needed to ensure that biofuel cars would be able to replace gas fueled cars.

Given all these caveat’s, it will probably take some time before we can really claim that hemp biofuel is a good cash crop and alternative to fossil fuels.

Informative

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