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Hemp, The Great Green Hope

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"It has something to do with something called marijuana. I believe it is a narcotic of some kind."

So said congressman Rayburn to congressman Snell's question: "What is this bill about?"

That was way back in the summer of 1937, when congress was being asked to essentially outlaw a drug they knew nothing about, marijuana. But realistically, marijuana had little to do with it. The real issue was non-drug industrial hemp.

Industrialists were like scarab beetles, rolling around this giant ball of profit protection, and they ran right over the domestic hemp industry. Hemp presented way too much competition, too much threat to entrenched and entrenching profits. Took a pretty big ball of dung, but the scarabs rolled it expertly, professionals. Except for several years of heavy production during WWII, under the feds' "Hemp for Victory" campaign--which told the truth about hemp and helped us win the war...not a single acre of hemp has been legally grown in America since 1937. Seventy-four years and counting. That was one enormous ball of dung. The entire hemp-prohibition infamy could be called a dung deal, especially as related to the common good.

What could have possessed grown men, congressmen even, into making it a crime to grow one of the oldest, and the most valuable crop in history? Essentially the same thing that keeps the common good in government crosshairs today, the hideous mechanics of humanity's ultimate modern plague: obsession with corporate profits--virtually the opposite of government Of, By and For the people.

Also in 1937, in its annual report to stockholders, the DuPont company gloated over "radical changes" regarding the federal government's conversion of taxation authority into a tool for forcing acceptance of "sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization". They went so far as proclaiming that, after massive farm foreclosures of the depression, farmers were inhibiting America's industrial progress. They should move to industrial cities so farmland could be consolidated into huge agribusinesses controlled by corporations--along with all other means of industrial production. Farming should be primarily for food.

DuPont's president, Lammont DuPont, even ordained: "Synthetic plastics find application in fabricating a wide variety of articles, many of which in the past were made from natural products. The chemist has aided in conserving natural resources by developing synthetic products to supplement or wholly replace natural products."

Yes, a world of synthetics...mother lode patents, petroleum alchemy, pollution, extinction, poverty and disease, deforestation, global warming; fascism, globalization, perpetual wars for dwindling resources; corporate centralization of all means of production--even global food supply. Concentration of money, of power, of control--power to the corporations, slavery to the people. Conversion of largely rural, agricultural America into an urban, industrial nation. Landfills brimming with immortal waste leaching death into our living systems...until death do us part.

The reason scarabs were in such a frenzy over hemp in 1937 was clearly revealed by Popular Mechanics magazine--a full six months after! the American hemp industry was effectively dead and buried via trademark corporate chicanery. The February cover story for Popular Mechanics in 1938 was titled, "The New Billion-Dollar Crop". Imagine how much money a billion dollars was in 1938. The article told the truth, praising the advent of new machinery that would drastically reduce hemp's labor demands; and praising a crop so valuable that in the early days of America, for farmers with a certain threshold of acreage in production, it was illegal not to grow hemp.

Imagine the chagrin of people involved in our burgeoning hemp industry upon learning that hemp had been banned in America because of "The Killer Weed from Mexico", by the illegal Marijuana Tax Act. By law, taxes are for raising revenue, not for molding behavior. But obviously--even more so today than ever before...upper echelons of power are above the law. Laws are for "small people"--unless they facilitate, as George Bush the elder said, speaking of certain clandestine federal operations, "The continuous consolidation of money and power into higher, tighter and righter hands."

And remember DuPont's "...radical changes regarding the federal government's conversion of taxation authority into a tool for forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial and social reorganization"? What about the Constitution...or as George Bush the younger calls it, that "...goddamned piece of paper"?

As for the news, the New York Times reported on August 3, 1937, that "President Roosevelt signed today a bill to curb traffic in the narcotic, marihuana, through heavy taxes on transactions". A dung deal. Industrial hemp strains of cannabis have zero drug potential, and are NOT "marijuana", but... never mind. Competition slammed. Profits protected. Hemp threat eliminated.

The negative impact to the common good of America from seventy-four years of hemp prohibition is difficult to fathom. But in America, despite hundreds of years of florid rhetoric to the contrary, the common good is so...common. America is about winners, not commoners. And America is largely about service jobs and financialisation, not production--despite consumer spending being 70% of our Gross Domestic Product. We offshore as much production as possible to take advantage of slave labor markets, lax environmental protections, tax incentives.... And we sink ever deeper into debt as former middle-class citizens, their jobs off-shored, become street people, and millionaires become billionaires, and billionaires shed their skins.

Please forgive my digression, but I have found the term "common good" handy lately. Spokane's congressional representative is a republican named Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Somehow two of my email addresses got on her mailing list. I fatigued over all the trumpeting of GOP efforts to take from the poor to give to the rich, and repeatedly tried to get off Cathy's list without success. So I replied to one of her emails by simply asking her to define her position regarding the common good of America. Bingo, I'm off Cathy's list. Haven't heard from her in months.

Hemp has taught us many things about how power works in America, and our education continues. Hemp's usefulness is truly remarkable; food, fuel, fiber, paper, plastics--using modern technology, hemp offers an estimated 25,000 natural products. Hemp needs no petrochemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, and is actually beneficial to the soil. Hemp is nature's premier powerhouse for converting sunshine and water (and carbon dioxide while breathing out oxygen) into an astonishing range of superior, eco-friendly products. Perhaps one of the worst things about hemp is that, for the bulk of our perception-managed population, it sounds too good to be true. Well, for about the last 12,000 years hemp has proved true--yet for the last seventy-four years in America, growing hemp has been a crime. That's the real crime.

The U.S. hemp industry is currently ringing up $400 million in annual retail sales--all of it on imported raw materials! The number of good, non-transferable (cannot be "off-shored") jobs hemp prohibition costs us is shameful. We need solid jobs. We need to create value. Other economic benefits of hemp, along with the environmental benefits, are all but incalculable.

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Rand Clifford lives in Spokane, Washington. His novels and earlier essays can be found at
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