When you make something illegal, you turn it into something scary. Something that makes people afraid. That’s what happened to hemp. As hemp technology became more efficient, it threatened multi-billion industries. Out of fear and greed, these industry leaders formed an unholy trinity and waged war to outlaw hemp. This is why marijuana is illegal.
The Hearst Corporation and DuPont Chemical Company were enjoying great success in the 1930’s with their manufacturing of wood-pulp paper and nylon products. Hearst was also a major logging company and produced DuPont’s tree pulp paper. In addition to being a timber mogul, Hearst was a publishing giant who owned major newspapers and popular magazines. DuPont had just patented nylon and a new process for making paper from wood pulp when word spread of a new billion dollar crop. So, how does this play into why marijuana is illegal?
BILLION DOLLAR CROP
In February 1938, Popular Mechanics hailed hemp as the “New Billion Dollar Crop” due to the introduction of mass production harvesting equipment. The same month, Mechanical Engineering called hemp “the most profitable and desirable crop that can be grown.” Capable of yielding up to three crops per year in southern climates, one acre of hemp produces about the same amount of cellulose as four acres of trees. This miracle crop that could be used to replace trees and for anything from “cellophane to dynamite” looked like formidable competition. Still wondering why marijuana is illegal?
BILLION DOLLAR CROP PUTS BILLIONS AT RISK
Hemp’s market share and consequent threat it posed was significant. Billions in profits were at risk for old-school businesses, namely Hearst and DuPont, as well as their financial backer, banking mogul Andrew Mellon. Mellon was the Secretary of the Treasury under President Herbert Hoover and owner of the 6th largest bank at the time.
The news was particularly alarming to William Randolph Hearst because he held vast forestlands in California that produced the newsprint for his newspapers. He also had enormous holdings in timber and acreage and investments in paper manufacturing, but DuPont had by far the most to lose.
The DuPont family made its fortune in gunpowder and dynamite. With financing from Mellon, DuPont created a monopoly in the textile industry by placing patents on its chemical formulas for synthetic fabrics such as Nylon, Lucite and Teflon, and in 1937 acquired patents to make plastics from oil and coal.
Hearst and DuPont knew they had to quash hemp as a possible competitor to wood-pulp and nylon, and they did just that with the help of an ambitious government bureaucrat by the name of Harry Anslinger.
THE UNHOLY TRINITY
Mellon appointed his niece’s husband, Harry Anslinger, to Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. Early on, Anslinger was on record saying the idea that cannabis caused people to go crazy or violent was an “absurd fallacy.” However, after Anslinger was put in charge of the FBN, he changed his position.
“From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position. A war on narcotics alone — cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914 — wasn’t enough. They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs. He needed more.”
– Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
Using Anslinger’s position within the U.S. government and leveraging Hearst’s empire of newspapers and magazines as propaganda outlets, the two went on a highly-inflammatory anti-marijuana public relations crusade.
Hearst and Aslinger concocted dramatic and sensationalistic stories that described marijuana as an evil drug that led to murder, rape and insanity.
In particular, Anslinger fixated on the story of Victor Licata. Licata killed his family with an ax while allegedly high on cannabis. It was discovered many years later; however, that Licata had a history of mental illness, and there was no proof he ever used the drug.
Anslinger spoke to 30 scientists. 29 told him that cannabis wasn’t a dangerous drug, but it was the theory of a single expert who agreed with him that cannabis was evil and should be banned that Anslinger presented to the public. The media latched onto this story and ran with it.
Race played another role in Anslinger’s quest to ban cannabis. He claimed that blacks and Latinos were the primary users of marijuana and that using cannabis made them forget their “place” in society. He even went so far to say that cannabis promoted interracial mixing and interracial relationships.
The sensationalized news reports and Anslinger’s anti-cannabis war penetrated the nation and very quickly nationwide attitude towards cannabis began to fall in line with Anslinger.
MARIJUANA TAX ACT
Anslinger’s influence played a major role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. He testified before Congress and argued that there was an increase in reports of middle-class people smoking marijuana. A provocative letter from a newspaper editor in Colorado said, “I wish I could show you what a small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents.” Despite being opposed by the American Medical Association who argued in support of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana, Congress passed the act in 1937.
“I wish I could show you what a small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents.”
– Newspaper editor, Colorado
CANNABIS MAKES A COMEBACK
Cannabis production was ignited in the U.S. once again as imports of hemp were needed to produce parachutes, marine cordage and other military necessities became scarce. The Department of Agriculture gave out seeds and encouraged American farmers to plant hemp in its “Hemp for Victory” program, but fears of cannabis returned.
CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT
Richard Nixon, during his 1968 presidential campaign, promised to restore “law and order” to America. Upon being elected, he declared a War Against Drug Abuse. Under Nixon’s presidency, the Controlled Substances Act, which classified drugs on four different schedules, passed in 1970. The federal act classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, causing it to be considered one of the most dangerous substances that carry the highest penalty. The act fails to recognize the differences between marijuana and hemp. The act is still in place today.
OUR PRODUCTS ARE LEGAL
Our hemp products are grown in Kentucky – the state that legalized the commercial growing of industrial hemp. We work closely with the State of Kentucky and the Department of Agriculture to ensure we are compliant with all existing laws regarding hemp extracts and byproducts.
Section 7606 of the 2014 farm bill states that regardless of another federal law (including the Controlled Substances Act), if the growing and cultivation of industrial hemp is allowed under state law and overseen by the Department of Agriculture, then the product can be manufactured and sold as part of the state’s approved hemp pilot program.