Hemp was an illegal substance for the first 162 years of the existence of the United States of America. However, the History of Legalization of Hemp is a long one. As decades progressed, the narrative for Marijuana and its use changed over time.
While currently most countries and states are working towards legalizing the use of Hemp, it was not always like that. Very recently in December of 2018, it was federally legal to grow Marijuana in the US again. Now it is legal to purchase and use CBD products with less than 0.3% of THC in all 50 states.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a cannabis plant. Under government classification; Hemp is a CBD product that contains less than 0.3% THC. It is mainly used to produce Hemp Fiber and other important industrial products.
The discovery of Hemp Fiber was nearly 10,000 years ago, and ever since then, Hemp has been cultivated for different purposes. It is one of the fastest growing plants, that can grow without the use of pesticides and chemical additives. Needless to say, it supports eco-friendly and sustainable farming methods.
While currently, it is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, it was not always like this. The use of hemp is widespread in the paper, plastic, food, medicine, and fodder industries. It was so beneficial for producing necessities that it was mandatory for farmers to grow hemp along with their other crops. Despite all these reasons; it is unanimously deemed as an illegal substance all before 2018.
However, this still raises the question, why was Hemp Illegal? and what events lead up to its prohibition in the first place? The real propaganda started during the Mid 1930s. This was when the commercial media took Marijuana to the stakes. This was to develop the narrative of it has extremely harmful effects. Headlines read ‘Marijuana: Assassin of youth’ or ‘The devil’s weed with its roots in hell.’ It was painted in a bad light and over time the public opinion grew to be negative.
This further pushed the government to take legal action against the regulation of the drug. During the time the Alcohol industry went two steps further and funded a movie called ‘Reefers Madness.’ This movie depicted a man who went insane due to the use of Marijuana. The movie shows marijuana-induced insanity, violence, and death. The movie ends at the man murdering his entire family due to “Marijuana Abuse”.
This cinematic experience heavily impacted what people thought of the drug and helped create an enemy out of it. This was also good for business for the liquor industry as it helped take down one of their biggest contenders in the market.
The legal History: Why was Hemp Banned in the US?
The legal history of Cannabis unveils the different decades and how the perception of Marijuana developed over time. During 1906, the use of cannabis was not a generally accepted societal norm. In Fact, the general norm was ‘cannabis equal to poison’. Further, in the 1920’s; the government started to take action against the drug and prohibited it by Law. However, it was not until the 1930’s that it officially came under the list of regulated drugs.
Shortly after all the media propaganda, Marijuana was banned by The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Harry Anslinger wrote the draft of the act, who at the time was the poster man for anti-cannabis campaigns. He commented that Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”
“Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana usage.”
This also proves that there was an attachment of a lot of racial prejudice behind the prohibition of marijuana. The agenda had involvement of political motives and other industries made use of it as a strategy to get ahead. When the act went through approval, cannabis, and hemp products were no longer available for public retail via pharmacies or drug stores.
However, this was not always what the act was made out to be. Originally the act aimed to tax hemp cultivators heavily. This way even the government could make a share of the revenues. However, there was a change in the course of events when the American Medical Association started to oppose the act and insisted that Cannabis should be under government regulation as a narcotic drug.
Why did these allegations lead to a ban?
Most people believe that this propaganda had the aim of bringing the Hemp Industry down. The downfall of Hemp would greatly benefit its substitutes in the market. Hemp was on its way to be a super crop. Farmers over the years identified different uses of the crop. It’s a key ingredient to making multiple necessities that had a demand all around the globe.
It is stated that the hemp crop can make over 25,000 products. These products include fiber, plastic, and medicines that could massively change the industrial structures of the economy. It was likely to make the synthetic fiber industry completely redundant in the long run.
It also had the psychoactive element; THC that would bring the downfall of other relaxants in the market that included alcohol! A mega-player behind the agenda. This was to hinder the development of Marijuana’s medicinal properties and make the drug easily available to the public.
The future of Hemp for the US
Currently, it is legal to retail and use CBD products that pass the legal standard of containing 0.3% levels of THC. The farm bill act also transferred much of that autonomy to Hemp farmers and cultivators, deeming it legal to grow the cannabis crop. However, this does not include all species of Cannabis Sativa. This only applied to those crops that did not contain the psychoactive element.
Although it is still allowed to import different species with different THC contents. This will help the industry expand and flourish further. Despite its illegality, the CBD industry generated a whopping revenue of 10.4 Billion in 2018 alone. With the policy changes and softening stance of big corporations like FDA, that revenue expected to double in the coming years.