How Did Hemp Become Illegal?

For almost two centuries, hemp was a common crop known by all Americans for its many industrial purposes. In the 1930’s, new industries such as cotton, plastics, liquor, and timber began to emerge.

Coincidentally, alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933 – during the middle of The Great Depression. Straight-laced bureaucrats were looking for another target and turned their attention to marijuana, which, at the time, was mostly being used in the Mexican and black communities. Then Harry Anslinger came along, the first director of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, now called the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Agency. He and his constituents painted the drug—and the communities using it—as a threat to the already crippled country and began the process of banning it.

Outside of prohibitive legislation, corporate interests had an undeniable influence on the outlawing of hemp. In the 1920s, businessmen like W.R. Hearst were threatened by hemp due to vested interests in the use of wood to produce paper. W.R. Hearst, who was in the newspaper business, owned forest acreage which was used to produce paper. He was so threatened by hemp that he produced menacing stories that framed minorities as immoral perpetuates of cannabis in his newspapers.

Making matters worse, Harry Anslinger, upheld W.R. Hearst’s exaggerated claims about the deleterious nature of the plant. Twenty-nine states had outlawed marijuana by 1931, and in 1937, Anslinger introduced the Marijauna Tax Act to Congress, essentially making the plant illegal in the United States.

After almost a century of misinformation about the plant largely fueled by systematic racism, America finds itself poised to give the plant another shot as a versatile and eco-friendly alternative for many products and industries. With great pride and intention in our work, we here at Cedar Valley are dedicated to dismantling the myths about hemp as we do our part to revive this long-lost American cash crop.


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