Abstract The benefits gained from the legalization of hemp far outweigh the costs of prohibiting it. Through hours of research of documented studies, I was able to find cases where hemp not only matched, but exceeded the textile and monetary gains of other commonly used products. It’s also a far more environmentally friendly option than many other choices available today. Why, then, is this product still outlawed?
Not only was the first draft of the Declaration of Independence written on paper made from hemp, it was made from hemp grown by one of our own presidents, Thomas Jefferson, and it was grown by both Jefferson and George Washington. Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that produced hemp products. It’s been grown around the world for the last 12,000 years as a source of fiber for products and food. Though hemp is a strain of cannabis, it has many industrial uses, including pulp for paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, a source of nutritious food and fuel. Since 2007, the commercial success of legally produced hemp in countries such as Spain, China, Japan, Korea, England, France, Africa, North Africa, Egypt and Ireland has grown considerably. In the United States, on the other hand, hemp has been banned since 1937. For the first 162 years of America's existence, both hemp and its close cousin, marijuana, were totally legal. In fact, the first crop grown in many of the original colonies was hemp, and when the United States’ supply of Manila hemp was compromised by Japan during World War II, the Army and Department of Agriculture encouraged the national growth of “Hemp for Victory.” Hemp was a required crop in the original thirteen colonies due to its importance for the development canvas (the origin of the word “canvas” is rooted in the word “cannabis”). Until the 1880’s, all school books were made from hemp products. However, during the 1930's, the United States government and the media began spreading outrageous lies and propaganda about the evils and dangers of marijuana, which led to the illegalization of both products due to the similarities in appearance. Through careful observation and common sense, it is, in fact, very possible to differentiate between the two. Why then is a wonderfully useful and versatile product, described in 1938 by Popular Mechanics as the “New Billion Dollar Crop,” still outlawed today? Until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1957, hemp was a commonly grown product in the United States. The Tax Act, in addition to placing an incredibly high tax on weed, virtually doomed the hemp industry as a whole by requiring that all hemp fields be overly secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards and lights, making it impossible to break even due to the high costs of funding such an endeavor. Strangely enough, Congress expected the continuation of the growth of hemp. However, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and it's heir, the Drug Enforcement Administration banned hemp due to the "problems of detection and enforcement" that occurred when attempting to differentiate between cannabis and hemp, a point that was reinforced during the court ruling in New Hampshire Hemp Council, Inc. v. Marshall. The DEA then classified all cannabis sativa varieties as marijuana. The assumption that weed and hemp were the same thing was not helped at all by the fact that farmers continued to grow marijuana, hidden in their hemp fields, though it's somewhat easy to differentiate between the two, given that marijuana is spread far apart to maximize leaves, and hemp is grown closely together to maximize the stalk and is