Marijuana, pot, hemp, ganja, reefer, by whatever name you call it, the cannabis plant and humanity have had a long and beneficial relationship throughout most of our mutual existence.
Today, most people know cannabis as marijuana, an illegal weed cultivated mostly for recreational and a growing list of medicinal purposes. Cannabis prohibition is a relatively recent development in our long history with the much maligned and misunderstood plant, initiated by racist ideologies and industrial greed, maintained to this day for reasons that cannot be rationally explained.
How Did We Get Here?
Marijuana prohibition in the twentieth century first occurred in countries where white minorities ruled black majorities. South Africa banned cannabis in 1911, Jamaica outlawed ganja in 1913, followed shortly by Canada, Britain and New Zealand, all of which added cannabis to their lists of prohibited drugs in the 1920s.
In the United States hemp prohibition was rather haphazard until the 21st Amendment, ratified in 1933, ended our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition. At the time, people of color, most often African-Americans and Hispanic immigrants, were the primary users of cannabis.
White society sought every means available to keep non-whites “in their proper place,” so even if anyone had noticed the double standard involved. Prohibiting alcohol had required a constitutional amendment, but other legal substances did not? !!!
Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and an open racist, made criminalization of cannabis his top priority. Anslinger began churning out deceptive propaganda like 1937′s “Marihuana: Assassin of Youth,” featuring gross distrotions such as the story of Victor Licata from Tampa, Fla., who killed his family with an axe in 1933 after supposedly becoming insane from smoking marijuana. Anslinger conveniently omitted the part of the story where the Tampa police had tried to have Licata committed to a mental institution before he ever began smoking marijuana.
Anslinger’s other favorite tactic was to encourage an irrational fear that young white girls would be forever ruined if they ever experienced the sublime pleasure of the black man’s reefer. “Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with female students (white) smoking and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution,” Anslinger wrote, “Result, pregnancy.”
Harry Anslinger played on the deep seated fear of miscegenation among the white population to further his agenda. When he finally got his wish and cannabis was federally prohibited in 1937, few Americans had ever heard of marijuana. Those who had, likely had no idea it was hemp; the same useful crop their families had grown and depended on for everything from cloth to paper to food for generations. Cannabis prohibition was largely the work of a few short-sighted, racist white men and quite possibly influenced by powerful industrial interests of the day.
Hemp made the great sailing ships of the age of discovery possible. Ninety percent of all ships’ sails, from the time of the ancient Phoenicians into the age of steam ships, were made from hemp canvas. The English word “canvas” is in fact derived from a Greek word κάνναβις (kánnabis) which was originally Scythian or Thracian. Until the twentieth century almost all ship’s rigging, anchor ropes, cargo nets, fishing nets, flags, shrouds, and oakum (a preparation of tarred fiber used for caulking the joints of timbers in wooden ships) were made from the stalks of the cannabis plant.
In the United States up to eighty percent of all fabrics used for clothing, tents, linens, rugs, drapes, towels, etc., were primarily manufactured from hemp fibers until the 1820′s (and into the twentieth century across much of the world). The 1893 through 1910 editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica indicated that at least half of all the linen in the world was made from cannabis, not flax.
By 1840 most hand operated cotton gins in the U.S. had been replaced by superior industrial looms and gins from Europe, establishing cotton as the most profitable textile crop in America. Textiles made from cannabis are softer, more absorbent, much more durable, and have three times the tensile strength of comparable cotton fabrics. Well constructed hemp clothing can, with proper care, literally last for generations .
Until the 1880′s, 75% – 90% of the paper in the world was made recycling worn-out clothes, canvas sails, sheets, diapers, and other rags, most of which, as we have seen, were made from hemp. Until passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, 70% – 90% of all rope and cordage in the United States was also made from hemp. After 1937, new petroleum based fibers, such as DuPont’s nylon, replaced most hemp-based textiles.
Industrial Hemp Fuel & Oils
Until about 1800, hemp seed oil was the most common oil used for lighting in America and much of the world. From the start of the nineteenth century until the 1870s, hemp seed oil was the second only to whale oil, despite being a brighter, cleaner burning product. Near the end of the nineteenth century both whale oil and hemp seed oil were replaced by cheaper petroleum products such as kerosene.
Many of the world’s best paints and varnishes were once made from hemp seed oil. According to Congressional testimony by the National Institute of Oilseed Products, in 1935 alone, 58,000 tons of hemp seeds were used for paint and varnish in the United States. The after prohibition, most of the oil and varnish business went to the petrochemical industry.
Hemp biomass can be converted to methane, methanol or gasoline at a fraction of the cost of oil or coal, especially when environmental costs are factored into the formula. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass comes from crops that can be replanted at least once every year. Young, rapidly growing plants remove more carbon from the atmosphere than slower growing plants such as mature trees. Also, unlike crops such as corn or soybeans, cannabis requires fewer synthetic inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers, and can be grown at a much higher density as well.
Cannabis Food & Medicine
From 1842 through the 1890s, cannabis extracts, tinctures and elixirs were among the most commonly used medicines in the United States. Cannabis based medicines have for centuries been used in treating fatigue, rheumatism, asthma, delirium tremens, migraine headaches, and menstrual cramps. Modern research demonstrates many other uses for cannabis including treatment of glaucoma, nausea, cancers, epilepsy, infections, stress, anorexia, depression, and arthritis.
Hemp seed has been used in porridge, soups, and gruels by people around the world for centuries. Cannabis seeds contain a highly nutritious vegetable oil with high concentrations of essential fatty acids in perfect proportions for use by the human body. These essential oils are helpful in clearing arteries of cholesterol and plaque and also play a role in the behavior of the human immune system.
Hemp seed oil extraction produces a very high quality protein cake byproduct that can be ground and baked into cakes, breads and casseroles. Cannabis seed protein is one of the most complete vegetable proteins known to man and is one of the most complete human food sources in the world.
One acre of marijuana can produce as much cellulose pulp as more than four acres of timber (Dewey & Merrill, Bulletin #404, United States Dept. of Agriculture, 1916), and cannabis is the perfect material to replace trees for making pressed board, particle board, concrete construction molds. A fire-resistant construction material with excellent thermal and sound-insulating qualities can also be made from hemp by heating and compressing plant fibers, resulting in a strong construction panel which can replace plywood or drywall. Another material, called isochanvre, is made from hemp hurds mixed with lime. The mixture petrifies over time and will last for centuries. A bridge from the Merovingian period (500-751 A.D.) in the south of France exemplifies this process.
Marijuana is perhaps the safest recreational intoxicant known to man. There are no recorded instances of cannabis overdose in the history of the world, and while smoking pot can definitely be habit forming, marijuana is not physically addictive.
Between 95 and 100 million Americans admit to having tried cannabis at least once, and nearly 15 million say they have used it in the last month. One 2006 study found that marijuana is now the leading cash crop in the U.S., exceeding the value of both corn and wheat, despite it’s continuing status as a Schedule I narcotic in the eyes of our federal government.
People have been finding ways to “get high” almost as long as we’ve been human, and we always will. Whenever some people decide to indulge in anything that might be fun, there will always be another group of people ready and willing to do almost anything to stop them. This leads to a thing we call prohibition, and no matter how you try to implement it, prohibition never works.
A huge black market in cannabis exists today around the world, due entirely to ill conceived prohibition laws. Prohibition encourages violent criminal activity and deprives our government of much needed tax revenues. Additionally, the United States has an incarceration rate of 743 per 100,000 people (as of 2009), the highest in the world.
Hemp is a valuable, annually renewable natural resource, capable of meeting many of the world’s paper, textile, fuel, construction, and other industrial needs, as well as providing a source of highly nutritious food and safe, effective medications. In a world plagued by dwindling fossil fuel reserves and a host of pollution and population related issues, creative use of the cannabis plant ought to be among our top national security priorities, rather than an excuse to imprison millions of otherwise law-abiding, constructive citizens.
Get the facts. Government propaganda is still preaching the myths and lies of “Reefer Madness”.
Originally posted, here.