Henry Ford in his hemp plantation
(This is the second of three posts about the Industrial Hemp Farming Act Bill, sponsored by Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.)
The Decline of Hemp
Hemp first began losing ground in 1850 to cheaper substitutes made of cotton, jute, sisal and petroleum. Prior to the 1920s, hemp had to be processed by hand, involving huge labor costs incompatible with mass commercial production. Henry Ford, one of the first modern conservationists, remained a strong hemp advocate and had his own hemp plantation on his estate in Dearborn Michigan (http://www.hemphasis.net/History/history.htm). The body of his 1908 Model T was made of hemp-based plastic, which has far greater tensile strength and durability than steel. After George W Schlicten automated hemp processing in 1917 with a new machine called the hemp decoricator, Ford set up the first biomass fuel production plant in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Ford ran the first Model T on corn-based ethanol (alcohol), but was quick to recognize hemp as a cheaper and more efficient fuel source. His engineers in Iron Mountain developed processes to extract not only ethanol from hemp, but charcoal and other industrial chemicals, including tar, ethyl acetate and creosote. The 1919 Prohibition against alcohol, coupled with the growing political power of the oil lobby, derailed Ford’s plans. By 1920 gasoline had replaced ethanol as the auto fuel of choice.
The Corporate Conspiracy to End Hemp Cultivation
All this was happening at the precise moment that the munitions company DuPont was patenting synthetic fibers (nylon, rayon, Dacron, etc) and plastics derived from petroleum. Schlicten’s hemp decoricator and automated hemp processing, posed a major threat to DuPont’s ability to market their synthetic fibers for products previously made from hemp. DuPont also had a commercial interest in promoting wood-based paper production (they held the patent on the sulfates and sulfites used to produce paper pulp) and gasoline. They also held the patent on tetraethyl lead, which allowed gasoline to burn more smoothly in the engine Ford intended to run on ethanol (http://www.hemphasis.net/History/history.htm).
The main co-conspirators in the plot to kill hemp included DuPont, William Randolph Hearst (who owned a logging company and paper manufacturing plant in addition to his American newspaper empire) and Andrew Mellon, president of Mellon Bank and DuPont’s major financier (http://www.ozarkia.net/bill/pot/blunderof37.html). In 1930, Mellon, as US Secretary of the Treasury, created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and appointed his nephew Henry Anslinger to run it. Between 1935 and 1937, Anslinger and a handful of DuPont’s cronies in Congress secretly wrote a bill to tax hemp production. Meanwhile Anslinger and Hearst orchestrated a massive media campaign demonizing a dangerous new drug called marihuana that supposedly turned Mexicans and black jazz musician into crazed killers. Congress was also deliberately tricked into believing marihuana was a totally new drug. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was rushed through on a Friday afternoon before lawmakers had a chance to read it. Only a handful realized marihuana was the same as hemp, which was still viewed as an essential crop and vital to the paint and varnish industry (http://druglibrary.net/schaffer/Library/studies/vlr/vlr4.htm).
Between 1941 and 1945 the Marihuana Transfer Tax was waived, after Japan embargoed the sale of hemp, jute and other fibers essential to the war industry. The US government once again encouraged Americans to grow hemp for patriotic reasons (http://www.hempadvocates.org/understand.html). Farmers who planted it were exempted from the draft. Hemp was legally grown in Minnesota as late as 1968. In 1970 the Controlled Substances Act officially equated hemp with the drug marijuana and help cultivation became illegal. This was the same year the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was declared unconstitutional (http://www.hemphasis.net/History/history.htm).