Hemp Wars, Part I – M. Wizard

by Mariann G. Wizard

“Scratch a stupid law, find a special interest.” Liberals, progressives, and leftists know this. Stupid laws serving special interests get our goat — we fight ’em, and often, we win. But one set of stupid laws, serving some of the most powerful, corrupt, and controlling special interests in the U.S. and the world, seems exempt from progressive criticism.

Most progressives privately agree that hemp/”marijuana”/cannabis prohibition is a senseless effort if ever there was one. Yet many people who use pot, activists or passivists, fear to join efforts to relegalize it. Public employees, high tech workers, and busdrivers fear for their jobs. Carpenters, salesmen, and bank executives fear for their liberty and/or homes. Unlike some movements for social change, espousing hemp relegalization doesn’t only imply the exercise of one’s Constitutional rights to independent thought and expression. There is a flat assumption that anyone favoring legalizing marijuana smokes it. People who don’t use it don’t care to be identified with those who say they do, for fear of being tarred by the same smoke.

And they’re right to be wary not smoking doesn’t guarantee immunity from government seizure of property or consequences of a faulty urine test.

But in a room with a few dozen movers and shakers sharing their goals for the new year, the social or economic problems that most engage them, one says, “I want to end world hunger; end prison crowding; stop deforestation; reduce use of petrochemicals and their consequent pollution; save the American family farm while improving the economic condition of hundreds of thousands of peasants and farmers worldwide; relieve suffering AIDS victims and other ill people with a harmless, natural, thousands-of-years-old medication; reduce substance abuse by adequately funding truthful drug education and treatment programs; provide a superior substitute for cotton, the most chemically-intensive crop grown; reduce landfills by increased use of biodegradable materials, including plastics; and, finally, increase prospects for world peace by the combined, multiple, and synergistic interactions of all the foregoing. I want to relegalize hemp.”

Here come the nudges, the winks, a whispered, “Oh, wow, do people still get high?” Someone laughs; someone else gets the tight-lipped look of the terminally moral. But it’s not self-indulgence, not anymore, folks! We are losing lives, liberties, and livelihoods for want of a God-given plant that can, truly, contribute to saving life on Earth! Wake up and smell the ganja: what if there isn’t anything more important, in the long run!

“Scratch a stupid law; find a special interest.” A real stupid, harmful law in this case; a big bad combo of the toughest, most entrenched, most destructive — to human life and to the Earth — special interests we have. Yet progressives fear them all less than they fear being seen as “frivolous!” Fear no longer, friends! You don’t have to smoke marijuana to want hemp relegalized!


Marijuana prohibition was driven by specific commercial interests. Hemp re-legalization is driven by broad economic, environmental and civil libertarian interests, and commercial interests must be led to follow.

William Randolph Hearst, “Father of Yellow Journalism,” started the whole racist “reefer madness” scare. He owned timberlands as well as newspapers. Hemp paper competed with timber, and, with hemp-harvesting equipment patented in 1937, could also have cut costs for Hearst’s news competitors.

Relegalization must include strong tax incentives to set aside woodlands from harvesting for pulp (clear-cutting), especially in the Big Thicket and similar areas; to grow hemp for paper on marginal farmlands; to convert paper mills from wood pulp to hemp fiber, including re-training funds; and, for major paper users, to use hemp paper instead of wood pulp paper (including favoring such products in public purchasing).

The DuPont chemical and Lilly pharmaceutical firms — increasingly reliant, as were industry counterparts, on petroleum — also pushed Cannabis prohibition. Cannabis sativa was used in dozens of cheap, safe, effective medicines Lilly et al, could not patent or control. DuPont had just introduced Nylon® and needed to market its svnthetic fiber. While we can hardly detail the consequences of world over-commitment to a scarce, irreplaceable, and dangerous resource and its attendant technologies here, suffice it to say that the Exxon Valdez spill, and hundreds like it, might never have happened if research into hemp-based products had progressed during the past sixty years. The December 1993 Austin Sierran, newsletter of the Austin Sierra Club, includes a chart comparing energy resources by cost of extraction and transport, pollution caused, relative abundance, and ease of disposal. Overall, biomass fuel outranks ail but solar energy on this chart. And hemp is the most rapidly and widely growing, self-renewing biomass on Earth.

Relegalization must include strong tax incentives to develop hemp fuels for all applications and to convert facilities to their production, including retraining funds; to develop hemp oil for inks, paints, varnishes, and other products now made from petroleum and to convert facilities to their production, including retraining funds; and, for major users, to use hemp fuel and hemp-based products (including fevering such products in public purchasing).

As for tobacco interests and beer, wine, and alcohol interests (distillers were just recovering from their own prohibition when ‘pot’hibition gave them a chance for new addicts), relegalization may cut into their profits. Let ’em whine — their products kill people; Cannabis does not!

“Moral guardians” also favored hemp’s prohibition, following Hearst’s lead. Federal anti-hempster Harry Anslinger, convinced of the debilitating effects of “killer weed,” testified that its use would make (horrors!!) pacifists of military age men.

Today, hemp activists take the moral Initiative, pointing out that truth in drug education is better than lies; that marijuana-only “offenses” are nonviolent, victimless crimes (Anslinger was right about something!); that everyone’s privacy is eroded by a public “war” against personal choice; and citing The Lord’s commandment to use “every seed-bearing plant” (Genesis 2:29-30, Reo. St. Ed.).

To chronicle the diverse ways in which the illegality of hemp has supported both the covert operations of the CIA and those of intelligence agencies of other nations, while not neglecting the criminal interests which benefit from all drugs’ black market status, would require more words and wild allegations than are available to or advisable for a homebody like your present writer. With these forces, I am not hopeful of accord, but confident that their adaptability will see them through relegalizalion! But if hemp foods, fibers, medicines,and fuel products fulfill their potential, we may see a decline of the centralized, stratified State in which such farces arise. Does any other single change in public policy offer this hope?

To be continued …

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