It’s actually the REAL reason that marijuana is illegal. Because hemp competed with paper and cotton. William Hearst decided that it was too ruthless of a competitor to his paper company so he used his newspapers to launch a campaign against hemp. However he realized nobody would care about hemp, so he fixated on the by-product. Hence the term “Yellow Journalism” which was coined from this very event.
The hemp plant is the most versatile crop in the entire plant kingdom. Our country was founded on hemp. George Washington was the largest hemp farmer in he world during the late 1700′s. Thomas Jefferson called on farmers to “plant hemp seed, not tobacco”. In fact, hemp was legal tender for almost 200 years in the United States. That’s right, you could even pay your taxes with hemp! In the late 1800′s hemp production slipped due to a lack of processing technology; paper production began using cheaper trees and cotton.
From 1901 to 1937, the U.S. Department of Agriculture repeatedly predicted that once machinery capable of harvesting, stripping, and separating hemp fiber was engineered, hemp production would again be America’s number one cash crop.
Then, in a February 1938 article entitled New Billion Dollar Crop, Popular Mechanics magazine reported on the new hemp harvesting technology being developed by International Harvester. But some people had plans to make this plant illegal for farmers to cultivate.
Three men, Henry J. Anslinger, Lammont DuPont, and William Randolph Hearst, made growing hemp illegal. Anslinger was the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. DuPont and Hearst were the owners of the largest chemical company and newspaper, respectively.
Why would these men want hemp made illegal?
Trees had become the number one paper source during this time. hearst, in addition to owning a nationwide chain of newspapers, also owned every bit of timber used to make them. The new threat of cheap hemp meant that trees would no longer be the cheapest source of paper. DuPont had patented the process for producing synthetic nylon from oil and coal as well as a new improved sulfate process to make paper from wood pulp. If DuPont would have had to compete against environmentally-friendly hemp products, his business would have suffered.
How did they make hemp illegal?
Hearst began printing outlandish stories with headlines such as “Marijuana goads user to blood lust” and “Hotel clerk identifies Marijuana smoker as gunman”. He also took advantage of the country’s prejudice against blacks and immigrants by printing that marijuana-crazed negroes were raping white women and by painting pictures of lazy, pot-smoking Mexicans. DuPont’s banker Andrew Mellon happened to be Secretary of the Treasury under Herbert Hoover. Mellon also had a nephew-in-law, Henry Anslinger, who had the Marijuana Tax Law of 1937 passed. When asked what this meant for industrial hemp farmers, Anslinger flatly declared “They can continue to raise hemp just as they have always done it. It makes very fine cordage and this legislation exempts the mature stalk when it is grown for hemp purposes.” However, due to the overall similarity in appearance between hemp and marijuana, the entire Cannabis family was made illegal. Hemp made a brief resurgence during World War II after Japan cut of supplies for raw fibers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the short film Hemp For Victory encouraging all farmers to grow hemp for the war effort. However, it went back to its illegal standing after the war.