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Heavily stigmatized crop of hemp making comeback in the United States

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Lumped in category with narcotics as marijuana and heroin, hemp is environmentally friendly crop

Hemp is a quintessentially American crop. The nation's first big cash crop before the United States officially became the United States, none other than Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft of the declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Unfortunately, as it comes from the same plant that produces marijuana, cannabis sativa, hemp has been unjustly lumped in with such illicit narcotics as dope and heroin. There are signs that this old stigma towards the crop is now rapidly fading, as states across the nation campaign for their right to cultivate hemp.

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Now legal to cultivate in Kentucky, hemp is also legal in 15 other U.S. states that have removed barriers to hemp production.

Now legal to cultivate in Kentucky, hemp is also legal in 15 other U.S. states that have removed barriers to hemp production.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
6/1/2014 (5 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Hemp. marijuana, stigma, narcotic, Kentucky


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The latest such victory came in the state of Kentucky last week. That state won a lawsuit against the federal government for the right to plant a shipment of hemp seeds that had been impounded. In spite of having a much lower THC level than found in marijuana, hemp remains classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug - on par with heroin.

Hemp was outlawed in 1937 as part of a war on marijuana. However, this year's Farm Bill, passed in February contains a provision that allows colleges and state agencies to grow and conduct research on the plant - in the U.S. states that allow it.

Starvation never takes a vacation --

Now legal to cultivate in Kentucky, hemp is also legal in 15 other U.S. states that have removed barriers to hemp production.

Hemp seeds are bred to produce plants with 0.3 to 1.5 percent THC, the intoxicant found in marijuana. However, marijuana contains five to 15 percent THC. The ingredient that is found in hemp is far too low to have a demonstrable intoxicating effect.

Hemp has long been seen as an environmentally friendly source of paper, textiles, oils and biodegradable plastics.

Kentucky has long led the U.S. in hemp production, with a mid-19th century peak of 40,000 tons per year.

The use of hemp was briefly legal for use during World War II. In fact, cultivating hemp was considered a patriotic duty as part of the government's Hemp for Victory campaign. Foreign sources of textiles, ropes and fibers came under enemy occupation and the U.S. needed to grow its own.

A hemp-rigged parachute saved George H.W. Bush's life while he served in the armed forces. The cultivation of hemp was phased out after the war ended.

Hemp was looked upon as deadly narcotic beginning in the early 20th century. Powerful petrochemical and pulp-paper industries realized they stood to lose billions if hemp's potential was fully realized. 

Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst and Lammont Du Pont, the head of the multinational petrochemical conglomerate, spearheaded this anti-hemp movement.

Du Pont lobbied the U.S. Treasury Department from 1935 to 1937 to enact federal legislation that would stymie hemp's increasing production.

Andrew Mellon, Du Pont's banker and then-secretary of the Treasury reportedly "piled on the pressure for federal legislation. He too had vested interests in seeing hemp suppressed, since he was a major shareholder in Gulf Oil and a huge mining concern in Pennsylvania, not to mention a number of utility companies," historian Martin Booth writes.

Actor Woody Harrelson in 1996 protested the criminalization of growing hemp by planting four hemp seeds on his land in Kentucky, later showing up to his trial in hemp clothing.

To date, there are over 300 U.S. companies importing hemp to produce a range of products, including luggage, clothing, oils, cosmetics, soap, textiles, skate- and surfboards, ropes and more.

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