The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 strictly regulated the cultivation and sale of all cannabis varieties. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis, including hemp, as a Schedule I drug.
The question still remains to this day: Why did hemp get dragged down with marijuana?
Unfortunately, the standard answer to this question is, “They look too much alike, and it’s simply too hard to differentiate between the two.” That answer just doesn’t cut it, the two are actually pretty different. Hemp cannot get you high; it is an industrial crop. If you take the time to learn about marijuana and hemp, you will be able to identify the differences between the two relatively easy.
The conspiracy theory of why hemp was criminalized with marijuana goes a little something like this…
Prior to the 1800s, it was prevalent to see hemp products as mainly paper and textiles. After the invention of the cotton gin, hemp became a forgotten fiber because cotton was much more comfortable and cheaper to produce for textiles. In the early 1900s, George Schlichten introduced the Hemp Decorticator. This invention was going to revolutionize the hemp industry, making it much easier to process. Soon after, negative propaganda skyrocketed about the cannabis plant. W.R Hearst fabricated stories in his newspapers about this new drug called “marihuana,” which was causing blacks and Mexicans to rape and kill white women. Before his articles, marijuana was never used as slang for cannabis—Hearst intentionally did this to demonize this plant with a new name. This led to a propaganda movie in 1936 called Reefer Madness, which portrays cannabis as the most dangerous drug in the world.
So, why such an extreme effort to criminalize the cannabis plant? Not only did W.R Hearst own the largest newspaper company at the time, but he also owned many acres of forest that was used to create his papers. He wasn’t the only one trying to protect his interests. In the 1920s, DuPont invested heavily in synthetic fibers and also saw hemp as a threat. Not to mention, DuPont produced chemicals for processing timber into paper.
Things got even worse in the early 1930s after Harry J. Anslinger was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which is known today as the DEA. Anslinger targeted minorities and supported Hearst’s outrageous stories about cannabis. After nearly a decade of negative stories about cannabis and minorities, Anslinger proposed the Marijuana Tax Act to Congress, which was passed on August 2, 1937. The Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis. But included penalty and enforcement provisions to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers were subject (1).
Hemp farming was eventually officially banned altogether in 1970 with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in which hemp was included as a Schedule 1 drug.
Hemp Hemp Hooray!
To this day, we have millions of people fighting for cannabis legalization and decriminalization. It has been a tough battle ever since 1937, and it’s believed by many that big oil, pharmaceutical, cotton, & paper corporations still lobby to keep cannabis stigmatized.
The hemp industry in the U.S. received a boost with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed “institutions of higher education” and state agriculture departments to grow hemp under a pilot program as long as state law permitted it. Additionally, the 2014 bill established a definition of industrial hemp, officially setting the THC threshold in the U.S. at 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis (2).
On December 20, 2018 President Donald Trump signed into law The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – or as we know it, the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill confirms the legalization of hemp and provisions for its cultivation, transport, and sale. Industrial hemp and its derived products are now legal on a federal level, and states may choose how to move forward.
We still have quite a way to go until the negative stigma surrounding hemp (and cannabis in general) is gone, but that’s what we are all for. Get out and advocate – hemp is the future!