Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy Theory
Pot isn’t illegal because the paper industry is afraid of competing with hemp — it’s because of racism and the culture wars.
Scratch a pothead and ask them why marijuana is outlawed, and there’s a good chance you’ll get some version of the “hemp conspiracy” theory. Federal pot prohibition, the story goes, resulted from a plot by the Hearst and DuPont business empires to squelch hemp as a possible competitor to wood-pulp paper and nylon. These allegations can be found anywhere from Wikipedia entries on William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont Company to comments on pot-related articles published here on AlterNet. And these allegations are virtually unchallenged; many people fervently believe in the hemp conspiracy, even though the evidence to back it up vaporizes under even minimal scrutiny.
You could make a stronger case for Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin of John F. Kennedy; Oswald at least left a not-quite-smoking gun at the scene.
Pot activist Jack Herer’s book The Emperor Wears No Clothes is the prime source for the hemp-conspiracy theory. It alleges that in the mid-1930s, “when the new mechanical hemp fiber stripping machines to conserve hemp’s high-cellulose pulp finally became state of the art, available and affordable,” Hearst, with enormous holdings in timber acreage and investments in paper manufacturing, “stood to lose billions of dollars and perhaps go bankrupt.” Meanwhile, DuPont in 1937 had just patented nylon and “a new sulfate/sulfite process for making paper from wood pulp” — so “if hemp had not been made illegal, 80 percent of DuPont’s business would never have materialized.”
Herer, a somewhat cantankerous former marijuana-pipe salesman, deserves a lot of credit for his cannabis activism. He was a dedicated grass-roots agitator for pot legalization during the late 1980s, perhaps the most herb-hostile time in recent history. Despite a substantial stroke in 2001, he soldiers on; he’s currently campaigning to get a cannabis-legalization initiative on the ballot in Santa Barbara, California. The Emperor — an omnivorous conglomeration of newspaper clippings and historical documents about hemp and marijuana, held together by Herer’s cannabis evangelism and fiery screeds against prohibition — has been a bible for many pot activists. Unearthing a 1916 Department of Agriculture bulletin about hemp paper and a World War II short film that exhorted American farmers to grow “Hemp for Victory,” Herer more than anyone else revived the idea that the cannabis plant was useful for purposes besides getting high. Unfortunately, he’s completely wrong on this particular issue. The evidence for a “hemp conspiracy” just doesn’t stand up. It is far more likely that marijuana was outlawed because of racism and cultural warfare.
Wood-pulp paper sulphide production ……
Synthetic nylon ……
Fossil fuels …
Chemical production – fertilizers, pesticides ….
Clear cut logging ….
Hardly a sustainable base for industry!
Think back to when these industries began. Which of all crops served to threaten the chances of making mega-bucks? – it was hemp!
What do businesses attempt to do with competitors?- beat them (at the least) but preferably eradicate them.
‘Have we all been conned by money-motivated conspirators?’ ask the Campaign to Legalize Cannabis International Association (CLCIA)
There are too many coincidences to out rule the conspiracy theory. Jack Herer notes that hemp was outlawed around the same time as nylon, plastics from coal derivatives and the wood-paper pulp sulphide process were patented by DuPont. This was also around the time that the first machinery for mechanical hemp fibre stripping had been developed. Timber and paper industries would have lost out and, if hemp remained legal, ‘80% of Du Pont’s business would have never come to be; nor would the great majority of pollution’.
Similarly oil companies kept prices low and then increased them for big profits once hemp oil was outlawed. Hemp has also been written out of history – not many people know that it was the mainstay of human culture for centuries.
Although the British government and some American states are beginning to allow farmers to grow hemp under licence, there is still much resistance because of the powerful vested interests that be – notably:
Chemical Industry – providers of fertilizers and pesticides for the cotton industry
Fuel Companies (oil and nuclear)