By Emily Patti
For centuries, hemp was grown on American soil. The viable, adaptable crop was essential to the growth of industry. Thomas Jefferson endorsed it, declaring, “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” During World War II, the U.S. government instituted a program to supply material for military equipment by contracting with farmers to grow hemp. The “Hemp for Victory” effort made sense, but politically the timing was a bit perplexing, considering that a mere five years earlier, Congress had passed the Marijuana Tax Act.
A veritable kaleidoscope of misinformation and misguided policymaking, the Marijuana Tax Act defined Cannabis sativa as a narcotic drug, regardless of plant variety or THC content. The law effectively made hemp, which has no narcotic value, guilty by association. As destructive as the Marijuana Tax Act was to American hemp farming, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 put the nail in the proverbial coffin.
While the rest of the industrialized world continues to grow industrial hemp and benefit from the plant’s nutritional content and environmental advantages, American farmers must wait patiently on the sidelines and watch the increasing popularity of hemp products that could have been grown and produced domestically. Hemp History Week (June 3-9) is a nationwide grassroots marketing and public education effort to inform the public on the potential of hemp as an economic stimulant and to encourage positive legislative changes. Organized by the Hemp Industries Association and Vote Hemp, the 4th Annual Hemp History Week celebration promises hundreds of promotions and events, including the Hemp History Week college campus road show, a premiere screening of the documentary Bringing it Home, and an online letter-writing drive to encourage legislators and President Obama to support hemp farming legislation.