Hemp – History 101
Hemp seeds are one of nature’s most perfect foods. The seed is small, but packed with a highly digestible plant protein, which is free of trypsin-inhibitors and carries 18 amino acids making it a complete protein. They are an excellent source of iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and supply folate (Vitamin B9), thiamine (Vitamin B1), Vitamin B6; they contain riboflavin (Vitamin B2), niacin (Vitamin B3), potassium, calcium and Vitamin E. Hemp seeds are high in dietary fiber. This amazing seed does not stop there; they provide one of the highest concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids categorized as Omega-6 and Omega-3 in an ideal 3:1 ratio. Hemp seed oil uniquely contains naturally occurring Gamma-Linolenic Acid and Stearidonic Acid. This superior dense nutrition makes hemp seeds a perfectly balanced super food.
Hemp seeds come from the industrial hemp plant, also known as cannabis sativa L [aka hemp]. The cultivation of hemp has a long history and goes back for centuries. It has been documented that the Chinese were eating hemp seeds 8000 year ago and that in 5500 BC; hemp was the first known cultivated crop in Japan. The hemp plant not only provides us with an outstanding food source, all parts of the plant are usable and can provide the raw materials for thousands of products. Industrial hemp is a high-value, low-input crop, which can provide significant economic benefits to producers, manufacturers and consumers.
The cultivation of hemp is extremely eco friendly. By simply growing the hemp plant it helps our environment. It has a unique capability of actually removing contaminates from soil and water through a process called phytoremediation. The plant does not require pesticides or fertilizers, nor does the plant require a lot of water. Nutrients used by the growing plant are stored in the leaves and when left to mulch into the dirt, they replenish the soil. Hemp is truly a green crop and can provide many green products to the world since it does not need or create toxins when the plant matter is turned into usable goods.
Currently in the United States, industrial hemp is pretty much forbidden to be grown. You may be wondering if hemp has all these outstanding attributes; why aren’t U.S. farm fields abundant with hemp? Why are Americans missing out on such an outstanding food source; and why are U.S farmers being denied cultivation of the crop?
Hemp has not always been viewed in the United States as some kind of “devil weed”. In fact, it may surprise many Americans that the first hemp laws in America required the growing of hemp, not the banning of it. In 1619, it was ordered for farmers to grow hemp seed. More mandatory hemp cultivation laws were enacted in the 1630’s and in the mid-1700's. In fact, hemp was legal tender in most of the Americas from 1631 until the early 1800's. There was a 200 year time span when you could even pay your taxes with hemp. A jail sentence then was more likely if you did not grow hemp during periods of shortages. More recently, during World War II, there was a campaign in the U.S. called “Hemp for Victory” encouraging farmers to grow hemp to support the war efforts.
Hemp is a renewable raw material and has a long, positive, useful history. When Christopher Columbus sailed his ships in the 1400’s, the sails and ropes were made from the fiber of the hemp plant. Thomas Jefferson used hemp paper to draft the Declaration of Independence. The first Levi Jeans were made from hemp fabric. Henry Ford built an automobile from hemp that was extremely dent resistant and powered it with hemp seed oil and alcohol.
At the turn of the last century in the early 1900's, a prejudice, negative, political agenda started in the United States against hemp by influence of inaccurate information. Many Americans, politician, law enforcement, and county government officials were [and continue to be] misinformed about hemp. Within this last century, many have been led to believe that industrial hemp and marijuana are the same plant. They are not. Although hemp is a variety of cannabis, it does not contain psychoactive elements. It is not a drug. A person cannot get “high” when eating hemp seeds. An individual cannot get “high” from smoking hemp. [see CRS Report for Congress 7-5700 RL32725]
The demonization of hemp and marihuana took center stage when Harry Anslinger was appointed as the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Departments Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. Anslinger made it a personal goal to set off reefer madness hysteria. He claimed white women would seek out having sex with black men if they got their hand on a “marihuana” cigarette. He boasted how “marihuana” was a violent aggressive “drug” and it would make people “insane”.
This was prime timing and fuel for newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst, industrialist Lammont DuPont II, and U.S.Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon who put together a three-ring circus that would star Harry Anslinger’s act. It was Hearst and his publication that came up with the slang term “marihuana” [today also spelled marijuana] for the cannabis indica Lam plant. This is the variety of cannabis that gets tiny trichomes containing Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). THC is the psychoactive substance that produces the “high”. The stuff Harry Anslinger did not like that the “Negros and Mexicans” were smoking.
Was there a hemp Conspiracy?
Hemp was a direct competitor to paper and petroleum. Further, Henry Ford had begun working on trying to construct an automobile made from the cellulose in the hemp plant and he intended to use hemp oil to fuel it. Hearst had connections with DuPont who was working on patents for a new process which would make paper from wood. Hearst was the largest owner of wooded forests. The DuPont family had interests in synthetic fibers, petroleum oil and GM. The two were friends with Andrew Mellon who was the uncle to Harry Anslinger. Hearst, DuPont and Mellon had a great deal to financially gain if confusion and panic occurred with cannabis indica Lam (marihuana) and cannabis sativa L (hemp). It would open up a whole new industrial world if hemp were snuffed out of the American market; especially if indica Lam and sativa L were packaged in one bundle.
This muss and fuss would eventually lead to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Since marihuana was a slang term, many were unaware at that time that marihuana was actually cannabis and hemp. This paved the way to prohibition of cannabis. The original intent of the Tax Act was not necessarily to outlaw cannabis, but to tax it to death. The possession or transfer of hemp and cannabis indica in the United States became illegal without a permit. Yet, permits were rarely granted and the fees were very hefty. If caught without a permit, the penalties were very severe.
During World War II farmers would be requested to grow hemp for the war effort. After all, hemp did provide the finest materials for ropes and parachutes. This would be a short lived attempt in bringing hemp back to U.S. farm fields. During the 1950’s Harry Anslinger would jump on his box top convincing folks that marihuana and communism went hand in hand. Anslinger felt stiffer, more severe penalties were needed to keep this red inducing, highly addictive drug, off America’s streets.
Anslinger ruled as a Drug Czar for 32 years until 1962. His powerful, negative influence over marihuana never swayed. This continued to squash out the ability to grow industrial hemp. The contempt he carried for marihuana was based off prejudice not science. It is unfounded that marihuana actually caused any of the things Anslinger made claim to and many of these misconceptions have carried forward today.
When Anslinger gave up the helm, it was just about the time President Richard Nixon was stepping on board. Nixon made matters worse for hemp when he placed it within the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Nixon decided to classify cannabis/marihuana/hemp in the worst of the categories, placing it as a Schedule I Controlled Substance along with heroin and other highly addictive, no medical use drugs. The Shafer Commission, Nixon’s own appointed committee, had advised against placing cannabis as a control substance at all. Nixon’s personal prejudices contributed to going against his advisors. This strict classification scheduling system ended up including industrial hemp even though it was known it did not contain psychoactive properties and it was not a drug.
When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was signed it into power on July 28, 1973 by Nixon, just days before his resignation in August, the DEA was given the authority to enforce the Controlled Substance Act. Since 1973, the DEA has had control over the hemp plant, which is not a drug; it cannot be used to manufacture a drug. Hemp is a plant that is a nutritionally dense food source and a renewable raw material.
This outdated federal policy continues today due to ignorance and money. Removing hemp from the Controlled Substance Act has nothing to do with being “soft on drugs”. Although the DEA recognized that hemp is not a drug, they will not release permits to grow the crop, which could benefit consumers and manufacturers. The DEA claims the hemp plant would allow for marihuana plants to be hidden within the same field and cause control problems. This is not true, the industrial hemp plant and the cannabis plant known as marihuana, though similar, are different looking and sow differently.
The United States is one of the only industrialized countries that does not allow the cultivation of hemp. Any politician or public official, who does not want to support hemp farming in the U.S. is either misinformed, a coward to speak out, or is being led astray by the special interests who continue to benefit from hemp prohibition.
While the DEA spends millions of our tax dollars eradicating hemp fields (the plant that has no psychoactive elements for producing any kind of “high”); U.S. manufacturers are left to import the raw materials from hemp for the production of food and products. Worse, because of all this misinformation, many people are under the erroneous belief that eating hemp seeds will make them “high” not healthy.
Take time to know and understand your food choices. Don’t be fooled by political propaganda. Your health and well being is directly related to what you consume. Choose foods that provide good nutrition. Try Cousin Mary Jane's food products. They are delicious and nutritious.
Eat Hemp and You Eat Healthy!
To Your Good Health,
Cousin Mary Jane