BY Op-ED Blogger Quinton Charles
If you take CBD or are even interested in trying it you have probably had at least one person make a joke or question you about hemp. In this day and age almost no one knows that hemp has a rich history that has not always been riddled with questions and implications. As a matter of fact, hemp has not always been taboo. Surprising, huh? In fact, it was not until the start of the 20th century, that hemp’s use as a medicine declined due to increased use of opiates and the development of the modern syringe needle. At that same time, petroleum oils also began to replace hemp for use as fuel and as the base of other products. Boo. Let’s learn more.
Hemp was fully legal to grow, sell, and use until 1937. This changed when Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and Representative Robert L. Doughton introduced a House bill that would essentially criminalize the cultivation, use, and sale of hemp by requiring anyone to have permission from Congress in the form of a tax stamp to engage in the above activities.
So Why Criminalize?
Anslinger had expressed a concern that an increased number of people were using marijuana recreationally in the United States, and claimed that hemp and marijuana were the same plants (which we know to be blatantly untrue.) There were also growing political pressures from large industries to transition from hemp to other materials that were more profitable to new businesses. At the time, hemp was used as a cheap substitute for wood-based paper, and was often used in newspapers. Randolph Hearst, the famed American newspaper owner, had large holdings and investments in the lumber industry and wanted to see his competition for a paper source done away with. Several other industry leaders, such as the Du Pont family, of chemical and materials fame, had recently been supporting their new fabric, nylon, which was competing with hemp in the fabrics market. In their eyes, hemp had to go!
The First Convicts
The law effectively banning hemp went into effect on October 1, 1937. One day later, in Denver, Colorado, Mr. Samuel R. Caldwell was arrested for the sale of cannabis to a Mr. Moses Baca (who was arrested for possession). Mr. Caldwell was sentenced to pay a fine of one thousand dollars and to serve four years of hard labor in prison. These two men were the first individuals convicted of a cannabis-related charge in U.S. history.
Overturn of “1937”
In 1969, a U.S. Supreme Court case, Leary v. United States, found that the “Marihuana Act,” originally passed in 1937, was unconstitutional, as it required self-incrimination, which was in direct violation of the 5th amendment of the United States Constitution. This resulted in a very brief period of time during which cannabis was decriminalized.
One year after Leary v. United States, in 1970, the “Controlled Substances Act” was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon, and criminalized cannabis plants by scheduling them with other, far more dangerous, drugs like heroin and cocaine.
It wasn’t until 1996 that California legalized the use of cannabis products, including medical-grade marijuana, for treatment of HIV/AIDS and certain cancers. Shortly thereafter, Canada, which had taken a similar policy to the United States, legalized medical use of cannabis. However, restrictions federally still applied and research was rare on cannabis use to treat certain conditions. It was not until 2014 that a Farm Bill Legitimized Hemp growth for Industrial Hemp research. This allowed Hemp to be grown and used instead of importing it, allowing for the change of direction in what used to be illegal. We were on our way!
Legalization of Hemp Cultivation
The industry began to grow and companies began looking to produce and sell CBD. Although one had to be growing for research purposes companies were beginning to make and sell CBD products for their neutralizing benefits. The industry began to take off but it was not until 2018, that for the first time since 1937, industrial-scale cultivation of hemp was legislatively legal. The 2018 Farm Bill decriminalized the industrial growing of hemp and opened the market to all sorts of hemp products. This has led to enormous growth in the CBD oil market and hemp fibers market. While there still is a lot of work to be done to fully recognize the benefits of hemp and all of its uses in the modern world, it is nice to look back and see that the trend is onward and upwards for hemp!