The Suppression of Hemp: Economic and Political Agendas over the Last 100 Years

Hemp, a versatile and sustainable plant with a long history of human use, has been the subject of intense suppression over the past century. This suppression has been driven by a complex interplay of economic and political agendas, with far-reaching consequences for the environment, the economy, and society as a whole.

Economic Motives

One of the primary drivers of hemp suppression has been the economic interests of the paper and timber industries. In the early 20th century, hemp emerged as a viable alternative to wood pulp for paper production. However, the powerful paper and timber industries, fearing competition, lobbied heavily for the prohibition of hemp. This lobbying effort resulted in the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively outlawed the cultivation and processing of hemp in the United States.

The suppression of hemp also benefited the petrochemical industry. Hemp fibres can be used to produce a variety of products, including textiles, plastics, and fuel. However, the development of synthetic fibres and plastics from petroleum sources led to a decline in the demand for hemp-based products. The petrochemical industry, with its vested interests in fossil fuels, played a significant role in perpetuating the negative perception of hemp.

Political Agendas

In addition to economic motivations, the suppression of hemp has also been driven by political agendas. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was not solely based on concerns about the psychoactive properties of hemp; it was also a tool of racial and social control. During the early 20th century, hemp was associated with Mexican immigrants and African Americans, groups that were already facing discrimination and marginalisation. The criminalisation of hemp served to further stigmatise these groups and reinforce existing social hierarchies.

The political suppression of hemp has continued in recent years, despite growing scientific evidence of its benefits. In 2004, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibited farmers from growing hemp under a pilot program, despite the fact that the program had been approved by Congress. This prohibition was overturned in 2014, but hemp cultivation is still subject to significant restrictions.

Consequences of Hemp Suppression

The suppression of hemp has had far-reaching consequences for the environment, the economy, and society.

  • Environmental Impact: Hemp is a highly sustainable crop that requires minimal inputs and has a positive impact on soil health. Its suppression has contributed to deforestation, water pollution, and the use of harmful pesticides and fertilisers.
  • Economic Impact: Hemp is a versatile plant with a wide range of potential applications. Its suppression has deprived the economy of a valuable source of renewable materials and has stifled innovation in various industries.
  • Social Impact: The suppression of hemp has had a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities, further reinforcing existing social inequalities. It has also perpetuated negative stereotypes and misinformation about hemp, hindering its potential to improve people’s lives.

The suppression of hemp is a complex issue with a long history. Economic interests, political agendas, and misinformation have all played a role in perpetuating this suppression, with detrimental consequences for the environment, the economy, and society. As the world seeks more sustainable and equitable solutions, it is crucial to recognise the potential of hemp and to revisit the policies that have hindered its development. By embracing hemp, we can create a more sustainable, prosperous, and just future for all. Hemp is the peoples plant after all !