Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reefer Madness...

Reefer Madness, Du Pont, and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1939

By: Ken La Rive

(I do not in any way advocate the use of drugs in any shape or form, including marijuana. But we all deserve to know the possible reasons behind the law that has ruined an industry, and put countless people behind bars.)

I was slouching quite comfortably in the LaGuardia Airport several years ago, waiting in a stupor for my next flight, when suddenly a beautiful middle aged woman in loose khaki shirt and bright orange and purple oriental sarong, sat next to me. Now here was a world traveler, a woman of the world!

She briefly glanced and smiled in my direction as she lowered a well-stuffed knit bag from her shoulder to the white polished floor, straddling it protectively with her legs. We sat there in silence for some time, while she rummaged for what looked like something to read.

Suddenly, from around our row of seats, a security man and a small “sniffer” dog started in our direction, looking for the usual suspected contraband: baggies of cocaine, plastic explosives, smuggled organics, or a residual smell of marijuana. Usually when the dog takes an interest in a bag it means a forgotten peanut butter sandwich, cheese from the gift shop, or an apple your mom stuffed in for a snack. All of these are illegal to export, and if you can’t produce any one of these pronto, you may be escorted away for a more proper search.

They passed us without incident, and disappeared within the terminal throng of travelers. Whew!

This is what stimulated our hour long conversation, and though it was several years ago, and a bit of the specifics have now long vaporized, some of the ideas she mentioned to me stuck. One thing, first off, was that she lived on a beach off the coast of England, in a house made from the wood of giant casks, used in the making of whiskey, though that isn’t part of this story.

We talked of the countries she had visited where certain drugs were completely legalized, and that American sensibilities about such matters have been distorted by the new age of synthetics. Synthetics? Yep, that’s what she said. She was originally from Norway, and the entire area is noted for their liberal views. She was well educated, opinionated, and seemingly informed, and without the least bit of hesitation told me I should look up the company called Du Pont, and the history of hemp as well.

I’m 55, and lived in the world of the sixties as a formidable and well conditioned teenager. I remember those days, the music, TV, and the thought processes, far better than even last week! Marijuana was very much against the law in our “hippie” generation, but just a few years before, it was quite legal. What changed?

I found the answers in some very unusual places: Albert Goldman’s, Grass Roots: Marijuana in America Today, 1979, Jack Herer’s, The Emperor Wears No Cloths: hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy, 1992, and the main source, by Jon Vankin and John Whalen, The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of all time, 1995. In a nutshell…

What if I were to tell you that the lowly hemp plant, also known as buds, grass, pot, bhang, weed, boo, cannabis, or ganja, was once required by law to grow, and our founding fathers, yep, the same ones who signed the Declaration of Independence, like Washington and Jefferson, grew it on their farms.

It was so handy, known to be the strongest of all plant fibers, that it was used for the making of sails, clothing, rope, and a wide variety of health aids and therapy for dozens of ailments. Here is a plant that was thought to be the key to the problems of our new industrial age. It could have virtually replaced the use of fossil fuels in the new combustible engines, feed and clothe the world, and put an end to deforestation so rampant in the last century. That was the sales pitch, anyway.

So Du Pont rings in my ears! In the book above by Herer, he states, “malicious conspiracy to suppress not a ‘killer weed,’ but the world’s premier renewable natural resource, for the benefit of a handful of wealthy and powerful individuals and corporations.” He made reference to hemp’s demise as being the new Dark Ages, and nothing short of, “a conspiracy against mankind.”

Wow! A bit strong, don’t you think? But this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are three players here that I want you to meet. The first is a man we all know, William Randolph Hearst. He led what some consider the first “hysterical” crusade against marijuana. His newspapers were filled with anti-pot writings at the same time many magazines, like Popular Mechanics, were saying that hemp was the savior of mankind, and would be a “new billion dollar crop.” I wonder, what other holdings did William have?

What was behind his initial attempt to destroy this world market? Before the cotton gin, hemp was used to make clothing that kept our men warm at Valley Forge, bedding, tents, and even our “Old Glory” flag! Our bibles were printed on reefer paper, and hemp seed oil could have taken the place of whale oil, that brought on a near extinction of a species. God fearing men from every corner of America used it for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, from patented medicines legally sold in drug stores!

Next, and soon after Hearst, came A.J. Anslinger, and is the one who coined the term “reefer madness.” A so called “morality cop” of the prohibition era, he is quoted as saying, “If the monster Frankenstein would come face to face with the monster marihuana, he would drop dead from fright.” He later admitted to have illegally supplied morphine to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who was then addicted, and helped the OSS, the forerunner of our CIA, with unsuccessful experiments to use hashish concentrate and distillate as a truth serum for captured spies.

But then the powerful Du Pont Corporation took up the baton. And why is that would you suppose? Could it be that they wanted the new synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester to take the place of Hemp? And their plastic fibers did come to dominate, and a new super-polluting wood pulp process was born too. In 1939, Lammot Du Pont is quoted in Popular Mechanics as saying: We are…“conserving natural resources by developing synthetic products to supplement or wholly replace natural products.” Well, is this a lie? Was the additive dioxin understood then? Did they know of its cancer causing properties? I think they did…

Ha! Anslinger even went before Congress and said that the “reefer friend” was comprised mostly of the “Negro and Mexican”, and worst of all, “entertainers.” (This sentence has been deleted by CPS so as not to offend.) In my book, Anslinger was not much of a humanitarian. But truth is truth, and we should know our history.

The final kick came with the legislation called “The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.” It virtually breezed through Congress with the strangled voices of hemp growers and the American Medical Association watching helplessly on the sidelines. Strange to find out now that Anslinger was then in charge of the Treasury Department, who owed his job to his relation Andrew Mellon, owner of the sixth largest bank in our great nation, and just happened to be the Du Pont banker.

Of course there is no real proof of conspiracy; all of it is just pure speculation, of course. But then, Du Pont continues to be the “largest producer of man-made fibers, while no citizen has legally harvested a single acre of textile-grade hemp in over fifty years?” says Herer. Well, thought you should know…

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