Archive for April 3rd, 2010

Hemp and the amazing continuing influence of Hearst and DuPont

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

In more than one discussion about the merits of decriminalizing marijuana use, I have heard people state that the reason that marijuana use is a criminal offence can be traced back to the efforts of a couple of influential U.S. businessmen in the 1930s. The way the narrative goes, the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (with big investments in forest plantations) teamed up with the DuPont chemical company (with big investments in petroleum-based products) in an effort to make the growing of hemp illegal.  Using the services of Henry J. Anslinger, the head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, they supposedly embarked on a successful campaign to demonize and eventually criminalize marijuana.  Do a Google search on the keywords hemp, Hearst, DuPont and Anslinger for lots of detail.

The thing that puzzles me about that story is the fact that it addresses legislation in the United States approximately 70 years ago, and in recent decades several countries including Canada have legalized the growing of industrial hemp, yet most paper is still made from trees.  It seems odd to me that William Randolph Hearst could still dictate to countries like Finland that they must not use hemp for paper production.

It seems more likely to me that paper producers likely prefer making paper from trees instead of hemp for technical and economic reasons, not to mention environmental reasons (forest crops are grown over many decades with minimal site disturbance, providing a full suite of environmental benefits, whereas hemp requires annual site inputs).

With a bit of digging I found an article “Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy Theory” that I think makes sense.