Why is hemp illegal? Due to difficulties harvesting it in large quantities, hemp fell out of favour as a profitable crop in the late 1800s, until an automated harvester was developed in the 1930s. In the intervening years, many industries were developed to take over hemp’s role in production: oil was drilled from the ground, trees were used for paper and new sources of cloth were developed. Many of the companies involved now had a vested interest in making hemp illegal. The United States was the first country to introduce laws to destroy hemp plants, regardless of their intended use. That law was the result of political pressure exerted by the forestry industry and the Dupont corporation, which had just patented oil and coal based plastics production. Dupont’s chief financial backer, Andrew Mellon, was US President J. Edgar Hoover’s secretary of the treasury. He appointed his nephew, Harry J. Anslinger, to a position in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Anslinger whipped up a scare campaign about hemp, which referred to hemp as marijuana so that people would begin to associate the whole plant with drug use only. At the “high” point of this campaign, the propaganda films Reefer Madness, Marijuana: Weed With Roots in Hell, and Marijuana: Assassin of our Youth were made.
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