Wednesday, August 11, 2004
The Chicago Tribune's Hemp Farm
Stephen Young, author of Maximizing Harm, tells the tale of an experimental farm run by the Chicago Tribune in the 1930s that grew hemp. His article, "The Colonel's Weed," appeared in the July 30th edition of the Chicago Reader. (The Colonel in the title refers to Robert McCormick, long-time editor and publisher of the Trib.) The idea behind the farm, the progress of which was tracked in a regular Trib column, was to promote innovation among farmers during the dark days of the Depression. Instead, the farm captured the attention of the feds, whose pressure put an end to the hemp experiment -- and for that matter, all US hemp farming -- following the 1937 passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. My synopsis doesn't do justice to the article, however, and the details are quite interesting.
Vice Squad member Mike and Libby at Last One Speaks recently have talked about the efforts at destroying wild hemp, which generally has a THC content much too low to attract smokers. The concluding sentences of "The Colonel's Weed" mention this phenomenon, and the amazing hardiness of the hemp plant:
Hemp still grows in Illinois. The Tribune reported in 1998 that $450,000 had been spent by state police the previous year to destroy roughly ten million uncultivated hemp plants, many descended from the Hemp for Victory effort in World War II. If ingested, none of those plants would have given anyone a buzz. In 2002 another 633,000 wild hemp plants were obliterated.
The numbers vary from year to year, but the battle continues. It may be possible to willfully ignore hemp's virtues, but its essential nature makes it difficult to eradicate. It is, after all, a weed. Only months after it's slashed and burned, hemp sprouts again, pushing its head to the sun.