Why The Stigma Of Hemp?
There is a common misconception that hemp and marijuana are the same thing, simply because they are part of the cannabis family. In the 1970s, the cannabis species was declared a Schedule I Drug. That means that the entire plant, including hemp, was deemed a drug with a high potential for abuse and with no known medical use. While for some time these notions may have seemed accurate for marijuana (though is now rapidly shifting), in no way should hemp have been grouped into the same category. Long before hemp was defamed, it was relied upon for a myriad of uses, spanning back thousands of years.
Hemp itself is plant with long, strong fibers. As history indicates from over 10,000 years ago, these qualities are some of the reasons why it was used to create various fabrics around the world. Hemp fibers were also used to create the first paper that was ever used in 100 BC. Moving along in time, historical records allude to the use of hemp for various medicinal uses. By the 1400’s hemp fibers were used to create sails, and some claim that hemp was even used to create Christopher Columbus’ sail. Hemp oil was regularly relied upon to run lamps in people’s homes. In the 1800s, the cannabis plant was grown all over the United States and cannabis plantations were widespread. There were a plethora of uses for the cannabis plant, which is why it became such a valued crop in the early to mid 1900s. Henry Ford even developed a car that ran on hemp fuel. The year 1970 marked the end of the prominence of cannabis in America, as the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) was signed, which marked the cannabis plant a Schedule 1 Drug. With this, the stigmatization of hemp began.
When hemp was declared an illegal substance, individuals began to ignore its benefits and perpetuate the erroneous notion that it is dangerous. The cannabis plant was quickly turned into the small-scale scapegoat for many domestic issues that occurred in the United States. Marijuana was marked as the gateway drug, and with there being no clear delineation between marijuana and hemp—it was lumped into the same category. The cannabis plant was quickly associated with crime, as the rise of arrests in connection with marijuana in America exploded. The introduction of D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in 1983 further propagated the notion of marijuana as a gateway drug, validating the negativity and danger of marijuana and hemp in the public eye.
Once something has been branded dangerous and bad in the American society, it is extremely challenging to alter its perception. The cannabis plant was once relied upon, heavily by civilization, as it is a fantastic renewable resource. Once cannabis became illegal, the United States started using alternatives that were much more harmful to our environment. Even with all of its contributions to society, we still managed to disregard its many uses and replace them with far less wholesome options (toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms…etc.).
More and more research is done regarding the benefits of the cannabis plants in numerous arenas. However, without an abundance of scientific data to shift the years of propagated information about the cannabis plant, it has been a long and difficult road attempting to absolve the unwarranted stigma.
However, as money and resources are being put into the ratification of the cannabis plant and its beneficial uses, American’s seem to be slowly shifting their views. There are new state laws being set in place surrounding the growing, use, and harvesting of the cannabis plant. In 2014, the governor of New York signed legislations that allowed the use of cannabis for medical purposes. In 2016, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was passed in California. Meaning that individuals over twenty-one years old are allowed to legally possess, privately use, grow up to six plants, and give away up to one ounce of cannabis. There is still much work to be done to undo all of the harsh inaccuracies that had been spread surrounding the cannabis plant, but America seems to be on the right track.
The long and short of it is that being grouped in with marijuana, hemp suffered and still does the same stigma as is associated with marijuana. The cannabis plant has been used for centuries in extremely versatile ways. When cannabis became illegal in the United States, every component of the cannabis plant, including hemp, got a bad rap. Aside from being part of the same plant, hemp and marijuana are completely different and society should have done its research before stigmatizing this fantastic resource.