July 7, 2009 – “Liberty or Death” was a battle cry during the American Revolution. The quest for liberty led the founding fathers to write such world changing documents as the Declaration Of Independence and the Constitution. What many Americans do not realize today is that both of these revolutionary documents are printed on paper made from the hemp plant, A.K.A. marijuana.
It was not just these two documents. The majority of all paper at the time was produced from hemp. Today hemp paper could be of great benefit to America once again. Because it is a yearly crop cultivated on farms, it would result in sparing millions of trees from the paper mill as well as providing another source of income for small farmers.
Not only did this useful plant provide paper for the Colonies but cloth as well. It was a point of pride for our forefathers to wear clothes made of what was called homespun cloth which was derived from hemp. This cloth, used for clothing, sails ( it took forty tons of sail cloth to outfit a single ship at that time) and even musket wadding was long lasting and durable. It also had the advantage of producing more usable fibers per acre than cotton because the entire plant was used and not just the fluffy flowers.
This plant was so important that the leaders of the time, our Founding Fathers, encouraged all farmers to devote part of their land to hemp production. It soon became one of the largest crops produced in the colonies, second only to tobacco. Ben Franklin even made it a point to seek out hemp seeds for import to the colonies during his many trips overseas.
Then of course there were the buds from the plant. These were men who knew history and the uses of marijuana for both medical and recreational use were well established. In a land where water could kill due to parasites, wine and beer were the drink from morning to night and one can speculate what was done with these buds. I seriously doubt that they traded them to the Native Americans for furs! In fact, many historians today have come to the belief that it was smoked on a daily basis by most, if not all of the Founding Fathers.
Later the cultivation of the hemp plant would be banned. Not because of the smoking of the buds, but because of its ease of growth and versatility. It had become a threat to those who had become powerful in Washington. Newspaper barons who owned vast tracks of wooded land and could sway votes as well as southern cotton growers were the downfall of the hemp plant in America. Today, though still grown for its buds the hemp plant has yet to see a return to commercial applications.
Many factors played a role in the making of our great nation. I would ask you this however, how would our history have been affected by the loss of this plant? What if, because of shortages due to import bans the Founding Fathers had no paper on which to write the Declaration of Independence? What if we would have had fewer warships due to a lack of sail cloth? Then there were the uniforms for our army, the wadding for their muskets and there is the financial factor. As the second largest crop in the colonies the taxes and profits would have been used to pay for what the army needed to fight the British. Would the flame of independence have been dimmed or even extinguished due to these shortages?
Today many are talking of returning this plant to commercial use. The debate on this issue is centered exclusively on the smoking of marijuana and the taxes from that usage. I have yet to see a single report from any major news source on the other applications for the hemp plant.
Demonized since the 1950’s the smoking of marijuana has become a major law enforcement issue. I assure you however that behind the scenes major business ventures are spending big bucks to protect their interests. Cotton growers, alcohol producers, pharmaceutical companies and the lumber industry would be greatly affected by the return of the hemp plant and you can rest assured that lobbyists representing them are hard at work in D.C. to prevent it.
The fate of hemp in our country is up to people like you and me. This easy to grow, renewable resource that threatens so many parts of big business can be restored. Many with a small plot of land could grow a crop to sell for profit to paper mills, clothing plants and drug stores. The effect on the environment could be seen in reduced logging and the taxes made would not just be from drug use.
A simple plant that played such a large role in the making of this nation may yet be called to duty once again to help save it. The choice is ours.