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DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Hemp (Marijuana)


Part 1




	Our concern here is with hemp. 
	When we use the word "hemp" we do so to distinguish it from 
other varieties1 of Cannabis sativa L. which are horticultural, not 
agronomic crops and which have other uses but are generally 
unsuitable for the manufacture of durable goods such as paper, 
textiles or fiberboard. Of those other varieties, we will have little 
to say in this context, except in presenting evidence to verify the 
distinction of types.

	The first historical record of utilization of the hemp plant for 
its stem fiber comes from the Chinese who described the plant they 
called ma as having been introduced by the Emperor Shen Nung 
in the twenty-eighth century BC. The wild Cannabis ancestor 
is believed to have grown somewhere in a general area between 
western China and the eastern Caucasus, north of the Hindu Kush. 
This wild ancestor is not found today.
	Jute, ramie, abaca, sisal, kenaf and cotton are fiber crops 
adapted to lower latitudes. Before cotton took over, hemp and flax 
(in spite of the latter's origin in Africa) were the principal crops 
used for fabric and cordage by temperate cultures. The fineness and 
quality characteristics of these two fibers overlap and depend on 
the growing conditions, seed variety and post-harvest handling of 
the crop. Flax, having a lower lignin content in the fiber, was for 
centuries the premier fiber for apparel in western cultures. There 
are exceptions to this general trend, however. In Hungary, for 
instance, the traditional national costume was made of hemp cloth. 
In antebellum America, hemp homespun—called "Kentucky jeans"—
was commonly used to clothe the slave population.

Run away, the 23rd inst. a negro fellow, named Jack, 26 years of age, 
straight well made fellow, has on an old black wool hat, coarse hemp 
linen shirt....2

	Hemp's major use was as a cordage fiber. Its natural 
resistance to rot recommended it for maritime uses, and, as 
European seafaring expanded, so did the importance of hemp. So 
critical was hemp to naval powers that laws were passed in England 
and in the American colonies requiring farmers to allot a portion of 
their acreage to the production of hemp. Were it not for hemp, 
European expansion, the Age of Exploration and the discovery of the 
New World would certainly not have occurred as they did. 
	Sailing ships carried hempseed in their stores and the crop 
was seeded in new lands to provide for the repair of marlines, 
hausers and sails. Ships were caulked with oakum made of the short 
hemp “tow” fibers. 
	 Hemp was growing in Chile by 1545, in New England by 1629. 
The Founding Fathers were strong promoters of hemp. For a time 
following the War of Independence, farmers could pay their taxes in 
hemp. George Washington admonished, "Sow it everywhere."3 Thomas 
Jefferson, a strong proponent of hemp as a crop, invented a hemp 
brake and experimented with different genetic varieties. 
	 Hemp production during the Revolutionary period was greatest 
in Virginia where its labor requirement led to a rapid increase in 
that state's slave population.4 Hemp fabric clothed the slaves, but 
was too coarse for the gentle classes. 
	Hemp moved west with the Pioneers. It was first planted in 
Kentucky on Clarke's Creek near Danville by Archibald McNeil in 
1775. The growth and vicissitudes of the Kentucky hemp industry 
have been described in detail by James Hopkins in his History of the 
Hemp Industry in Kentucky. 5 Kentucky was the principal producer of 
hemp fiber until the Civil War. 
	The mainstay of the Kentucky industry was baling rope and 
bagging used for cotton bales. Hemp accounted for 5% of the weight 
of a cotton bale and the fortunes of the Kentucky industry rose and 
fell with the cotton market. But despite substantial efforts on the 
part of the government and private individuals to encourage the use 
of Kentucky hemp by the US Navy, it was generally rejected for 
quality in favor of imported Russian "Riga Rein" hemp. After the 
Civil War, jute and iron bands replaced hemp for cotton bales and the 
Kentucky industry declined. 

	Hemp fabric can be fine, strong and very durable. But great 
skill is required to produce quality fiber with retting preferably 
done in water rather than on the ground. This art was practiced in 
Europe, particularly in Italy, which was credited with having hemp 
fabric of the finest quality. The US Navy insisted on water-retted 
hemp. In an effort to promote the domestic industry, the government 
offered inducements for water-retting. In the final analysis, these 
efforts failed.

The Federal Government in 1841 authorized a bounty, 
which allowed for the payment of not more than $280 per ton for 
American water-retted hemp, provided it was suitable for naval 
cordage. Many of the planters prepared large pools and water-retted 
the hemp they produced. But the work was so hard on Negroes that 
the practice was abandoned. Many Negroes died of pneumonia 
contracted from working in the hemp pools in the winter, and the 
mortality became so great among hemp hands that the increase in 
value of the hemp did not equal the loss in Negroes.6
Another obstacle to the industry was the location of cordage 
manufacturing on the coast. Rope walks were established in 
Kentucky as early as 1814, but the major manufacturing center was 
Boston, near the shipyards. Raw fiber could reach the east coast by 
ship from the East Indies as cheaply as from the western frontier, 
so hemp had to compete with tropical cordage fibers. For a time, 
tariffs protected the domestic bast fiber industry.
	During the nineteenth century, Russia supplied most of the 
hemp fiber used internationally for naval cordage. (We are told that 
Napolean's reason for invading Russia was to cut off England's 
access to Russian hemp upon which the Royal Navy's power 
depended.) The USS Constitution had over sixty tons of hemp in its 
sails and riggings. 

	From the sixteenth through the ninteenth century, the supply of 
hemp fiber was a matter of significant military concern. The 
strategic importance of hemp would be revisited again in 1941 when 
Japan's invasion of the Philippines severed US access to Manila hemp 
(abac‡) leading to a brief resurrection of the domestic hemp 
industry. Hemp is still listed among agricultural products considered 
strategic necessities by the US government.7


Civil War to Depression

	The ages of hemp can be broadly divided at the American Civil 
War. The classical period, described above, with hemp unchallenged 
in its maritime use, began to give way in the mid-nineteenth century 
as abac‡,  a relative of the banana, preempted hemp for naval 
cordage. Abaca had several things going for it: it floated on water 
and did not require tarring; and it could be produced with cheap 
coolie labor on plantations in the East Indies. 
	Domestically produced hemp had difficulty competing with 
abac‡ and other tropical fibers because of the high labor 
requirement. It had to be cut by hand and gathered into shocks to dry 
before being spread on the field for retting. When retting was 
complete, the stems were gathered up and broken using a hemp 
brake. Then it was hackled by flaying it on a pin-cushion of long 
needles to further separate the fiber from the inner woody core of 
the plant, called "hurds." Prior to the Civil War, this work was done 
by slaves in the major hemp producing areas of Kentucky and 
Missouri. After the war, the black population in Kentucky continued 
to find employment in the winter months breaking hemp.8 The ready 
availability of this labor force, and its dependence on hemp 
processing for subsistence, was given as one reason Kentucky's 
transition to mechanization in the early twentieth century was 
	The Civil War disrupted Kentucky's hemp economy because the 
primary consumer of hemp fiber was the Southern cotton industry. 
During the war, a federal commission was directed to identify 
cotton substitutes: it focused on flax and hemp as alternatives.

The practice of weaving flax and hemp upon the old looms 
experienced a revival and factories began making fibers into cloth. 
From Fayette County in 1863 came a statement that high prices 
were being offered for hemp and a hopeful opinion was expressed 
that "a vast source of profit will be derived by our farmers who will 
cultivate this crop, as from the present scarcity of cotton, it will 
doubtless be used to a large extent for clothing as well as for the 
many purposes for which it has entered into competition as one of 
the great staples of our country."9
With the end of the war, cotton agriculture revived and the 
optimistic prospects for hemp fabric went unfulfilled. Cheap 
imported fibers, particularly jute—a weaker fiber with no resistance 
to rot, but suitable for common twine and cotton bagging—
increasingly cut into hemp's markets. In 1872, the repeal of a tariff 
which had protected the domestic bast fiber industry, opened doors 
to unlimited importation of jute and other tropical fibers. Iron bands 
replaced vegetable cordage for binding cotton bales. The Kentucky 
hemp industry never recovered its antebellum dimensions.

	With the coming of steam-powered ships in the last half of the 
nineteenth century, hemp acreages declined internationally. The 
changes brought by abaca and steam relegated hemp to a minor naval 
function: binding the ends of ropes and caulking. Wire cables, 
required by law on inland vessels, further reduced the demand for 
	Under pressure from frontier legislators, the federal 
government enacted programs to encourage the hemp industry, 
including the construction of a navy yard in Memphis, Tennessee. 
Despite these efforts and several failed attempts to expand water-
retting, the Kentucky industry continued to decline. Gradually 
farmers in Kentucky shifted to more dependably profitable crops, 
principally tobacco. 

	Hemp moved west with the Pioneers: Missouri (1835); 
Minnesota (1860); Illinois (1875); Nebraska(1887); Wisconsin 
(1908); California (1912). By 1860, Missouri had replaced Kentucky 
as the major supplier of hemp. At the same time, hemp was moving 
north, being first grown in Minnesota that same year. 
	As the nation expanded, so did its government. In 1890, the 
cabinet office of Secretary of Agriculture was created. Its first 
appointee was Jeremiah Rusk, a former governor of Wisconsin. One 
of Rusk's first actions was the inauguration of the USDA's Office of 
Fiber Investigations to encourage domestic bast fiber production. Its 
first director, Charles Dodge, opined: "There is no reason why hemp 
culture should not extend over a dozen States and the product used in 
manufactures which now employ thousands of tons of imported 
	Much of this importation was due to the invention, circa 1880, 
of the self-binding grain harvester which needed binder twine. 

The twine binder brought about the final evolution of the harvesting 
machine. John F. Appleby, Jacob Behel and Marquis L. Gorham were 
the pioneers in developing the twine binder and knotter. Imported 
Manila jute and sisal were woven into balls of binder twine and sold 
to every farmer who owned a binder. The twine binder, called a 
"self-binder," more than any other single machine enabled the 
farmers to expand their wheat crops.
	In 1882, the McCormick Company, having turned from wire 
binders to twine binders, sold over fifteen thousand twine binders. 
The twine binders with their automatic knotters made possible the 
rapid extension of the wheat belt into the West and Northwest; and 
large scale farming became common practice in those areas. Schager 
cites one farm near Casselton, North Dakota, on which sixty self-
binders were employed as early as 1882.11
Hemp's greater strength per unit weight made it ideal for this 
purpose. Writing to Charles Dodge in 1890, one binder manufacturer 
There is no fiber in the world better suited to this use 
than American hemp. It is our judgment, based on nearly ten years' 
experience with large quantities of binder twine each year, that the 
entire supply of this twine should be made from American 
hemp....There are 50,000 tons of this binding twine used annually, 
every pound of which could and should be made from this home 
Mechanization has been a feature of American agriculture from 
the time of Eli Whitney. It was the key to the agricultural conquest 
of the nation's breadbasket, the Great Plains. Mechanization 
progressed rapidly in the northern and western states' wheat and 
corn growing regions where there developed a tradition of the small 
local farm implement manufacturers, like the McCormicks and John 
Deere, with inventive notions. The resurrection of the domestic bast 
fiber industry required mechanization of the various stages of fiber 
processing: harvesting (cutting and retting), breaking, scutching, 
hackling. Lacking mechanization, there was no possibility of hemp 
competing with the cheap tropical fibers.

In Nebraska, where the [hemp] industry is being established, a new 
and important step has been taken in cutting the crop with an 
ordinary mowing machine. A simple attachment which bends the 
stalks over in the direction in which the machine is going facilitates 
the cutting...The cost of cutting hemp in this manner is 50 cents per 
acre, as compared with $3 to $4 per acre, the rates paid for cutting 
by hand in Kentucky." 13
A machine invented in Nebraska could cut five to seven acres 
per day compared to half an acre cut by hand using the traditional 
Kentucky practice. But it was not in the traditional hemp growing 
regions of Kentucky and Missouri that the new technologies were 
aggressively applied. Kentucky would remain the source of seed, but 
the fiber crop moved north. 
	With the promotion from the USDA's Office of Fiber 
Investigations, hemp was first planted at three sites in Wisconsin in 
1908.14 It did well. Hemp caught the interest of local farmers near 
Waupon, on the eastern side of the state, who noticed that it cleaned 
the fields of quackgrass. The success of the hemp experiments in 
Wisconsin led to the appointment of Dr. Andrew Wright, of the 
University of Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, as industry 
	Andrew Wright recognized the necessity of, one, mechanization 
and, two, locating mills with railway access. Fortunately, by the 
early twentieth century, Wisconsin was crisscrossed with rail lines. 
The industry established itself on rail spurs in the east-central part 
of the state, near Lake Winnebago. With the new mechanical 
processing and rail spurs coming directly into the mills, the 
Wisconsin hemp industry prospered and grew. On October 17, 1917, 
the Wisconsin Hemp Order was inaugurated at Ripon "to promote the 
general welfare of the hemp industry in the state."15 

When the work with hemp was begun in Wisconsin, there were no 
satisfactory machines for harvesting, spreading, binding, or 
breaking. All of these processes were performed by hand. Due to such 
methods, the hemp industry in the United States had all but 
disappeared. As it was realized from the very beginning of the work 
in Wisconsin that no permanent progress could be made so long as it 
was necessary to depend upon hand labor, immediate attention was 
given to solving the problem of power machinery. Nearly every kind 
of hemp machine was studied and tested. The obstacles were great, 
but through the cooperation of experienced hemp men and one large 
harvesting machinery company, this problem has been nearly solved.  
The hemp crop can now be handled entirely by 
Andrew Wright was working with Lyster Dewey of the USDA's 
Office of Fiber Investigations. Dewey is unarguably the most 
significant individual in US hemp history. He joined the Office of 
Fiber Investigations just before the turn of the century and set 
about evaluating hemp germplasm collected from around the world. 
His monographs on hemp, published in the USDA Yearbooks of 
Agriculture, 1901 and 191317, remain the most informative 
writings on hemp in America. 
	In the 1901 piece, Dewey describes the status of hemp 
germplasm at that time in the US:
Until comparatively recent times hemp seed of European origin was 
used in Kentucky, and its effects are still plainly seen in the mixed 
character of plants too often found in the hemp fields. These plants 
are so prolific in seed that the growers hesitate to throw them out 
when harvesting their hemp seed.
An ideal hemp plant should be 10 to 12 feet in height, one-fourth to 
three-eighths inch in diameter near the base, with internodes 10 
inches or more in length, and stems prominently fluted, with 
comparatively large hollows, making them thin-shelled and more 
easily broken. The fiber is generally tougher on the thin-shelled 
stalks. The Chinese and best Japanese varieties approach most 
nearly this ideal. Starting with these as a foundation and practicing 
a rigid seed selection for a half dozen generations or longer would 
undoubtedly result in improved varieties of uniform plants adapted 
to cultivation in this country.18
Dewey explained that beginning in the mid-nineteenth century 
a shift toward Chinese varieties had taken place. Seed was obtained 
through the agency of American missionaries in China and was grown 
for a few generations to increase the seed supply before being 
planted for fiber.19
	Foreign hemp strains required a period of natural selection to 
adjust to the new North American growing environment. Chinese 
hemp appeared better suited to North America than European 
varieties. In a later writing, Dewey remarked that introduced foreign 
strains had to be grown "for at least three generations (three 
successive years) in the country where it is to be grown for fiber"20 
to achieve satisfactory adaptation to the local growing environment.
	Out of the Chinese introductions a unique hemp variety was 
developed which came to be known as "Kentucky hemp." It conformed 
to Dewey's ideal type and the hollowness of the stem was 
particularly noted. All hemp has hollow stem ( hemp stem image), but that of Kentucky 
hemp was apparently superior since specific attention is drawn to 
	We should also take special note of Dewey's remark about the 
"mixed character" of plants in the fields. This tells us that Kentucky 
hemp may have originated as a "fusion variety" from the mixing of 
two previously isolated genetic pools, the Asian and the European. 
The heterosis released by hybridity would produce more vigorous and 
fecund plants which "farmers hesitate to throw out." Some modern 
Hungarian hemp varieties exploit the potential from this same 
interracial cross.22 
	If this is the case, then Kentucky hemp was an evolutionary 
leap comparable to that which corn (maize) was undergoing in this 
same period from the mixing of previously isolated southern dent 
and northern flint Zea mays populations. If this fusion 
occurred—something modern tools for genetic analysis could 
determine—then American Kentucky hemp was truly a unique and 
superior type of hemp. 


	Dewey began actively breeding hemp in 1912. By 1917, the 
program was producing notably improved stocks. Progress was 
1917: "The crop of hempseed last fall, estimated at 
about 45,000 bushels, is the largest produced in the United States 
since 1859. A very large proportion of it was from improved strains 
developed by this bureau in the hempseed selection plats at 
Arlington and Yarrow Farms."23
1918: "Early maturing varieties, chiefly of Italian origin, are being 
grown at Madison, Wisconsin, in cooperation with the Wisconsin 
Agricultural Experiment Station. This is the third year of selection 
for some varieties, and the results give promise of the successful 
production in that State of seed of hemp fully equal to the Ferrara of 
northern Italy. "24
1919: "The second-generation hybrid Ferramington, combining the 
height and long internodes of Kymington with the earliness and 
heavy seed yield of Ferrara, gives promise of a good fiber type of 
hemp that may ripen seed as far north as Wisconsin."25
1920: "The work of breeding improved strains of hemp is being 
continued at Arlington Farm, Va., and all previous records were 
broken in the selection plats of 1919.  The three best strains, 
Kymington, Chington and Tochimington, averaged, respectively, 14 
feet 11 inches, 15 feet 5 inches, and 15 feet 9 inches, while the 
tallest individual plant was 19 feet. The improvement by selection 
is shown not alone in increased height but also in longer internodes, 
yielding fiber of better quality and increased quantity."26 
Recently discovered correspondence between Lyster Dewey and 
the Woodford-Spears Seed Company of Paris, Kentucky, indicates 
that the improved seed from the USDA breeding program was 
entering the commercial stream. But despite the earliness of 
varieties like Ferramington and Kymington, no hempseed industry 
ever developed in the north. Kentucky continued to supply seed for 
the Wisconsin industry. 
	The geographic scale of the US solved a problem which the 
small nations of Europe could not: the dioecious flowering character 
of the hemp plant. Because male plants flower first, they are more 
mature and more lignified when the female plants are ready for 
harvest. Ideally, for fiber, plants are harvested before they flower. 
In some primitive systems, the males were removed by hand as soon 
as they could be recognized and before lignification. Flowering in 
hemp is controlled by length of the night. If the daylength is long, 
flowering is delayed. In the US, by growing Kentucky seed in 
Wisconsin, flowering was avoided and the sexual dimorphism of 
hemp was circumvented. In China, hemp is harvested at this stage.
	Maximum fiber yields are obtained if the plants remain in the 
vegetative state throughout the growing season, hence the area of 
hempseed production is best located south of the optimum area for 
fiber production.27 This was the symbiosis which evolved between 
the seed producers in Kentucky—like Woodford-Spears in Paris, and 
another in Versailles—and companies like the Rock River Mills  and 
Rens Hemp Company of Wisconsin. 
	In the Twenties, hemp mills were operating on both the east 
and west sides of Wisconsin. Wright was able to boast that 
Wisconsin had more hemp mills than all other states combined. 

	Dewey's program continued to produce new varieties through 
the Twenties. In the 1927 USDA Yearbook, he described the  breeding 
technique used to develop the varieties Kymington (Kentucky by 
Minnesota 8); Chington (from a plant introduction from Hankow, 
China, able to attain heights of 20 feet); Ferramington (Chinese by 
northern Italian) and Arlington (Kymington by Chington). Seed of 
these varieties was supplied to hempseed producers. 
	By 1929, a variety named "Chinamington" was breaking all 
records for fiber yields. Dewey reported:
"In 1929 three selected varieties of hemp—Michigan 
Early, Chinamington and Simple Leaf—were grown in comparison 
with unselected common Kentucky seed near Juneau, Wis. Each of the 
varieties had been developed by 10 years or more of selection from 
the progeny of individual plants. The yields of fiber per acre were as 
follows: Simple Leaf, 360 pounds; Michigan Early, 694 pounds; 
Chinamington, 1054 pounds; common Kentucky, 680 
In spite of this progress, by 1930, as the nation struggled 
under Depression, hemp acreage was again in decline. The uses to 
which hemp was being put were enumerated by Dewey in a 1931 
article titled "Hemp fiber losing ground, despite its valuable 
"Wrapping twines for heavy packages; mattress twine 
for sewing mattresses; spring twines for tying springs in 
overstuffed furniture and in box springs; sacking twine for sewing 
sacks containing sugar, wool peanuts, stock fed, or fertilizer; baling 
twine, similar to sacking twine, for sewing burlap covering on bales 
and packages; broom twine for sewing brooms; sewing twine for 
sewing cheesecloth for shade grown tobacco; hop twine for holding 
up hop vines in hop yards; ham strings for hanging up hams; tag 
twines for shipping twines; meter cord for tying diapharams in gas 
meters; blocking cord used in blocking men's hats; webbing yarns 
which are woven into strong webbing; belting yarns to be woven into 
belts; marlines for binding the ends of ropes, cables and hawsers to 
keep them from fraying; hemp packing or coarse yarn used in packing 
valve pumps; plumber's oakum, usually tarred, for packing the joints 
of pipes; marine oakum, also tarred for calking the seams of ships 
and other water craft."29
It was largely variations on the same theme: twine. 

	Fiber is a fungible commodity. Fibers move in international 
markets and are purchased in huge volumes where small price 
fluctuations are highly significant. In rough times, quality loses to 
price. Hemp lost to sisal and jute, as natural fibers in general lost 
out to the new, exciting synthetics.

3 The Thirties

As has been the general trend with agricultural products, many of hemp's markets were being displaced by synthetic materials from the growing organic chemical industry. What was lacking was a determined effort to develop new uses and new markets for hemp. Why was this? The interplay of political and economic forces in the increasing political power of the South and cotton over agricultural policy, and its effect on allocations for fiber research at the USDA, has been described elsewhere. (Fiber Wars:The Extinction of Kentucky Hemp Hemp was not alone in the erosion of its markets. The production of flax for fiber had virtually disappeared. Flax was grown primarily as an oilseed crop. It commanded greater influence than hemp due to the importance of linseed oil for paints and varnishes and linoleum.31 By 1930, the country had less than 1500 acres of hemp, principally in Wisconsin. In 1933, with the country deep in Depression, the USDA was undergoing radical changes including the first subsidy payments to farmers to limit production of surplus crops. The South depended on cotton.32 So it was that the Office of Fiber Investigations was restructured as the USDA Division of Cotton and Other Fibers and Lyster Dewey's breeding program was terminated. He retired two years later. His last report summarized the success of the program:

The hemp breeding work, carried on by the Bureau for 
more than 20 years, was discontinued in 1933, but practical results 
are still evident in commercial fields. A hemp grower in Kentucky 
reported a yield of 1750 pounds per acre of clean, dew-retted fiber 
from 100 acres of the pedigreed variety Chinamington grown in 
1934. This is more than twice the average yield obtained from 
ordinary unselected hemp seed.33
How unfortunate that all this germplasm has been lost! We 
have the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado, 
and several regional laboratories charged with the preservation of 
valuable crop varieties. But in the phytopogrom which subsequently 
developed, Cannabis  would be shunned and with the pariah status 
and the governmental redtape, Kentucky hemp and Dewey’s selected 
varieties would be lost. As an agricultural variety, Kentucky hemp is 
effectively extinct. Its feral remnant today we call "ditchweed." It 
is a repository of important genes, not a threat to society. The 
extermination campaign being waged against this genetic resource 
is no less than a crime, a crime against humanity and future 


Hemp Becomes a Drug Plant

	It’s probably accurate to say the history of hemp has been, to 
this point, fairly banal. It was a useful fiber supplanted by 
technological change. By 1930, it had become an insignificant crop 
on the verge of being relegated to history's trashcan. During the 
1930s, there averaged fewer than 1500 acres of hemp in Wisconsin, 
with seed production continuing in Kentucky. Yet here we are today 
with hemp apparently elevated to the status of a plant which can 
"save the planet." How is it that this minor crop has refused to go 
quietly into that good night?

	Although marijuana (or marihuana, as they wrote in the ‘30s) 
would seem to have been the downfall of hemp, it has probably also 
been the only reason Cannabis did not disappear from human interest. 
In countries where hemp was not subject to the legal encumberances 
imposed in the west, hemp acreage also declined percipitously after 
WWII. Cotton, followed by wool and silk, dominated natural fiber 
textiles, which lost out on the whole to synthetics. Hemp’s 
association with marijuana did not help, but neither was it the sole 
cause of hemp’s attrition. It is, however, clearly the boot which 
holds it down. The identification of fiber cannabis with herbal 
cannabis is as inappropriate as the identification of sweetcorn with 
fieldcorn. This latter example of plant variety causes little 
difficulty for most people, who would soon inform their grocer were 
a substitution attempted. 
	The identification was forced from the start and continues to 
be so today. Since our focus here is on hemp as a crop, revelations 
regarding the motivations which were operative in 1937 will be left 
to a separate venue. Hemp is a neglected and valuable agronomic 
crop. It was nearly lost, but was returned to our notice through the 
auspices of persons mostly concerned with the black sheep cousin by 
which it was shunned. These persons have alleged hanky-panky in the 
events of 1937. There certainly was. All in all, the words of Auden best sum
 up that "low, dishonest decade."


Hemp is Not Marijuana

	Since now we are suffering fiber shortages, we come back to 
hemp. And those who want to grow it find they have a problem: 
Someone says the kids are going to steal the crop and smoke it to 
get high.
	What are the facts?
	Psychoactive varieties of Cannabis originated in tropical Asia 
and probably trace to northern India where they were valued by 
certain religious sects. Medicinal uses were well known to classical 
pharmacology. The herbal of Chinese Emperor Shen Nung from 
2737BC, appears to be the first pharmacological citation. In the 
nineteenth century, recreational use was popular among an talented, 
though debauched, group of European literati known as the Club de 
Haschishins. By the early decades of the twentieth century use by 
certain minorites in the US had begun to draw attention. Its 
popularity among the artist-musician-bohemian set has been well 

	The cannabis used medicinally and recreationally in the US 
came from the West Indies and Mexico. Chinese and European 
varieties of fiber hemp lack the biochemistry, the enzymatic 
machinery, for efficient conversion of the cannabidiol (CBG) 
precursor into psychoactive tetrahydrocannibinol (THC).35 
Germplasm with this capability originated in tropical zones where 
THC may serve an adaptive role by protecting the plant tissue from 
intense sunlight and damaging UV radiation. 36
	As early as 1889, botanist and plant explorer George Watt had 
written of the distinction between types of Cannabis:
A few plants such as the potato, tomato, poppy and 
hemp seem to have the power of growing with equal luxuriance under 
almost any climatic condition, changing or modifying some 
important function as if to adapt themselves to the altered 
circumstance. As remarked, hemp is perhaps the most notable 
example of this; hence, it produces a valuable fibre in Europe, while 
showing little or no tendency to produce the narcotic principle 
which in Asia constitutes its chief value.37
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 requires all growers, importers and 
processors of hemp to register and be licensed. As a result of 
growing public opposition to the cultivation of this drug plant 
[italics added], the continuation of hemp culture in the United States 
may depend upon eliminating as much as possible of the active drug 
principle from the plant. Preliminary tests indicate a possibility of 
ultimately obtaining a hemp variety with little or no active drug.  
Research on this problem is actively under way.38
All research on Cannabis  in the US since 1937 has been 
predicated on, and has served to reinforce, the misinformation that 
all Cannabis  is psychoactive and a threat to society requiring 
elaborate and expensive eradication and suppression efforts. Much of 
basic research funded through the National Institutes of Drug Abuse 
has been directed at elucidating the pathway of THC synthesis and 
designing synthetic analogs. There are now THC analogs reported to 
have 500 times the potency of natural THC so we can be confident 
that a new, potent, illicit drug will soon find its way to the streets, 
as occurred with the coca plant.

	The forced association of hemp with marijuana has continued 
to the present, in spite of the plethora of information to the 
contrary. Cannabis expert Robert C. Clarke has graphically depicted 
the variation for psychoactive potential within the genus using the 
ratio of THC to CBD as developed by Small, et al. (Figure 1). The Type 2 Cannabis varieties from 
sites in Minnesota, Iowa and Germany, easily separate out as those 
with THC/CBD ratios less than 1.

FIGURE 1: Type 1 (medicinal, psychoactive, herbal, drug) vs Type 2 
(fiber) Cannabis accessions classified by ratio of THC to CBD and 
related to point of origin. Reproduced from Clark 
Clarke and Pate (1994) succinctly stated the difference 
between Type 1 and Type 2 Cannabis:
It is not feasible to 'get high' on hemp, and most 
marijuana produces very little low-quality fiber. Hemp should never 
be confused with marijuana, as their roles cannot be 
Canadian researcher, Ernest Small has written a two volume 
study of "The Species Problem in Cannabis"41 based on his extensive 
exploration of the subject. He summarizes the debate:
Lamarck was apparently only vaguely aware that the 
distinction he was drawing in Cannabis reflected the fact that this 
genus, through domestication, has been subjected to intensive 
disruptive selection, which has produced two kinds of plant. On the 
one hand, plants have been domesticated for the valuable phloem 
fibres in the bast. To maximize quality and obtainability of these 
fibres, man has selected plants which are tall, relatively 
unbranched, with long internodes, and with a relatively hollow stem. 
Lamarck termed such plants C. sativa. Such domesticated plants have 
been characteristically grown in Europe, northern Asia, and North 
America. "Wild" plants of such northern areas of the world  tend to 
be somewhat similar, either because they have escaped back to wild 
existence from cultivated fibre strains, or because they have been 
influenced by hybridization with such domesticated strains.
In contrast, man has also selected cannabis plants for the ability to 
produce an inebriant. Cannabis synthesizes a resin in epidermal 
glands which are abundant on the leaves and flowering parts of the 
plant. This resin comprises a class of terpenoid chemicals called the 
cannabinoids. Two are of particular importance: the non-intoxicant 
cannabidiol (CBD) and the highly intoxicant ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol 
(THC)....Predominance of CBD characterizes the resin of fibre strains, 
and also strains selected for the valuable oil content of the fruits 
(achenes). Predominance of THC characterizes "narcotic" strains of 
Cannabis. Drug strains do not exhibit features related to harvesting 
the fibre. They are often fairly short, possess short internodes, are 
highly branched, and have comparatively woody stems. It was this 
type of plant that Lamarck named C. indica. Such plants are 
characteristic of southern Asia and Africa where Cannabis has been 
used for millenia as a source of the drug. "Wild" plants of such 
relatively southern areas of the world tend to be similar, either 
because they have escaped back to wild existence from drug strains, 
or because they have been influenced by hybridization with such 
domesticated strains.
End of discussion.


The "Other" Industry

	Although by 1930 the traditional hemp industry in Wisconsin 
had contracted to miniscule acreage, beginning around 1934, there 
was a marked expansion in hemp acreage elsewhere (Table 1). The 
circumstances which would make it expedient to call hemp 
"marijuana" can only be understood if one is cognizant of this 
development. But, again, in keeping with our immediate purpose, we 
will not undertake here to complete the picture of all the humongous 
forces at play on that historical stage and how hemp became "star-
crossed" in the drama.

	As we see in Table 1, there was a sudden dramatic expansion 
in hemp acreage beginning in the early thirties. (Table 1 data raise 
some questions for which we do not currently have answers. Hemp 
yields, computed from these data, were relatively constant at 
around half-a-ton per acre until the period 1914-1918. Was this a 
reflection of USDA hemp improvement activity, and why did it 
decline again? Also, why does the acreage expansion in the thirties 
not report increased fiber production?) 

5-Year Period	Hemp Grown	Fiber Produced	Fiber Imported
	  (acres)	   (tons)	(tons)
1876-1880	15,000	7,000	No Record
1881-1885	11,000	5,000	No  Record
1886-1890	16,000	7,500	No Record
1891-1895	11,000	5,000	4,500
1896-1900	10,000	4,500	5,000
1901-1905	12,000	5,500	5,000
1906-1910	10,000	4,500	6,000
1911-1913	10,000	4,500	6,000
1914-1918	10,500	8,500	5,000
1919-1923	8,600	3,800	4,000
1924-1928	4,300	1,800	2,000
1929-1933	1,200	500	1,000
1934-1938	7,100	600	740
1940			241
* These figures are from U.S. Dept. Agr. Bull. : Hemp, Its Production 
and Use as a Fiber Crop."		

	The relevance of this new industry to our discussion of hemp 
is that it was here that the "chemurgic" possibilities 
of the crop were explored. It was this other, new, “unorthodox” 
industry which was the focus of the enforcement of the Marihuana 
Tax Act by the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 
The law was not equally enforced against all hemp producing area. 
This fact betrays a hidden agenda on someone's part. The industry in 
Wisconsin limped along until 1958. It was not bothered by the FBN in 
the thirties, and contrary to current popular opinion, the tax was not 
	The chemurgic industry had its roots in German hemp 
technology which had advanced markedly in the preceding decades. 
Cut off from the overseas supplies of cotton, jute, sisal 
and ramie, the German governments reconsidered hemp and supported 
improvements to cultivation, harvesting and processing 
technologies. For example, the development of the so-called 
cottonization process allowed production of a short fiber, high 
quality substitute from the long hemp fibers. During the 1920s the 
substitution of all cotton imports by cottonized domestic hemp was 
seriously discussed.43
The decorticator was developed in Germany and it was there 
that the chemurgic idea of using hemp as a cellulose source was 
seriously researched in the laboratories of I. G. Farben. 

	The industry which emerged in the US starting around 1933 
were Amhempco, Inc. in Danville, Illinois; the National Cellulose 
Corporation in Mankato, Minnesota (later renamed the Hemp Chemical 
Corporation); Chempco, Inc. and Cannabis, Inc. in Winona, Minnesota.

	A picture of the new hemp industry seen from “street-level” 
comes to us from an article in the Winona (MN) Republican-Herald, 
December 31, 1937. 
	The plant manager at Chempco explains their interest in the 
hurds as a source of cellulose for making plastics: cellulose acetate, 
also known as rayon acetate. Rayon, until that very year, 1937, the 
only significant synthetic fiber, was made with cellulose from 
cotton linters, the short, leftover, pure cellulose strands of cotton 
fiber. Wood was another source. Cellulose from any source can be 
used, potentially.
	Another thing you can make from cellulose is nitrocellulose, 
smokeless gunpowder. 
	This article appeared on New Year's eve 1937. It was a year 
which saw the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act and the patenting of 
nylon, the first non-cellulose synthetic fiber, made from petroleum 
hydrocarbons. It is also the year nylon's inventor, Wallace Carothers, 
committed suicide. And DuPont, Britain's ICI and Germany's IG Farben 
were negotiating the division of Argentina's La Cellulosa chemical 
	This was also the eve of the year when the new Agricultural 
Adjustment Act, which paid farmers not to produce, would establish 
four regional laboratories to explore new uses for agricultural 
produce, a concept inspired by the Chemurgy Movement. The 
proponents of Chemurgy suggested that the farm crisis could be 
alleviated by mandating the use of agricultural products in the 
production of synthetic chemical products. "Cellulose," Williams 
Haynes observed44, "is the great chemurgic crop—that is, a crop 
grown for industrial use, not for food." And, he suggested, "The 
chemical that grows is an ideal raw material out of which to build a 
global economy of abundance for all mankind."
	It was the eve of the Second World War.


Then What?

	It is sometimes suggested that the Marihuana Tax Act was 
prohibitive and forced the demise of the industry. In fact, it was 
minimal. People involved with scientific and medical studies paid $1 
for a license; those in agriculture and industry paid $3; seed 
handlers paid a little more and had extra paper work. Willard Rens, 
the "Hemp King of Wisconsin" closed the doors on that industry in 
1958. He told the author that the narcotics agents never visited his 
company. It was simply a matter of filling out the forms and sending 
off the money. 
	Recent investigations have revealed that the 1937 Marihuana 
Tax Act was used specifically against the short-lived ventures in 
Minnesota and Illinois. Dr. Edmond A. Schlesselman, son of Dr. J. T. 
Schlesselman, Mankato, MN, eye, ear, nose and throat doctor and 
President of Cannabis, Inc, was 30 years old when his father's 
company was hassled by the FBN. He tells that "they had to get an 
agent for every step. It just made it unworkable."
	The reader has a right to wonder why these companies were 
made the object of FBN harassment when the industry in Wisconsin, 
as Andrew Wright said, "are not concerned about this last law [The 
Marihuana Tax Act] because I believe they were given a very square 
deal in the national legislation on the matter."45 The myth is still perpetuated that this 
action was in some way justified because hemp can be used as a 
drug. Agencies of government still draw substantial taxpayer 
support predicated on this myth, and, to avoid having to explain that 
they have lied, the story is advanced that hemp had to be fixed. We 
are then told that new varieties have been developed which have 
fixed it so now we can grow it again. Poppycock. There is plenty of 
evidence that Kentucky hemp never had psychoactive potential. There 
was nothing to fix. 
	So the reader may well wonder what was going on then, and 
what is going on now. 
	This was not the first time hemp had stood on the verge of 
marvelous opportunities. Another "lost episode" in hemp's saga is 
that of George W. Schlichten. This amazing story, unearthed by Donald Wirtshafter, reveals the invention of a machine 
called a decorticator just after WW1. Inventor Schlichten, a German 
immigrant, had perfected a process for bast fiber separation which 
handled unretted stalk and produced a superior, lustrous, white, 
hemp fiber. A witness said of it: "I have seen a wonderful, yet 
simple, invention. I believe it will revolutionize many of the 
processes of feeding, clothing and supplying other wants of 
	In 1917, after spending $400,000 developing his decorticator, 
Schlichten was setting up in California to process hemp. Then, 
Schlichten and his machine quietly fade into history. It is said a fire 
destroyed everything. 
	Schlichten’s decorticator apparently worked by the 
differential stretching of the fiber with a series of complicated 
gears and fluted rollers which broke the pectin bond between fiber 
and woody core. 
	The machine was lost, but a man named F. E. Holton, who 
appears seemingly out of nowhere, promoting hemp in Minnesota in 
the mid-thirties, also had a machine he called a decorticator. 
Together with Dr. Schlesselman, and local bank president, Harry 
Pribnow, he formed Cannabis, Inc. In the course of other comments 
at the 1938 Marihuana Conference 
(which was also attended by Andrew Wright), Dr. B. B. Robinson of 
the USDA’s Division of Cotton and Other Fibers, made an oblique 
reference to the passing of the Minnesota companies:
Another argument for the hemp industry is the 
adaptability of the hemp plant to various regions of the country and 
because of suitability for mechanical handling, and these are some 
of the reasons why the office with which I am connected in the 
Department of Agriculure is interested in seeing this small nucleus 
of hemp industry continued each year until it is capable of 
supporting itself. I am speaking more of the industry in Wisconsin 
rather than the promotional attempts to grow hemp in Minnesota 
which one might speak of as unorthodox processing. But this industry 
we have [Wisconsin] is capable at the present time of supporting 
itself if public opinion does not force it to be shut down, or 
additional restrictions hamper it....This past summer, we had 1300 
acres of hemp produced commercially in this country, and it has been 
running about that acreage with the exception that in 1934 and 1935 
this acreage appeared in Minnesota, and in 1936 and 1937 we had a 
big acreage in Illinois, but those were acreages planted, you might 
say, for other purposes than the ordinary use, for there was an idea 
of producing fibre as a substitute for wool [celanese rayon] and 
various things of that nature. Those industries that attempted to do 
that, for one reason or another, have dropped by the 
The reader may well wonder about all this. For those who do, 
read another book.

	When Japan cut off access to Phillippine abaca, only the 
Wisconsin-Kentucky operation remained. Seed supplies were short, 
but the emergency production of 1942-4 was sufficient to alleviate 
the fiber crisis. In spite of the approximate $300,000 spent setting 
up each of the 42 mills built throughout the midwest by the War 
Hemp Industries Corporation, hemp production collapsed again at the 
end of the war. The mills were sold off as government surplus 
shortly after the war ended. Many of these structures are still 
standing today, as they were built very sturdily. The mills were 
reportedly designed by Andrew Wright (Figure 2). Whether in Ripon, Wisconsin, or 
Winchester, Kentucky, they all have the same concrete block 
construction with curved roof and long drying tunnel. The drying 
tunnel was heated by burning the leftover hurds. 

	The rest of the history of hemp, to the present, has little to do 
with hemp. Our attention has turned to hemp again, at fin de 
siecle, as the world experiences fiber shortage, for paper, 
construction material, insulation and textiles. With recognition of 
the cotton-chemical complex, consumers are shifting to "green" 
hempen eco-apparel. And, with rising consciousness, people have 
begun to question how the government was ever allowed to usurp the 
ancient right to plant a seed and use the natural harvest (consider 
Genesis 1:29.). They ask, "Why not hemp?" 
	A decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires a just 
response to the question. It was probably beyond Thomas Jefferson's 
wildest fears of government that it would someday presume 
jurisdiction over this basic freedom, or the Bill of Rights would 
surely contain eleven amendments.



	The current dilemma for North American hemp is that we have 
lost the germplasm, the machinery and the know-how of raising the 
crop. But, at the same time, neither is it encumbered by antequation. 
It seems fair to expect the crop will find niches heretofore untapped 
(Figure #), since environmental impact as consideration in consumer 
choice is a relatively new phenomenon. The emergence of ISO14000 
environmental standards heralds a new paradigm surpassing 
ISO9000 Quality standards in manufacturing. Powerful forces 
canalizing twentieth century society into the consumption of 
synthetic goods have, until recently, met with little resistance. 
Perhaps this is changing.

	Newly available are two classic references on hemp from 
studies in the US. Dewey's 1913 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture 
article on hemp was reproduced in Rosenthal’s Hemp Today. The 1944 
Iowa State Experiment Station Farm Bulletin, P63, "Hemp Production 
Experiments" is appended here. This latter publication is the most 
comprehensive study done in the US on hemp husbandry. Both these 
sources should be read in their entirety. 
	The farmer who wishes to grow this crop must determine what 
his/her intended use is for the harvested product. Today, the 
potential uses for hemp are more numerous than have previously 
been recognized, and, to varying degrees, each should be considered 
an individual crop with specific varieties, seeding rates and 
management. If seed is the crop, and stem is the byproduct (suitable 
for paper and composite lumber, not for textiles), the grower should 
seek a seed (monoecious) variety. But if fine textiles are the goal, 
the crop will be taken before flowering. A Hungarian kompolti 
variety is recommended. Likewise, if the market for the hemp stalk 
is replacing wood chips in fiberboard, it may well be that a high 
percentage of core (smaller hollow) is preferable and breeding 
selection will develop appropriate varieties. The feral germplasm in 
North America may be particularly valuable in this case.

	The hurds—the leftover, broken, inner woody core—have been 
something of a nuisance historically. When stems were broken in the field by moving the break 
from shock to shock, the hurds quickly composted into the soil. The 
Wisconsin industry used the hurds to heat the drying tunnel through 
which the stems moved on their way to the decorticator. Hurds were 
reportedly still leftover in abundance and were given away to 
farmers for animal bedding. Today, Hemcore in Britain has found a 
market selling hurds for horse bedding: it composts faster than 
straw or wood chips, it is four times more absorbent and it does not 
tangle into the animal’s hair.
	Animal bedding is only one of the uses rediscovered or newly 
invented for this former byproduct. Cellulose, such as the Minnesota 
companies were intending in the 1930s, is another. In France, 
Isochanvre is a building material made by mixing hemp hurds and 
plaster. It is seven times lighter than concrete and has superior 
thermal and acoustic insulating properties. But in France, hurds are 
only available as a byproduct from the hemp industry licensed for 
fiber production, thus limiting the expansion of this usage. 


Hemp As Organic Weed Control

	The first synthetic herbicides appeared in the 1930s. Since 
that time the chemical dependency of farms has been progressively 
secured. Non-chemical approaches have generally been relegated to 
"fringe" associations. Recently though, the concept of sustainability 
in agriculture has been finding greater academic support. A 
component of sustainability is responsible use of agchemicals, with 
emphasis on reduction in favor of "organic" methodologies. Hemp has 
an important role to play in sustainable and organic agriculture 
systems because it can clean fields of weeds.

	 In his textbook, Modern Weed Control, A. S. Crafts cites as 
potential weed smothering crops: millet, Sudan grass, sweet clover, 
sunflower, rape, barley, rye, reed canary grass, crested wheatgrass, 
sorghums, buckwheat, soybeans, alfalfa, cowpeas, clovers, hemp, 
Jerusalem artichoke, and ensilage corn. Of these only one, hemp, can 
be taken seriously as an adequate weed controlling competitive crop. 
	The testimonials to hemp-as-weed-control are legion. Some 
" is certain that hemp contributes more than any other crop 
towards repairing the damage done by its own growth through the 
return of the leaves to the soil, besides other matters while it is 
undergoing the process of retting. Hemp is an admirable weed killer 
and in flax countries is sometimes employed as a crop in rotation, to 
precede flax because it puts the soil in so good condition."
—Charles Dodge, Director, Office of Fiber Investigation, 1890.

"There will be little trouble with weeds if the first crop is well 
destroyed by the spring plowing, for hemp generally occupies all the 
ground giving weeds but little chance to intrude....In proof of this, a 
North River farmer a few years ago made the statement that thistles 
heretofore had mastered him in a certain field, but after sowing it 
with hemp not a thistle survived, and while ridding his land of this 
pest the hemp yielded him nearly $60 per acre where previously 
nothing valuable could be produced."
—C. Dodge, Hemp Culture, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1895

"Hemp prevents the growth of weeds and other vegetation which 
would be found on such soils in most other crops or after others are 
laid by, and its cultivation also seems to make the soil more uniform 
in character."
—Lyster Dewey, The Hemp Industry in the United States, USDA 
Yearbook of Agriculture, 1901

"Very few of the common weeds troublesome on the farm can survive 
the dense shade of a good crop of hemp...In one 4-acre field in Vernon 
County, Wis., where Canada thistles were very thick, fully 95 per 
cent of the thistles were killed...." Lyster Dewey, Hemp. USDA 
Yearbook of Agriculture, 1913.

"Hemp has been demonstrated to be the best smother crop for 
assisting in the eradication of quack grass and Canada thistles....At 
Waupon in 1911 the hemp was grown on land badly infested with 
quack grass, and in spite of an unfavorable season a yield of 2,100 
pounds of fiber to the acre was obtained and the quack grass was 
practically destroyed." —Andrew Wright, Wisconsin's Hemp Industry, 

"Hemp has been recommended as a weed control crop. Its dense, tall 
growth helps to kill out many common weeds. The noxious bindweed, 
a member of the morning glory family is checked to some extent by 
hemp."—B. B. Robinson, Hemp, USDA Agric Bull #1453, 1943

"Among the species studied, the hemp species proved itself to be the 
best in fiber production. This plant was all the more interesting 
owing to its low fertilization requirements, and its ability to grow 
without being irrigated and without chemicals, whether it be for 
weed or pest control."  Barriere, et al. 199448

"Hemp grows quickly, soon covers the ground and chokes out the 
weeds. So weed control is not necessary." —Eddy A. A. de Maeyer. 
1994 54

"In an age increasingly interested in sustainable agriculture and crop 
diversification, hemp offers some attractive possibilities.  It is 
exceptionally disease and herbivore-resistant, can be easily grown 
in a wide range of agricultural systems and is an excellent rotation 
crop which eliminates weeds." --Gordon Reichert, 1994.49

	In Holland, Lotz, et al. tested hemp's superior weed 
suppressing ability (Figure 1) against four other cropping situations 
in a controlled experimental setting. The target weed was yellow 
nutgrass (Cyperus esculentus), a weed also common in the US, which 
propagates by tubers and is difficult to control. The authors 
conclude, "...hemp was the most competitive crop in this study. 
Selecting this crop in a rotation will cause the strongest population 
reduction ofC. esculentus on infested farmland. This control option 
of hemp against harmful weeds as C. esculentus is an attendant 
benefit of the introduction of hemp as a commercial crop."50
Although the historical record contains testimonials to hemp's 
rather benign impact on the land, and instances where it has been 
grown in monoculture for over twenty years, it is not recommended 
that hemp be grown repeatedly on the same plot. Two successive 
years of hemp, if properly fertilized, will not be injurious and in 
cases of recalcitrant weeds, may be required to clean the fields. A 
favorable rotation includes a nitrogen fixer alternating with hemp 
and row crops or small grains. Hemp will do well in rotation with 
alfalfa and corn. The old-timer's rule of thumb was, "any land that 
grows a good crop of corn will grow good hemp."
	Kok and Coenen (1994) reported that hemp was a poor host for 
Meloidogyne chitwoodii, a nematode pest. Hemp grown on 
infested acreage would not support proliferation of this pest.51 In a 
similar vein, Mankowski, et al. (1994) reported growing hemp on land 
polluted with heavy metals. The metals were taken up into roots and 



Seed Variety
	In a sophisticated, industrial society in which hemp is a 
cropping option on equal footing with all others (corn, soybean, 
cotton, etc.), varieties will be bred by commercial plant breeders for 
specific uses. Multi-purpose varieties may also be bred, although it 
is often the case that such varieties fail to optimize their primary 
economic traits. 
	At this stage, available varieties have been bred for fiber. 
Broadly classified, hemp varieties are either monoecious or 
dioecious, that is having the sexes on the same or separate plants, 
respectively. Monoecious varieties have been bred in France, 
primarily. The advantage is greater uniformity and increased yield of 
seed. Monoecious varieties are best where a dual usage—fiber and 
seed—is desired. Bosca, the great Hungarian hemp breeder, has 
pointed out that monoecious varieties suffer a degree of inbreeding 
(perhaps 20%) which would decrease potential.53 
	Current legal encumberances to the hemp crop tend to mitigate 
in favor of French varieties. Nonetheless, varieties from Hungary, 
Poland and the Ukraine should be considered as well. Only in Hungary 
have hybrid varieties been developed. Elsewhere, the eastern 
European hemps are dioecious, open-pollinated synthetics, rather 
like the type of corn (maize) grown prior to the advent of 
hybridization in the early decades of this century. The significance 
of this relates to the manner in which the seed supply is reproduced. 
Hybrid varieties require fairly elaborate operations to maintain the 
parent materials which are crossed to create the hybrid variety 
planted by the farmer. Considerable research goes into identifying 
specific genotypes which, when hybridized, combine genetically for 
optimum productivity. However, the farmer must depend on an 
industry which manages the seed production. This dependence, 
decried by some, seems to have served farmers in the case of corn. 
It is generally true that hybrid varieties are made if manipulation of 
pollination is practical. The corn plant’s morphology, for instance, 
allows easy emasculation (detassling).
	Male hemp plants can be physically removed from a dioecious 
population serving as seed parent. Certain Hungarian hemp hybrids 
are made using a technique which employs the ability to make 
unisexual (female) populations which can function in a manner 
analogous to male-sterility to facilitate crossing. Currently, hemp 
“hybrids” grown by the farmer are acutally the F2, or second 
generation. Higher yields result, but uniformity, such as we are 
accustomed to in F1 corn hybrids, will be lacking. So far hemp has 
been recalcitrant to inbreeding (so was corn, in the early stages). 
Hemp varieties are therefore inherently variable.  Because of genetic 
segregation, subsequent generations from that immediately 
following hybridization (F1) are even more variable. Thus, the trade-
off for performance is the need to purchase planting seed each year. 
Use of “bin-run” seed is inadvisable from this perspective. At 
present, this matters little, as it is probable that farmers growing 
hemp in the near future will be required to obtain their seed from 
certified seed growers to assure compliance with THC regulation. 
This hang-up will no doubt ultimately be recognized as silly, but 
while competing interests control public policy, we will be forced 
to accommodate. (These competing interests will attempt to 
entangle hemp farming in a plethora of redtape, with which it may 
be strangled. Excessive accommodation is not recommended.) One 
promising system has been suggested in Kentucky and will be 
discussed later.

	If the variety is not hybrid, the owner of the variety, such as 
the various bast fiber institutes of Eastern Europe, is likely to 
require the buyer to sign a contract promising not to reproduce it 
(save seed for replanting or sale). Germplasm is handled like 
software in these modern times, and as such it is private property. 
Right to ownership of germplasm assures the breeder that research 
costs can be recouped. Today, it is even possible to patent seed 
varieties. Like it or not, such developments can be anticipated for 
hemp as it becomes a more sophisticated crop. 

	There are many hemps which are excluded by current 
regulations, including some superior Hungarian hybrids as well as 
hemps which have not sought inclusion, such as the Chinese and 
Chilean hemps. The 0.3% THC threshold was established more on 
political than scientific grounds and is in need of serious 
reevaluation. Countries newly opening to hemp should not adapt this 
outmoded criterion without assessing the implications it has for 
germplasm options.
	Because hemp varieties adapted to North America have been 
lost, the North American farmer will, for the near-term, be required 
to import seed. This is only one of the barriers to be faced. When 
importing seed, the buyer must ensure that the seed is accompanied 
by the appropriate forms. First of these is the phytosanitary 
certificate, which the seller should provide. This certificate 
indicates that the seed has been inspected and is free of disease 
organisms which could introduce a disease to the indigenous crop 
(irony aside). There may also be a requirement for the "Orange 
International Seedlot Certificate." Again, it is the responsibility of 
the seller to make sure this form accompanies the seed. It is 
important for the buyer to remind the seller of these requirements 
as some hempseed sources in Eastern Europe may be unfamiliar with 
these requirements.
	The expectant hemp farmer is advised that the rigmarole 
implicit in having to import the seed necessitates initiating the 
seed acquisition well in advance. 

	Hemp is not a crop to be grown haphazardly or sloppily. Many 
reports indicate an intimate relationship between fiber quality and 
the character of the land. Bear in mind that hemp varieties do not 
have the genetic uniformity that North American farmers are 
accustomed to in their F1-hybrid corn varieties or their wheat and 
soybeans. In the case of corn, all plants of a given variety are 
genetically the same because the hybrids are created from carefully 
bred and selected “inbred lines” which are genetically homozygous 
(lacking variation). Soybean and wheat are self-pollinating crops 
which are themselves inbred and homozygous. A variety of a self-
pollianted crop generally traces back to a superior individual plant 
selection which was increased for commercial distribution.
	Hemp has so far been quite recalcitrant to inbreeding. The 
separation of the sexes ensures that individual plants do not mate 
with themselves. When hemp is forced to inbreed, the vigor and 
fecundity of progenies declines rapidly and the lineage is quickly 
extinguished. This then means that varieties are maintained as pools 
of genetic variation, rather like a race, or regionalism. Within a 
generally recognizable type, a wide range of variation is found from 
individual to individual.
	One consequence of the genetic variation among individual 
plants in the field is that some will have greater vigor than others 
just by the random assortment of genes each generation. Given the 
opportunity, these plants can outgrow their weaker neighbors, 
crowding them out and leading to great irregularity in the crop. 
	Preparation of the land is always highly emphasized in 
standard discussions of hemp culture. Unevenness in the field due to 
improper tillage or fertilization will contribute to undesirable plant 
to plant variation.  Plowing should be deep, followed by harrowing 
until a smooth, level bed is developed. Excessive clumping of soil, 
dead furrows, recalcitrant weed patches and uneven fertility are to 
be assiduously avoided. Care in preparation of the seed bed is 
probably the single most significant factor in the production of 
quality hemp fiber. If the field has had a bad weed infestation, it is 
important to fully disk down the weeds so that hemp will get a jump 
on them. Once hemp is established, it will generally suppress weeds, 
as we have repeatedly emphasized.
	Fertilization is a complicated issue when it comes to hemp. 
The reader is referred for details to the appended Iowa State 
Bulletin. If the hemp is being grown for fiber, quality features are as 
important as total biomass yield. Pouring on the nitrogen will 
increase yield, this has been adequately demonstrated. But too much 
nitrogen leads to coarse, rank growth. The best source of nitrogen is 
the prior growth of a nitrogen fixing legume, preferably alfalfa or 
clover and application of manure. The authors of the bulletin 
indicate that soybeans are less effective at providing nitrogen to a 
following hemp crop. (See Figures 14 & 17 in the bulletin.)
	Hessler54 concurred with the effect of over-fertilization. 
Furthermore, he demonstrated that "a definitely weaker fiber was 
produced where fertilizers containing nitrogen were used." Nitrogen 
was found to increase the protein content of the stem to the 
detriment of strength. The weakest samples had the highest nitrogen 
content. Van der Werf55 demonstrated that excess nitrogen 
fertilization increased interplant competition leading to greater 
self-thinning in the crop and uneven growth. 

	Dempsey, in his classic work, Fiber Crops,56 presents a table 
indicating that hemp’s removal of nutrients greatly exceeds that of 
maize and other grains. Since this table has been reproduced in the 
recent, popular, AgCanada BiWeekly Bulletin: Hemp,57 Hemp, it is 
important to point out that the maize yields represented in the table 
are unrealistically low for modern farming. The general rule-of-
thumb for corn farmers is "a pound of N for every bushel of expected 
yield." At such rates, and, moreover, considering that the majority 
of N hemp uses for growth can be returned to the soil, the soil 
budget for hemp is even more attractive. 
	The Iowa Bulletin indicates that inorganic fertilizer of the 
same kind commonly used for corn works well for hemp. Kozlowski, 
in Poland, recommends 80-110lbs/acre available nitrogen (N); 60-90 
phosphorus (P); 135-160 potassium (K); 14-18 calcium (CaO). This 
considerable range leaves much open to the farmer's 
experimentation. Fiber and seed crops are handled differently:
ratio N:P:K
1:0.7:1.5 (fiber)
1:0.8: 1 (seed)58

	Given it’s weed control function, hemp works well into 
"organic" agriculture. Hemp is reported to perform best on well-
manured soils with high organic matter (well-drained). Naturally, 
the soil nutrient status should be thoroughly tested and periodically 
monitored. Although hemp is reported to accept soil acidity as low 
as pH 5.5, neutral pH is recommended. Lime accordingly.
	Hemp may be drilled or broadcast. Drilling is recommended for 
uniformity. A grain drill or modified alfalfa seeder can be used. 
Planting depth is between 0.5 and 1.0 inch, although greater depths 
are occasionally recommended (up to 2 inches in Poland). Row
 spacing for fiber should be four to seven inches, 50-60lbs/acre (a bushel and a peck). (Variability in germination can be a problem 
among hemp seedlots. The grower is well advised to test a sample 
and adjust planting rate accordingly, at least until the seed industry 
takes responsibility for this crop.)
	The seed crop is planted much less densely (the seed crop is 
not a weed controller) at about twenty-inch spacing, approximately 
10lbs/acre. A bushel of Kentucky hemp seed weighed 44 pounds. 
	There are circumstances, for instance, the production of fine, 
flaxen, water-retted textile fiber, which warrant planting at much 
higher rates, hundreds of pounds of seed to the acre. There is much 
opportunity for experimentation by individual farmers to determine 
optimium practice in their specific environment.
	Hemp can be planted early. Recommended soil temperature for 
planting is 8-10°C. In Wisconsin the crop was planted before corn. It 
can generally be the first crop seeded. Darsie, et al. (1914), reported 
the temperature of the emerging hemp seed to be the highest of the 
plants they surveyed.59 It generates its own heat metabolizing its 
seed oil. This early emergence character of hemp is a component of 
its weed suppression. 

	Another positive attribute of the crop is that once it is 
planted, no further husbandry is required until harvest. This "plant 
it/harvest it" aspect of the crop reduces energy consumption as 
well as soil compaction from passes by spraying and cultivating 
equipment. Although in damp climates, the crop can suffer from the 
Botryis leaf fungus, treatment is not deamed worthwhile. 
Similarly, European corn borer, a pest of corn, has been reported to 
occasionally burrow a hemp stalk. But no insects bother the crop 
sufficiently to warrant remediation. 
	Researchers in Manitoba in 1995 had some negative 
experiences both with insects and weeds. The crop was planted late 
because the permitting redtape delayed seed shipments. Furthermore 
the varieties were imported from Eastern Europe since or own 
adapted material is no longer available. This is not an uber-crop 
impervious to all the viscissitudes of environment. Properly 
managed adapted varieties throughout the world have a very positive 
track record on pest problems.
	Birds, on the other hand, can be a serious problem in the seed 
crop. Birds love hempseed. Good luck.


	This is where things start getting more complicated. 

	The Kentucky Hemp Grower’s Co-operative Association, 
recently reincarnated from its 1942 charter, is ahead of the ball on 
the practical aspects of organizing the production of this crop. Their 
system borrows from the tobacco model, familiar to most farmers 
in the state:
	In their model, all aspects of the crop would be handled 
through the co-op. 
Farmers plant seed provided by the co-op; this provides 
for control of genotype. 
The co-op manages issues related to hemp variety evaluation and 
certification in compliance with legalities. Just as the cannery 
specifies the pea variety to the farmer, so does the hemp co-op allot 
acreages for specific hemps. The co-op forward contracts with fiber 
end-users for the needed  production. Acreages are alloted 
accordingly among co-op member farmers.
Marketing of the fiber is handled through the co-op. The crop can 
only be grown under contract to the co-op. It cannot be grown "on 
spec." Supply/demand relationships are managed to maintain 
profitability for the farmer. 
A grower must be a member of the co-op and bonded. Members found 
violating variety control regulations lose their allotment and forfeit 
their bond.
In the Kentucky Co-op model, conceived for Kentucky 
conditions, farmers hold the fiber on-farm, probably in a baled form, 
and disperse it to the mills over the year, providing steady income. 
This intelligent system handles the objections so often raised to 
obstruct this crop: the supposed fear that hemp fields will be used 
to sequester marijuana plants. Under this system farmers have 
powerful incentive not to engage in planting of illicit varieties of 
Cannabis. (Hemp fields are not good places to grow horticultural 
varieties of Cannabis for the following reasons: 1) Hemp for fiber is 
cut before plants flower; 2) plant density is high in the agronomic 
setting; 3) if flowering occurred, abundant pollen would reduce the 
quality of the herb; herb farmers will want to keep their plants 
away from hemp fields; high test genetic strains will be degraded by 
contamination with fiber hemp pollen.60) 
	The Kentucky system provides for total integration of crop 
production and marketing. No one will be growing the crop who does 
not have a permit and the trail will be complete from seed through 
the final disposal of the fiber. Authorities can know where and by 
whom the crop is being produced.  If a person is in possession of 
Cannabis who is not in the co-op system, they will be guilty of 
illegal possession, regardless of THC assay. The co-op will police 
its membership, obviating the need for complicated and expensive 
fielding testing of farmers' crops. 
	Given a system operating in this way, the specific technical 
issues associated with harvesting and post-harvest handling of the 
crop will be determined by the co-op organization in accordance 
with the intended end use. Such specialized harvesting equipment as 
is needed will likely also be arranged through the co-op and shared. 

Seed harvest can be accomplished with a grain harvester with 
appropriately sized screens. European and Soviet manufacturers have 
designed combine harvestors for hemp which remove seed and bundle 
the stem simultaneously. The great expense of such machines 
necessitates a co-op organization of growers.
	Fiber harvest is a whole new matter. Harvest technicalities 
have nearly done-in the fiber crop at times in the foretold history. 
This topic could well occupy an entire tome; our treatment can only 
sketch the subject.
	First issue: how will the crop be retted? Dew or water; or 
unretted decortication or sonic explosion?

[in progresso]

1Small, E. 1979. The Species Problem in Cannabis. Corpus, Canada.
2Hopkins, J. F. 1951. A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky. 
University of Kentucky Press, Lexington. p.113
3His diaries record the removal of male plants from the hempseed 
production fields which has led some to speculate that he was 
attempting to grow seedless(high potency) marijuana. This is not the 
case. It is common practice in hempseed production to remove all 
but a few male plants to reduce competition with the seed bearing 
females. There is no evidence George smoked his crop or that the 
European fiber hemp he grew had psychoactive potential. Quite the 
4Mitchell, R. D. 1973. Agricultural Change and the American 
Revolution: A Virginia Case Study. Agricultural History 43:130n.
5Hopkins, J. F. 1951. A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky. 
University of Kentucky Press, Lexington.
6Bidwell, P. W. and J. I. Falconer. 1941. History of Agriculture in the 
Northern United States: 1620-1860. Carnegie Inst. Washington, D.C. 
7Presidential Executive Order 12919. June 4, 1994. Oil from the 
hempseed has been specified by the military as a lubricant for 
particular weaponry.
8The winter season is represented on the dome of the Paris, 
Kentucky, courthouse by a depiction of hemp breaking.
9Hopkins, p. 195
10Dodge, C. A. 1890.  The Hemp Industry.  USDA  Division of 
Statistics 1: 64-74. 
11Oliver, J. W. 1956. History of American Technology. The Ronald 
Press Co. p. 366.
12Dodge, p.68.
13USDA. 1902. USDA. Yearbk of Agric. p. 23.
14One was at Viroqua, the hometown of the—by then—late Jeremiah 
Rusk, and others of lesser note.
15Wright, Andrew. 1918. Wisconsin's Hemp Industry. Wisconsin 
Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin # 293.p. 8.
16Wright, p.5.
17The 1913 article has been reproduced and published in E. 
Rosenthal,ed., Hemp Today, 1994, Quick American Archives, Oakland, 
18Dewey, L. H. 1901. The Hemp Industry in the United States. USDA 
Yearbk of Agric. p.554.
19An unfortunate aspect of this introduction appears to have been 
the importation of a weed known as "broom-rape" which is parasitic 
on hemp roots. The seed is similar in size to hempseed and can be 
disseminated with hempseed if care is not taken in the seed fields. 
20Dewey, L. H. 1943  Fiber Production in the Western Hemisphere. 
USDA Misc. Publ. no. 518.
21Small (1979) contrasts the hollowness of fiber vs non-fiber 
(psychoactive) types of Cannabis, which he illustates in this book. 
The author (DPW) has confirmed the persistence of the large lumen 
in feral stands of Wisconsin hemp which were undergoing 
22Bocsa, I. 1995.-------
23USDA. Bureau of Plant Industry. 1917. Report of the Chief. p. 12.
24USDA. Bureau of Plant Industry. 1918. Report of the Chief. p. 28. 
Water-retted hemp from Italy was the standard for quality fiber.
25USDA. Bureau of Plant Industry. 1919. Report of the Chief. p. 21.
26USDA. Bureau of Plant Industry. 1920. Report of the Chief. p. 26.A 
detailed description of four varieties developed by Lyster Dewey's 
federal hemp breeding program is included in the 1927 Yearbook of 
27van der Werf, H. 1994. The Crop Physiology of Fibre Hemp. 
Wageningen, The Netherlands.
28USDA. 1929. Bureau of Plant Industry, Annual Report. p. 27.
29Dewey, L. H. 1931. Hemp fiber losing ground, despite its valuable 
qualities. USDA Yearbk of Agric. p. 285.
30West, D.P. 1994. Fiber Wars: The Extinction of Kentucky Hemp. In, 
E. Rosenthal, ed. Hemp Today. Quick American Archives, Oakland CA.
31Hemp and flax—although botanically unrelated—have very similar 
fibers and almost identical drying oils (oils high in linolenic acid) in 
their seed. 
32Fite, G. C. 1984. Cotton Fields No More: Southern Agriculture 
1865-1980. The University of Kentucky Press.
33USDA. 1935. Annual Reports of the Department of Agriculture, p.6.
34Herer, J. 1994. The Emperor Wears No Clothes. Queen of Spades 
Publ. Kaplan, J. 1970. Marijuana: The New Prohibition. World Publ. Co.
35Small, 1979.
36Pate, D._______________
37Watt, George. 1889. Dictionary of the Economic Products of India. 
Calcutta 2:105.
38USDA. 1938. Bureau of Plant Industry, Annual Report, p. 7.
39Clark, R. C. 1981. Marijuana Botany. Ronin Publ. Berkeley, CA. 
Based on Small, E. and H. D. Beckstead. 1973. Cannabinoid phenotypes 
in Cannabis sativa. Nature 245:147-148.
40Clarke, R. C. and D. W. Pate. 1994. Medical marijuana. J. 
International Hemp Assoc. 1:9.
41Small, 1979
42Mauersberger, H. R. 1947. Matthews’ Textile Fibers. John Wiley & 
Sons, Inc., London.
43Karus, M. and G. Leson. 1994. Hemp research and market 
development in Germany. J. International Hemp Assoc. 2:15-19.
44Haynes, Williams. 1958. Cellulose, The Chemical that Grows. 
45Andrew Wright, addressing the 1938 Marihuana Conference.
46Wirtshafter, D. 1994. The Schlicten Papers. The Ohio Hempery.
47Marihuana Conference, p. 31.
48From papers delivered at the Conference on Alternative Oilseed 
and Fiber Crops for the Cool and Wet Regions of Europe, Wageningen, 
The Netherlands, April 7-8, 1994.
49Reichert, G. 1994. Hemp. AgCanada Bi-Weeekly Bulletin 7:23.
50Lotz, L. A., P. R. M. W. Groeneveld, B. Habekotte, and H. van Oene. 
1991. Reduction of growth and reproduction of Cyperus esculentus by 
specific crops. Weed Research 31:153-160.
51Kok, C. J. and G. C. M. Coenen. 1994. Reproduction of Meloidogyne 
chitwoodii  on alternative crops. Proc. Alternative oilseed and fibre 
crops for cool and wet regions of Europe. Wageningen, The 
Netherlands. Ap. 7-8, 1994. 
52Mankowski, J., L. Grabowska and P. Baraniecki. Hemp and flax 
cultivated on soil polluted with heavy metals. Proc. Alternative 
oilseed and fibre crops for cool and wet regions of Europe. 
Wageningen, The Netherlands. Ap. 7-8, 1994. 
53Bocsa, I. IHA
54Hessler, L. E. 1947. The effect of fertilizers on the chemical 
composition and quality of dew-retted hemp fiber. J. Am. Soc. Agron. 
55Van der Werf, H. 1994. The Crop Physiology of Hemp. Wageningen.
56 Dempsey, J. M. 1975. Fiber Crops. University of Florida Press.
57Reichert, G. 1994. Hemp. Canadian Bi-Weekly Bulletin --------
58Kozlowski, R. 1995. Bioresource Hemp. Frankfurt, Germany
59Darsie, et al. 1914. Botanical Gazette 38:101.
60Kenaf, which has a rough similarity to the Cannabis leaf, would be 
a better crop in which to hide marijuana. They wouldn't cross 

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