Hemp and WWII
It’s common knowledge that in times of need our country has experienced both heavy military recruitment and drafting, but did you know that during WWII American hemp farmers were also recruited?
In 1942 the U.S. government released a black and white film titled “Hemp for Victory.” It was made to encourage farmers to grow hemp to help aid in the war effort. There was a massive shortage of other industrial fibers which we typically imported to make rope, textiles and many other products. The normal shipment of Filipino hemp and Indian jute had been blocked by Japan. In that year 14,000 acres of industrial hemp fiber were harvested in America. The goal for 1943 was 300,000 acres.
In the 1940’s, there was recruitment in the U.S. to grow hemp, for which a special “tax stamp” was required. Although Cannabis had been criminalized in 1937, the film, credited to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a patriotic production abounding with the praises of hemp. Starting with a bit of history about its use over thousands of years, hemp is positively characterized as “already old in the service to mankind.” Examples include the hemp canvas covers of the Conestoga wagons and prairie schooners and the use of 60 tons of the plant in “hempen shrouds and hempen sails” on the 18th century frigate, the USS Constitution, affectionately referred to as “Old Ironsides”.
The video was less than fourteen minutes long, this recruitment tool provides a surprisingly comprehensive overview of hemp cultivation and production processes. With a lively, sometimes nostalgic and patriotic soundtrack, potential recruits are “taught the ropes” from planting to harvest and retting to bundling, even featuring the latest farm equipment. As production of various hemp products—including rope, twine, upholstery materials, yarn, tackle, fire hoses, sails and marine rigging, parachute webbing, and fiber for shoes for millions of troops—is demonstrated, it is made clear that these production plants will now be processing only American hemp. The film cautions that seeds should be handled carefully and that American farmers, to be a stakeholder in the revitalized U.S. hemp industry, must be registered with the federal government and have a “tax stamp” in hand as part of their contract.
When all was said and done with the war the film was said to have vanished. Some reports even claim that the U.S. government denied it’s very existence. Copies again resurfaced in about 1989 and since the film has often been used for the advocacy of hemp farming and in support of the myriad uses for hemp. There is a book by the same name, published in 2006 by Whitaker Press in London, and a three-part sequel to the movie was created by a UK-based production house in 2008. Watch the original film, Hemp for Victory, on YouTube.
We’re hopeful that the discrimination of hemp within the United States is finally coming to an end now that the Hemp Farming Act was signed!
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