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Hemp is an amazing plant. Not only is Hemp the source of CBD, the primary healing component in Fusion CBD’s products, hemp is used in a number of other industries.

Hemp can be used for:

  • Food and supplements for both humans and animals
  • Body oils and lotions
  • Oil based products like candles, lanterns, and paint
  • Clothing
  • Plastic
  • Paper
  • Construction materials
  • Fuel
  • And, of course, medicinally as in the case of full spectrum CBD.

In fact, hemp is such a versatile plant that at one point it was against the law NOT to grow it!

So how did this plant go from being a primary crop, a “golden child” of agriculture, to being an outlaw? Well, the fact is, it’s complicated. It has to do with its not-too-distant cousin marijuana. Following is a timeline, broken into significant 30-year chunks, to give you an overview.

1930s—1960s: The Age of Anslinger

1930: Harry Anslinger Becomes the Commissioner of Narcotics

Conspiracy theories aside (and there are a few of them), one thing is sure: a man named Harry Anslinger is a significant character in the history of hemp. He played a large role in keeping hemp and marijuana, cousins in the cannabis family, away from the public at large.

In 1930, Harry Anslinger was appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), a position he held until 1962—32 years total. He was first recommended for the position by Treasury Department Secretary, Andrew Mellon, his wife’s uncle. Oh nepotism, you are always lurking around the corner somewhere.

Surprisingly, prior to this, Anslinger was on record essentially saying cannabis use was not a big deal. He said that the concept of cannabis making people crazy or violent was an “absurd fallacy”. Before the FBN, Anslinger worked for the Bureau of Prohibition. By the time Ansliger was appointed as Commission of the FBN, prohibition of alcohol was on its way out (it was repealed in 1933.)

New Job Brings New Attitudes About Cannabis

“From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position. A war on narcotics alone—cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914—wasn’t enough,” author Johann Hari wrote in his book, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. “They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs. He needed more.”

Consequently, Anslinger made it his mission to rid the U.S. of all drugs — including cannabis. His influence played a major role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling pot. (Reported by CBS News.)

This law had the consequence of also impacting the hemp industry because it was felt that the production of hemp would make enforcement of the Marijuana Tax Act difficult for enforcers who could not tell the difference.

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Harry Anslinger’s Beginnings

Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1892, Anslinger was the eighth of nine children in a Swiss immigrant family. Anslinger said that two incidents during his youth strongly influenced him as a narcotics commissioner. The first was a traumatic experience at the young age of twelve.

In his book, The Murderers: The Story of the Narcotics Gangs. Anslinger recounts how he once visited a neighboring farm and heard shrill screams of a woman on the second floor. He learned that she was addicted to morphine. Soon her husband ran down the stairs and asked him to go to town for a package at the drugstore. Henry complied and brought back morphine for the woman. When she had taken her first dose, the screams stopped.

Anslinger said that he never forgot the screams of agony shrieked by his neighbor’s wife because of withdrawal symptoms or how good she felt on getting a dose of morphine. Nor did he forget how easy it was for a twelve-year-old boy to buy morphine—no questions asked.

The second experience happened while working on the railroad. It was in this position that he came into contact with Italian Immigrants who spoke of a “Black Hand” organization, a sort of extra-legal society brought from the old country. In this way Anslinger learned about the mafia. He later heard about and witnessed nefarious activities of this secret society. As Commissioner of Narcotics, he became obsessed with his attack on the Mafia and the evil it represented.

Anslinger’s Legacy

As the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), Anslinger favored an extremely punitive approach from the outset. He opposed “education” about the realities of drug use—saying that education would encourage youth to experiment.

In the mid-30s Anslinger orchestrated the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. This law effectively made both marijuana and hemp, its innocent non-psychoactive cousin, illegal.

Anslinger contributed to the Boggs Act of 1951 which set mandatory sentences for drug convictions. As a result, a first offense conviction carried a minimum sentence of 2 to 10 years. And a fine of up to $20,000! A few years later, Anslinger pushed the Narcotic Control Act of 1956 which stiffened punishment even more. This act created a situation in which drug dealers received stiffer sentences than even some of the most violent and heinous criminals—in some cases life sentences without hope of parole.

Beyond criminalization, the acts in 1951 and 1956 created limitations on research by making it difficult to obtain cannabis for academic purposes.

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Why Stop There Mr. Anslinger?

Anslinger, greatly expanded the FBN’s powers. He established an empire of sorts when the bureau began to branch out into many unrelated activities.

Ironically, Anslinger supplied morphene to the most publicized anti-communist in the country—Senator Joseph McCarthy who was a morphene addict. Anslinger rationalized that in doing so he was saving the country from embarrassment. Anslinger protected McCarthy’s secret until McCarthy’s death in 1957.

Anslinger and the FBN collaborated with the CIA in drug experimentation and creating a “truth serum”. These same experiments were later the subject of the famous MK-ULTRA investigation spearheaded by Senator Edward Kennedy. By the time the investigation was underway, Anslinger had already passed away. This spared him the embarrassment of having to explain his motives in participating in those experiments, but it is felt that he may have taken many answers about MK-ULTRA to the grave with him.

In doing these activities, Anslinger resorted to such tactics as entrapment and legal harassment, threatening suspects with indictments, and generally intimidating those who disagreed with Bureau policies.

Though he had succeeded in increasing the punishment for the use, possession, and cultivation of hemp and marijuana, Anslinger had not succeeded in stopping its use.

1960s—1990s: The Age of Mechoulam

When one thinks of cannabis in the 60s, usually images of hippies smoking joints in the grass at an outdoor concert come to mind. And while this is true, that is not all that was going on with cannabis.

At the same time that kids were getting high, others, such as Dr. Raphael Mechoulam (who was not a hippie and has never smoked a joint in his life) began studying cannabis scientifically. A chemist, Dr. Mechoulam has been deeply curious about cannabis for nearly his whole professional life. Dr. Mechoulam is considered the world’s foremost researcher of cannabis.

Dr. Mechoulam was fascinated by the fact that so little was known about the chemistry of cannabis. By contrast, the chemistry of opium was known—morphine having been isolated from it nearly 150 years earlier, and likewise, cocaine had been isolated from coca leaves. Since so little was known about the chemistry of cannabis, it made a fascinating topic of research.

In 1963, Dr. Mechoulam rediscovered the cannabinoid CBD in cannabis. The word “rediscovered” is used because it had been discovered originally in 1940 by Dr. Roger Adams. However, it was Dr. Mechoulam who made its structure fully known. Just a year later, in 1964, he isolated the psychoactive component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (TCH) for the first time.

But because of the legal issues surrounding cannabis, it was not an easy area to do research in. And the war against all forms of cannabis, marijuana and hemp, continued.

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The Controlled Substances Act and Cannabis

1970 saw the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act. This placed illicit drugs in five different schedules. The final decision about which schedule a drug was put in was not made by medical experts but by the Justice Department—the Attorney General (John Mitchell) and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (later named the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It was then that all forms of Cannabis, marijuana and hemp alike, became categorized as a Schedule 1 Drug. It was listed as having “no accepted medical use” and was defined as having a high potential for abuse. This limited further research into the plant.

Ironically, not long after it was placed on the Schedule 1 list, two medical uses for cannabis were discovered. The first was for glaucoma. Robert Randall, a college teacher with glaucoma, became the first legal user of marijuana for medical purposes when he won a landmark court case allowing him to do so in 1976. The second medical use was alleviating the side effects of extreme nausea caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients.

The Discovery of CBD Receptors

In 1988, medical history was made once again when scientists discovered the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. Today, we know they are some of the most abundant neuroreceptors in the brain. A few years later, the CB2 receptors were discovered which were found to be plentiful throughout the gut, spleen liver, bones, blood vessels, heart, kidneys, lymph cells and the reproductive organs. These receptors were affected by the THC phytocannabinoid in marijuana (phyto is a prefix that means “plant”). This led to the pesky question “Why the heck do we have these receptors?’

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam (remember him from 1964?) along with researchers William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus, answered this question with the discovery of two endocannabinoids (endo is a prefix that means “within, inner”) produced by our bodies.

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1990s— 2020 and Beyond: Hemp Now and in the Future

Since the discovery of our body’s endocannabinoid system, it has become more and more clear just what an important role this system and cannabinoids have in maintaining balance and good health.

Researchers have discovered the benefits of CBD for PTSD in veterans and benefits for athletes and people who suffer from pain and inflammation. They have also discovered that it is not just the cannabinoid CBD that helps people but the full spectrum of cannabinoids found in the hemp plant as well as the terpenes.

With the passage of the Farm Bill late last year, hemp was finally separated from its cannabis cousin marijuana and was taken off the DEA Schedule 1 narcotic list. Hemp is therefore no longer federally banned.

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