Hippies with stoned ideas and a delusional idealism. That’s the most common image of hemp advocates and practitioners among conservative rural Americans.
And while us old hippies may indeed have something of an emotional attachment to cannabis, we’ve been right all along about its medicinal value. And then, of course, there’s the money: the tax money, the private fortunes now being made from good ol’ puff. But can we get beyond that? To the immense potential of the physical plant itself?
Organizations such as Vote Hemp, which have been educating the public about the history of cannabis in the USA, tell of the public campaigns that vilified marijuana as a dangerous drug that threatened the social order. Cannabis scholars have known for years of the industrialists behind the propaganda of the day who didn’t want their own industries threatened by the hemp plant: Hearst, Dupont . . . the usual suspects.
Today, as we are more aware of the ways that multinational corporations control manufacturing and commerce -- at the expense of the middle and working classes, as well as the environment -- hemp is a symbol of the common man’s struggle for economic and personal independence. (The hippy dream rears its ugly head again).
With the top heavy conglomeration of the world’s wealth being largely supported by petrochemical, pharmaceutical, insurance, and banking institutions, hemp is a natural contrast. It offers a source of above ground energy, ways to manufacture and build without toxicity; it offers nutrition, medicine and a wide range of consumer goods such as clothing, and health and beauty products.
This prolific plant in the hands of the masses could set the foundation for transition toward strong local economies, reduced energy consumption, more organic agriculture, inexpensive medicine, and on and on. Just as marijuana was an emblem of sticking it to the man amid anti-war, pro-civil rights movements of the 60’s, the hemp plant represents a hopeful offering of a material revolution. (The hippy bows).
With the will and the right material in our hands, we can build a sustainable alternative to a world dominated by the money and power of a few controlling interests. We can re-invent healthy bioenergetics systems of mutual interdependence instead of being dependent on the dominating global conglomerates whose solutions have failed us all.
(Enter the hippy again.) One has to have a good degree of optimism that those working to rebuild the American hemp industry believe it’s possible to challenge the status quo. We must have legislators who aren’t bought by Monsanto and the like. We need manufacturers who are willing to look abroad toward new research to fill in the knowledge gap created when the U.S. hemp industry was systematically destroyed during the last century.
We can do this with farmers and entrepreneurs who are willing to try new things. If not, we’ll lose our manufacturing base to China while at the same time letting a few multinationals manage the world’s commerce. That means continued environmental degradation, job loss and a general impoverishment of the middle class.
We need all those old hippies getting rich off legalized weed to return to their former dreams for marijuana’s cousin. We need them to put their money and their energy where those old dreams lie, and to bring them alive.