LES FLEURS DU MAL - Démonisation du Chanvre dans l'Histoire

LES FLEURS DU MAL - Demonization of Hemp in History

Hide your children, they said...

Reefer Madness is an American film directed by Louis J. Gasnier, released in 1936. Anti-cannabis propaganda, the film sponsored by a religious group lasts 1h30 of pure delirium. Unintentional comedy, the film became cult in the 1970s among cannabis legalization activists who mocked the dominant moral order, and also thanks to the many screenings of midnight movies . As America recovered from Prohibition, the film depicted people doing a series of criminal acts as a result of cannabis use, acts ranging from hit and run to murder, attempted rape and spiraling into madness. Ah, exaggeration, when you hold us!

But it was not just a pious coincidence. A question of judicious timing for traders & manufacturers of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon which was then in full expansion, who saw in hemp (and incidentally cannabis) a potential threat beyond the moral order, but well financial level.

Let's go back in time: In August 1914, the Rockefeller Foundation, ardent defenders of alcohol prohibition in the United States, hired Mackenzie King as head of a newly formed industrial relations department within their foundation. Along the way, King rubs shoulders with John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the two men come to appreciate and admire each other greatly. As soon as he returned from the United States, Mackenzie King became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1919, then prime minister in 1921. Cannabis was added to the list of prohibited substances under his mandate in 1923, without this being the object of any parliamentary debate. John D. Rockefeller senior, founder of Standard Oil, would have understood that hemp was the only real competitor to oil, of which he controlled almost all of the production in the United States. He was also aware that marijuana (with a high THC content) was a potential competitor to all his investments in the field of synthetic drugs. The role of this businessman in the establishment of hemp prohibition in the United States would be well known. It is therefore very likely that it influenced the behavior of Mackenzie King during his terms as Prime Minister of Canada.

Hemp was widely used in food, textile fibers and paper. In times of war, this easy-to-grow and eco-responsible plant was even considered an essential resource, as it made it possible to produce ropes and sails of exceptional resistance. However, everything changed in the 1930s in the United States. Cannabis found itself in the crosshairs of politicians, dragging down hemp. In hindsight, one could understand that the confusion between marijuana and hemp was intentionally driven by the industry leaders of the time, wanting to see other materials, especially plastics, triumph in place of hemp. 

In the United States, Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau against Narcotics at the time, had also made the fight against cannabis his priority, even if, however, the consumption of marijuana was far from being an issue of public health. History will show that Mr. Anslinger was controlled and paid for by wealthy petrochemical families in the first half of the 20th century. In his anti-pot crusade, Mr. Anslinger succeeded in getting the Marijuana Tax Act passed in 1937. The goal was to tax hemp heavily to make it uncompetitive and cause it to slowly decline, with the result we know today. today. Horror films like Reefer Madness could then, sadly, serve as an instrument for an industry much larger than the recreational use of the plant that we know. 

In 1942, on the other hand, Hemp for Victory was released, a film produced by the United States Government Department of Agriculture made during World War II and released in 1942, which explains the uses of hemp and encourages farmers to grow it as much as possible, due to the stress caused by the shortage of other industrial fibers, often imported from overseas. During World War II, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was briefly halted to create ropes for the US Navy to revert to illegal status immediately afterwards. The film showed a history of hemp and hemp products; how to cultivate it and turn it into rope, fabrics and other products.

Today, we are rediscovering and popularizing more and more the multiple applications of hemp; health food, beauty products, resistant and durable textile fiber of course ( hi Abaka ! ), paper, insulation, and thousands of etcetera! 

A piece of history... 

Hemp has been used for thousands of years, China at the time of Emperor Shen Nung would have started producing textiles twenty eight centuries before our era. Hemp would have been imported into Europe around fifteen hundred years before Jesus Christ. It was in Gaul in 270 BC, in the Rhone Valley, that we find the first historical evidence of hemp cultivation in Europe. During the Middle Ages, hemp spread throughout Europe. Charlemagne ordered the planting of canava everywhere . The Visigoths and the Ostrogoths migrated to the West of Europe, these descendants of the Scythians retain certain rites of their ancestors and in particular those which link hemp to the cult of the dead. For centuries hemp dummies with human figures are burned in the fires of Carnival. This mannequin symbolizes the eternal return of life, like hemp that dies and is reborn every year. Long centuries after the disappearance of the Scythians, hemp remains linked to the cult of the dead in Central Europe. Centuries pass and rituals are lost.

Karine at the Museum…

This summer, Karine our designer visited the Hemp & Hashish Museum in Barcelona. The museum revisits the importance of hemp in history, culture, the arts, its contributions to medicine, botany and modern industry.



Would you hemp it?

  • Hemp belongs to the same cannabis sativa family as marijuana. The fundamental difference between useful hemp and recreational marijuana is the level of THC (the buzzing element). It's only 1% in hemp and about 20% in pot . A migraine is all you'll get if you try to smoke hemp to get high!
  • In 1820, 80% of all textiles, fabrics and clothing were made from hemp. Some old paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were made on hemp canvas, and also the first Bibles, the American flag by Betsy Ross, maps, diagrams and the first drafts of the American Constitution were made from hemp. #weaveweedeveryday
  • Unlike hemp, to grow cotton (non-organic), a significant amount of pesticides is needed to protect it from insects, diseases and weeds. About 50% of the total pesticides used in the United States are used in cotton growing.
  • Legalized in Canada in 1998 across the country, hemp is still illegal in several American states to this day.

Sources: Newsweed , Blocpot , Norml , Madeinchanvre , Wikipedia , CannabisCulture , BlogMaison , Fyllde , OhFact . Photo credit shows Reefer Madness, Hemp for Victory .

Back to blog