Tuesday, November 6, 2012

HEMP AS A CROP FOR MISSOURI FARMERS/ Almost everything you wanted to know about HEMP!


Report to Agriculture Task Force Missouri House of Representatives Summer 1991

prepared by Richard Lawrence Miller

The purpose of this report is to demonstrate that hemp is a practical crop for Missouri Farmers. The presentation is prepared by Richard Lawrence Miller, a Missouri native whose book Truman: The Rise to Power carefully documented Harry S Truman's years in state politics. Miller is also a nationally recognized authority on drug control law.

Hemp was once an important Missouri textile fiber crop. Economic factors have caused hemp's popularity to rise and decline several times since the early 1800's. The last national production peak was in the 1940's. Demand for natural fibers and for alternative sources of food and wood products may make hemp profitable in Missouri once again. Large crops are profitably grown in France, a country with comparable labor and transportation costs.

In order for Missouri farmers to produce commercial hemp, the state government surely needs to establish a registration system similar to the old federal one which assured that commercial production of hemp did not result in diversion of plants for use as marijuana. When that system was in effect, federal authorities in the executive and legislative branches expressed satisfaction with it. French authorities today use a similar system with success.


Fiber. Hemp produces some of the strongest natural fiber for cordage and textiles. Cloth can be rough or fine grade, ranging from canvas to linen. Fabric is "breathable," durable, and absorbs more moisture than cotton. Hemp is commonly blended with cotton to produce garments with best advantages of both fibers. Hemp fiber can be spun in flax mills. Hemp can also be "cottonized," allowing it to be processed in cotton mills, or spinning equipment can be adjusted specifically to accommodate hemp. Today's retail price of hemp/cotton blend clothing is comparable to denim. Hemp fiber is currently a specialty import item; commercial scale domestic production could bring down retail clothing prices. The price factor, combined with growing demand for "natural" clothing, could make production of hemp fiber economically viable for Missouri farmers.

Paper. Hemp produces fiber and wood that can be pulped for paper production. The wood (called "hurds") is left over from fiber production; the same crop can yield fiber and wood. For paper purposes, hemp hurd yields are about four times what can be harvested from the same acreage of forest. Hemp crops could thereby reduce global deforestation. As with textiles, paper can be produced in grades ranging from rough to fine. Hemp paper is strong--sheets can be tissue thickness without tearing easily. It also has a low acid content, meaning the sheets won't grow brittle with age and disintegrate as do high acid papers. Strength and low acid content make hemp especially appealing to book and journal publishers. In France hemp paper is widely used for rolling cigarettes. Markets for hemp paper exist today. If forest log prices increase, hemp markets could expand. An editorial in the June 1991 trade journal Pulp and Paper asked governmental authorities to expedite production of hemp paper. Meal. Hemp seed can be process for food. Traditional markets are birdseed, cattle feed, and huuman food. Hemp has not been widely used as human food in the United States, although specialty items such as granola bars are marketed, and hemp can be processed into breakfast cereal. Hemp is a more common human food in Asia and eastern Europe.

Oil. Hemp has as many food applications as any other vegetable oil.


Wood. Construction board pressed from hemp hurds is used in France. Such sheeting can be used for walls, floors, roofs. An American market likely exists.

Plastics. Assorted plastic products can be produced from hemp, ranging from cellophane to plumbing pipe. Whether such production can be done on a commercial scale, at prices competitive with petroleum plastics, has not been demonstrated. But a potential plastics market exists.

Fuel. The same can be said of hemp as a source of motor fuel. It can run diesel engines and can also yield high octane gasoline, but we do not know whether such production can be done commercially at a price competitive with petroleum. We do know that hemp wood and charcoal can be burned in power plant and boiler room applications, and that emissions lack sulfur and acids that pollute the atmosphere. The high yield of hemp wood per acre, compared to forest wood, may make hemp wood an attractive fuel.

Oil. Paint and varnish manufacturers formerly used large quantities of hemp to obtain quick drying oils. Rising petroleum prices could help reestablish this traditional use of hemp.


The last peak of U.S. production was in the 1940's, mainly to substitute for other fiber that could no longer be imported due to hazards of World War II. When those imports became available after the war, American production plummeted. On a world basis, however, hemp production has continued to thrive. Large crops are grown and marketed in Europe. With current interest in natural fiber clothing, hemp's advantages of strength and absorbency suggest it could establish a viable place in American textile markets. Human and animal food uses are another traditional market for exploration. Missouri farmers could gain an early advantage in such markets.


Historical experience and agricultural research show that Missouri's climate and soils are ideal for hemp. It will grow almost anywhere, although fiber crops require different production agriculture techniques than seed crops require. Crops need little attention and are subject to few diseases or pests.


In the past fifty years commercial production of hemp in the United States and Europe has been closely monitored by the government agencies because the plant that produces hemp also produces marijuana. Experience demonstrates that commercial scale production of hemp does not add to illicit marijuana supplies. Industrial hemp plants contain such small amounts of the marijuana drug that the fields are left alone by persons who seek marijuana. This was observed in the United States in the 1940's and is observed in France today.

After concern about marijuana increased in the 1930's, government agencies in the United States and Europe established a registration system for hemp producers. Basically, a farmer of good character and who has a purchase contract for the crop can register as a commercial hemp producer. Registered persons are left alone by law enforcement authorities. Such a registration system does not legalize marijuana. Indeed, it expedites marijuana prosecutions because authorities never have to deal with a defense that an unregistered hemp crop is intended for legitimate purposes--if purposes are legitimate, the producer is registered.

When federal drug laws were rewritten in the 1970's the hemp industry no longer existed in the United States, and the registration system was abandoned by the federal government. This abandonment means that individual states can now choose whether to encourage hemp production, using the old safeguards against marijuana production. If Missouri establishes a registration system, hemp farmers who register in this state will have a monopoly on American hemp production for the time being. Missouri farmers would thereby have the ground floor advantage in exploiting markets.


In 1944 USDA agronomist B.B. Robinson noted that "hemp yields on an average twice as much textile fiber per acre as fiber flax and three times as much fiber per acre as cotton. It is one of the heaviest fiber--yielding crops adapted to production in the United States." (1) Fred Brenckman, Washington DC representative of the National Grange declared that hemp had proven its place as an agricultural crop: "We believe that the time is opportune for agriculture and the spinning industry to combine their knowledge and experience in establishing a hemp industry in the United States." (2) A member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Guy M. Gillette of Iowa, concurred: "There are interests that do not want their markets usurped by the type of [hemp] industry that we have been trying to develop here, and this committee has already given consideration to the presentation of legislation looking to the preservation and continuance of these industries that give promise to furnish an outlet for our surplus farm acreage and employment to our people in the post-war period." (3) The National Farmers Union declared that farmers wanted "to determine the type of cooperative effort that could be organized to keep these mills in production and provide an outlet for a very satisfactory crop." The Union called for "the widest use of hemp within the American market." (4)

Clearly, at one time mainstream leaders in agriculture and government viewed hemp as a legitimate crop. They were well aware of markets that demanded hemp.


Baggage lining. (5)

Canvas. (6)

Carpet.. Fiber is used for rug warp, yarn, and thread. (7)

Clothing. Hemp is made into work clothes, leisure clothes, sport shirts, summer and tropical clothing, stiffening for collars, hat braid. (8)

Durability, moisture absorbency, and "breathability" give hemp cloth advantages over some competing fibers. A U.S. Department of Agriculture specialist states, "Hemp fiber is superior in that it absorbs about 250 percent of the power of absorption of cotton. In other words, a pound of hemp will absorb about 2 1/2 pounds of water, where a pound of cotton will absorb only 1." (9) "Homespun" rough cloth can produce low grade clothing, or linen quality textiles can produce fine clothing. Hemp can be processed by flax spinning mills, (10) and it can be "cottonized" so cotton spinners can process the fiber without special adjustment for hemp. (11) In the 1920's the cottonizing process produced hemp fiber ready for spinning at half the price of preparing lower grade cotton itself for spinning. (12) "Hackling" allows hemp fiber to be spun on flax spinners. (13) In the 1940's, however, using cotton equipment for hemp had a commercial advantage over flax equipment because cotton equipment had a higher output. (14) In the 1940's research was proposed for further adaptions of hemp fibers to cotton spinners. (15). Thus additional capabilities may exist today. Blending hemp with other fibers, such as cotton or wool, expands the possibilities.

Imported hemp/cotton blend shirts are currently price competitive with denim shirts. Domestic fiber might make hemp clothing more price-attractive yet. Around 1960 hemp clothing was common in South Korea, worn by about one-third of the population (16) (a market that surely could not afford high clothing prices).

Construction materials. Fiber can made into home insulation. (17)

Cordage. Fiber has long been used for small lines and wrapping cords. It was once used for fishline (18) but is probably obsolete in that application.

Drapery. (19)

Electrical. Fiber was once used to insulate electrical wires, (20) but is probably superseded by other materials today. Fiber is still effective for maintenance of insulators. (21)

Fire hose. (22)

Fuel. Waste fiber can be burned to power rope and twine factories with high efficiency. (23)

Interior decorating fabric. (24)

Linen. Products include tablecloths and bed sheets. (25)

Linoleum. Fiber was once used for linoleum backing (26) but linoleum itself is becoming obsolete, replaced by vinyl flooring.

Napery. Fiber can be made into napkins and doilies. (27)

Netting. Fiber can be used for fishnets and other nets and webbing (as in parachutes). (28)

Oakum. Oakum is made from "tow," short lengths of fiber. It was once used for caulking ships and for packing in assorted machinery, but is probably superseded by other materials today.

Paper. The bulk of French fiber is used for paper rather than cloth. (29) Kimberly--Clark (the Kleenex company) currently uses French hemp to make paper for cigarettes and Bibles. (30) In 1976--95% of the French crop was used for cigarette paper, the remainder for Bibles, electric condensers, and apparently tea bags. (31) American hemp has been used for those first three purposes, plus carbon paper and (according to one authority) U.S. paper currency. (32) Because hemp fiber imports are three times more expensive than domestic wood pulp, (33) the U.S. paper and publishing industries have been reluctant to use hemp on a large scale. Years ago a hemp industry spokesman described hemp imports as "just a ridiculous situation, because it [paper] can be made out of our local products in this country." (34) A domestic hemp supply could be far more competitive than imports are, particularly if federal forestry policies increase the price of logging in national forests. In the early 1980's Canadian Hemp Industries Corporation planned to devote at least 1,000 acres to fiber production for cigarette paper and fine grade paper. (35) At that time Canadian cigarette manufacturers depended on European sources for paper. When hemp fiber is grown for paper the quality can be lower than when fiber is grown for textiles; thus the paper market could be open to Missouri farmers as they learn skills needed to produce superior textile fiber. In 1937 a hemp industry representative told Congress, "I can readily visualize without much difficulty 25,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 acres of hemp...being used in the paper industry and in the plastic industry." (36) (For plastics, see below in "Fiber By-Products" section.)

Book and journal publishing industries face a growing demand for low acid paper, and hemp combines low acid with good tensile strength. In the 1980's work was underway to incorporate hemp into lower grade papers as well. Hemp was once used for newspapers. (37)

The paper industry should be an important market. (As noted in the "By-Products" section immediately below, in addition to hemp fiber, hemp hurds are another source of paper.)

Plumbing. Fiber was once used to caulk water mains, spigots, soil pipes, sewer pipes, gas pipes. (38) It is probably superseded by other materials today.

Rope. Hemp is used for assorted all-fiber ropes, both as pure hemp and blended with other fibers. Hemp is also used as core for metal rope. (39) In wet environments hemp rope is superior to many other kinds, in strength and durability.

Sacking. Products include burlap, sugar sacks, reinforced paper. (40)

Tarpaulins. (41)

Thread. Chief use for higher grades of U. S. crop in World War I was thread for shoes and harnesses, (42) and those applications continued afterwards. (43) Hemp thread is used in leather goods (44) and wherever heavy duty thread is required. In 1945 a specialist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that hemp fiber "can be spun into thread of approximately 30 lay, and it can be done economically, and it will serve every purpose that linen serves." (45)

Toweling. High moisture absorbency makes hemp ideal for towels. (46)

Twine. Hemp binder twine is used in harvesting grain. (47) Household twine is another product. Hemp is also used with wallpaper, mattresses, upholstery, sacking, brooms, shipping tags, ham strings, bell cord, gas meter cord, hat blocking cord. (48) Hemp's strength allows twine to be of lighter weight than when made from competing fibers. (49)

Upholstery. (50)

Wrapping. Hemp cloth was once used to wrap cotton bales, still useful in gunny sack applications.

Yarn. Hemp yarn has naval and carpet uses, also belts and webbing. (51) In 1945 a spinning mill spokesperson declared, "We use no fiber for our fine yarns at the present time except American hemp.....It is an excellent fiber." (52)


Hurds are a wood by-product of fiber production; a fiber crop will produce hurds in addition to fiber. Although standard fiber cultivation techniques produce stalks having the diameter of a pencil, 2-inch diameter stalks are possible if a farmer wants to sacrifice fiber in order to get a maximum amount of hurds. (53) They have assorted uses.

Construction materials. Hurds can be transformed into wood sheeting resembling Masonite. Hurd sheeting has good insulating properties, can be light as cork or denser than teak. It is suitable for interior or exterior applications, can be made rot resistant so painting is unnecessary. In the 1940's cost was competitive with other materials used for same purposes. (54) In the 1980's a hemp hurd building board product with "good sound-proofing properties" was available in Europe. (55) In 1944 Dr. O.E. Sweeney, head of the department of chemical engineering at Iowa State College said hurds could be made into I beams "two and half times as great as steel" in tensile strength, (56)

Explosives. Hurds can be processed to make explosives such as dynamite or TNT. (57) Illinois fireworks regulations explicitly mention hemp products. (58)

Farm operations. Hurds "make excellent bedding for livestock," (59) also litter for poultry. (60) Straw can serve as cattle feed. (61) While not a by-product per se, an additional use in France has been to plant hemp as windbreaks and as pollinization screens. (62) Hemp can exceed 15 feet in height.

Fuel. Hemp hurds can be burned to power dryers in hemp breaking mills, and to power other needs at the mill with high efficiency. (63) "Breaking" is the first step of processing stalks into fiber. Breaking mills typically do "scutching" also, separating fiber from the stalk.

Furfural. In the 1940's researchers estimated that technology of that era allowed about 45% of pentosan carbohydrates in hurd pulp to be extracted as furfural, (64) an oil that can be used to make dyes, lacquers, and resins. (About 25% of hurds is comprised of pentosans. 65). In 1944 Dr. O. E. Sweeney, head of the department of chemical engineering at Iowa State College, said that hemp furfural could produce a good motor fuel for automobiles, with proper engine adjustments, but the fuel would cost four times what gasoline then cost. (66) Subsequent technological developments suggest that methanol from hemp can be converted into high octane gasoline. Whether such production could be done on a commercial scale, and what the price comparison would be to gasoline in the 1990's are open questions.

Glass. Hurds can be processed into glass. (67)

Paper. Ohio hemp man R. S. Webb raised 600 acres in 1915, "probably the largest single crop in the United States" and sold hurds to paper mills, which produced " a very good grade" of paper from them. (68) The next year the U. S. Department of Agriculture reported that hurds produced good paper. Especially important today is the USDA finding that one acre of hemp can produce the same amount of paper as four acres of forest. The USDA reported that the hemp paper manufacturing process was economically competitive with tree wood, but questioned whether producing hemp hurd crops would be cheaper than logging in 1916. (69) In 1944 a Canadian hemp man contended the ratio for paper manufacturing was 1 acre of hemp to 5 acres of spruce. (70)

Studies around 1920 found hemp wood to have similar characteristics to tree wood for paper making. (71) Researcher in the 1940's found hemp hurds to be good raw material for heavy wrapping paper, cardboard, boxboard, drawing paper, stationery, and bond paper. (72)

Concerned about rates of cutting in forests, in the 1950's the U. S. Department of Agriculture made an extensive survey of non-tree sources for paper. (73) Described as "the most complete attempt to compare thoroughly a large number and diversity of plant materials in the same laboratory applying uniform procedures and analyses," (74) the scientists examined 200 species. Sample papers were made and subjected to standard industry tests. The scientists concluded that "alpha-cellulose content of a raw material would serve as the best single criterion for predicting both pulp yield and pulp quality of a given species." (75) Analysis found that 37.6% of hemp was comprised of alpha-cellulose, (76) one of the highest amounts found in any dicotyledon plant. Hurds (as opposed to the entire plant) measure at 39% alpha-cellulose. (77) A 1957 report from McGill University and the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada says that nearly 80% of hemp fiber is alpha-cellulose, a range accepted by a standard chemical technology reference book in 1980. (78) Such findings are important because paper pulp might not be made from the entire plant but instead just from parts high in cellulose.

Of the 126 dicotyledons given an overall rating for paper making by the USDA scientists in the 1950's, hemp's rating was exceeded by only 2 species and equaled by only 6. The federal scientists concluded that hemp "shows considerable promise as a source of pulp. However, production of hemp in the United States is rigidly controlled." (79) A 1977 Italian study judged hemp hurds to be commercially practicable for the paper industry. (80)

The prolific nature of hemp as a paper source, with an acre of hemp producing about four times as much pulp as an acre of forest, would help conserve forests. In addition, paper production from hemp should produce less water pollution than production from wood pulp because factories need lower amounts of chemicals to liberate lignin from hemp hurds. (81)

In June 1991 an editorial entitled "It's Time to Reconsider Hemp" appeared in the trade journal Pulp and Paper. Technical editor Jim Young said the industry should make much broader use of hemp. He concluded, "U.S. hemp growing restrictions were set aside to meet material shortages during World War II. They should now at least be modified to meet pending shortages of fiber, energy, and environmental quality." (82)

Plastics. The cellulose content of fiber and hurds make them raw materials for plastics. (83) In the 1930's one authority said the plastics market for hurds would cover production costs of a fiber crop, making fiber income pure profit. (84) (The bushiness of seed hemp makes its stems less suitable for cellulose applications. 85).

In the 1930's Amhempco Corporation of Danville, Illinois, was established (in part) to use hurds for plastic. (86) Plastics manufacturers were buying hurds as raw material in the 1940's. (87) Hurds can be made into cellophane, photographic film base, and general plastics. (88) In 1944 Dr. O. E. Sweeney, head of the department of chemical engineering at Iowa State College, described hemp hurd plastic as "probably the cheapest plastic that has yet been worked out." (89)

Textiles. By the 1940's "artificial silk" (rayon) was made from hurds in Italy. (90)


Animal feed. Seed is used for caged small animals such as rodents. (91)

Bird feed. A long-standing market serves food needs of pigeons (squab) and house pets. (92)

Farm operations. Seedcake is made from "residue of the seed after the oil has been extracted." It can be used for cattle feed and fertilizer. (93)

Food. Seed can be made into granola bars and breakfast cereal. Seed contains plentiful amounts of fat, sugar, and albumin. (94) Seed is more commonly used for human food in Asia and eastern Europe than in the West. (95) Oil, which has sweet taste, also used for food in Asia. (96) Under President Ronald Reagan federal law defined hemp as a food resource vital to national defense. (97)

Fuel. Hemp oil is a traditional lamp fuel in rural Russia. (96)

Oil. Oil content of seed can be 30%, perhaps even 40%. (99) Hemp was once used in soaps. (100) Hemp has produced fast drying oil for paints, varnishes, and lacquers; in the United States the Armstrong Cork Products Company and Sherwin Williams company once used large quantities. (101) The Archer Daniels Company declared hemp oil to be superior to linseed oil. (102) A Canadian industry journal reports use of hemp oil in the 1980's in paint, varnish, and soap manufacturing. (103)

Hemp oil can also be used for cattle feed. (104)

In the 1930's hemp seed was crushed for oil by Durkee, Eldorado Western Vegetable Oil, Berkeley Oil and Meal Producers, Cottonoil, Pacific Nutoil Vegetable Oil Products, California Flaxseed Products, Archer Daniels. (105) The market was substantial enough to require railroad tank car shipments. (106)

Sport Fishing. Anglers use hemp seed products for bait, (107)


Biomass. As an experiment on January 4, 1978 the Eugene, Oregon, Water & Electric Board burned six tons of cannabis biomass, such as would result from bushy plants cultivated for hemp seed. The fuel served downtown steam customers. Results were termed "excellent." Officials said 1,000 tons a day could power the steam facility. (108) Whether such quantities of hemp biomass could be economically transported long distances for fuel is questionable, but biomass could certainly be burned as fuel closer to points of its production.


Beverage alcohol. Green stems and leaves produce Jamaican white rum. (109)


The most recent peak for hemp production in the United States was during World War II. The war's end saw a return of competing foreign fiber imports (abaca, sisal, jute) and reduced application of federal hemp price guarantees--such subsidies were limited to mills already in business. New companies had to operate at world market prices without federal support. The challenge was from inherently cheaper competing fibers, not from imports per se; protective tariffs would likely have made no difference. (110) Hemp farming declined dramatically, although a half dozen private hemp companies were active in the late 1940's, and several hundred producers were still registered in the 1950's. (111)

Hemp Fiber Production in the United States (112)
Year Acreage Planted Acreage Harvested Fiber(Pounds) Pounds per Acre Yield
1931 320 272,000 850
1932 200 160,000 800
1933 140 105,000 750
1934 500 425,000 850
1935 700 613,000 875
1936 1,400 1,015,000 725
1937 1,300 1,040,000 800
1938 1,390 1,246,000 896
1939 1,440 1,282,000 890
1940 2,070 1,665,000 890
1941 7,400 7,410,000 1,001
1942 15,200 14,400 13,922,000 960
1943 178,000 146,200 140,680,000 962
1944 71,100 53,400 51,632,000 967
1945 7,300 6,900 6,762,000 980
1946 4,600 4,485,000 975
1947 4,900 4,655,000 950
1948 2,800 2,722,000 990

Until the United States entered World War II, private breaking mills in Wisconsin customarily paid farmers about half the proceeds realized from sale of hemp fiber by the mill. (113) As the 1930's began, breaking mills sold hemp fiber to spinning mills at a lower price than cotton fiber, but spinning costs made hemp yarn more expensive than cotton yarn. (114) In years just before World War II, industry-wide proceeds were $ 0.18 a pound for "line" fiber (a superior grade), (115) or $ 0.09 to the farmer. For crops of 1941-1943 growers served by Atlas Hemp Mills, Juneau, Wisconsin received an average gross of $ 120 an acre in those three years for all hemp fiber, including line and the inferior "tow" grade. (116) Matt Rens Hemp Co. growers netted on average $ 110 an acre in 1942. (117) After deductions for seed and rental of harvest equipment, at the J. LeRoy Farmer Hemp Mill in those years farmers producing an "average" crop netted $ 80 to $ 100 an acre. (118) Average national prices for other 1941-43 crops, per acre harvested (computed by comparing prices per pound or bushel to yield of pounds or bushels per acre): corn $ 30 per acre, wheat $ 20, oats $ 17, soybeans $31, Irish potatoes $ 147, tobacco $ 341. (119) (Those prices are gross income, not net profit.)

The government mill price of line fiber during the war was $ 0.30. (120) The method of farmer compensation based on fiber price, however, was not used by the government during the war. As noted in the next paragraph the government paid by tonnage of stalk regardless of how much fiber the stalk yielded. Farmers preferred this method, and private mills had difficulty getting crops. (121) The effect was to make the hemp industry a virtual federal government monopoly.

During World War II, in addition to six private breaking mills already in existence, the federal government absorbed the cost of erecting 42 more. The government guaranteed prices for stalks sold to mills, $ 30 to $ 50 a ton according to grade. Average price to all farmers through mid-1944 was $ 43 a ton. (122) In Illinois the average cost of stalk production in 1943 was $ 21 a ton. (123) During World War II, with stalk yields of up to 4 tons per acre hemp was more lucrative than corn for some farmers. One Iowan netted a profit (after deducting production costs) of $ 154 an acre in 1943. (124) In 1945 a private Wisconsin mill operator said his growers were netting $ 90 to $ 100 an acre. (125) In 1944 one Iowa hemp farmer declared that growers were learning the crop and improving their efficiency so much that they could get lower prices per ton and still realize increased profits. (126) A 30-year veteran of the hemp mill industry said in 1945, "All our farmers are realizing a good return from this crop, and they are anxious to grow it. We have to turn them down every year because we cannot handle all the acreage the farmers wish to produce." (127) Also in 1945, a U. S. Department of Agriculture specialist declared, "Normally the hemp income is a little bit more than corn. If the income from corn is $ 65 an acre the farmer may expect around 67 cents a pound for his hemp" ($ 67 an acre at the 1,000 pound fiber yield figured by this specialist). "It is in competition with corn at all times for the land." (128)

The government hemp program recruited 20,000 farmers. In 1943 they produced 370,000 tons of stalk. Fiber comes from the thin outer layer of stalk and in the 1940's comprised 20% or less of stalk weight, so tonnage of fiber would be less; 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of stalk might yield 600 to 1,000 pounds of fiber. (129) In 1944 a private Wisconsin mill characterized 1,000 pounds of fiber per acre as "an average good crop." (130) By the mid-1970's average fiber yields of West European growers surpassed the average 1940's American yield of 890 pounds per acre. Italian fields produced 1,100 pounds of fiber per acre, France 1,600, West Germany 1,700. (131) Missouri hemp farms today might be far more productive than data from the 1940's indicates.

In the late 1940's a USDA authority declared that hemp had higher fiber yields per acre than cotton, allowing hemp to be grown more cheaply than cotton. For the farmer, however, retting and milling expenses offset hemp's initial price advantage over cotton. ("Retting" prepares stalks for the breaking mill, and in traditional U. S. agricultural practice retting is done on the farm.) The USDA authority felt that if retting and milling technology saw improvement, hemp fiber production could become more profitable than cotton for American farmers. (132) Such technological advances have occurred in foreign countries.

Another important advance is the breeding of varieties of hemp with higher fiber content. In 1975 varieties were known with fiber content in stalks surpassing 25%; one European variety was reported to have 31%. (133) Compared to the 1940's when fiber yields were 20% of stalks, modern varieties could reduce farmers' costs per pound by 25% to 50%. Greater productivity could make crops more profitable than in the 1940's when they enjoyed federal price supports.

Assorted stalk breaking and scutching techniques can further increase profitability by increasing the ratio of "line" fiber (longer, more desirable strands) over "tow" fiber (shorter strands). In the 1940's government breaking mills produced 50% line to 50% tow. (134) At the same time the private Atlas Hemp Mills of Juneau, Wisconsin, produced 67% line to 33% tow, attributed to "better lands, more pains in handling, and improved processing machinery." (135)

An established international trade exists in addition to the potential domestic one. In the mid-1970's hemp was the sixth most important vegetable fiber in global markets. (136) In 1958 South Korea produced 7,400 tons of fiber priced at $ 4.9 million, and yielded cloth valued at $ 61.7 million. (137) The 1958 Korean fiber price computes to $ 0.33 a pound, tobacco $ 0.60, sugarbeets $ 0.006, peanuts $ 0.11, Irish potatoes $ 0.01. (138) Farmers in France, a country about the size of Missouri, had sufficient market for fiber hemp to raise about 20,000 acres in 1980. (139) One French cooperative sold 20% of its hemp to England. (140) In 1976 French farmers producing fiber for paper got about $ 78 per ton of stalks. (141) Around 1980 French farmers got $ 103 per ton of stalks. A breaking mill that prepared fiber for paper production sold the fiber for $ 590 to $ 1,540 per ton, depending on type. (142)

As can be seen below, recent annual world harvests have totaled 244,000 tons from 1,000,000 acres with a yield of 486 pounds of line and tow fiber per acre.

Annual World Hemp Fiber Production 1979-86 (143)

Country Acres harvested (1000's) Tons stalk (1000's)
1979-81 84 85 86 1979-81 84 85 86
World 1203 927 951 951 261 222 244 249
Bulgaria 12.4 14.8 12.4 12.4 4.4 4.4 2.2 4.4
Chile 9.9 9.9 9.9 9.9 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.4
China 304 148 153 153 79 33 61 66
Czech. 2.5 2.5 2.5 ----- 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1
Hungary 17.3 14.8 17.3 14.8 13.2 12.1 12.1 11
Japan 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1
Korea (N) 19.8 25 30 30 3.3 5.5 6.6 6.6
Korea (S) 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1
Poland 7.4 4.9 4.9 4.9 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.2
Romania 86 116 116 116 28.7 36.4 33.1 34.2
Spain --- --- --- --- 1.1 1.1 2.2 2.2
Turkey 22.2 17.3 9.9 9.9 13.2 9.9 4.4 5.5
USSR 346 284 289 297 35.3 33.1 29.8 47.4
Yugoslavia 9.9 12.4 12.4 12.4 5.5 6.6 8.8 5.5

[Ed. note: The column of data "Pounds of fiber per arce" found in the original is unfortunately missing here-dpw]


Around 1913 dealers paid Kentucky farmers $ 2.50 to $ 5.00 a bushel, with yields ranging from 12 to 25 bushels per acre, typical yield 16 to 18. (144) Around 1937 dealers paid Kentucky farmers $ 2.00 to $ 3.00 a bushel, with typical yields of 12 to 14 bushels per acre. (145) The 1938 Kentucky yield averaged just over 12 bushels per acre. (146) In 1943, described as a bad drought year, Kentucky seed yield was 4 to 5 bushels per acre. (147) Later Kentucky seed yields measured at 12 to 18 bushels per acre. (148) Prices paid to seed growers in the 1940's are elusive, but in World War II the federal government sold seed to fiber farmers for $ 11.00 a bushel. (149) In 1976 farmers in France got about $ 11.00 per bushel, with typical yields of 2.4 to 3.2 bushels per acre. (150)

The difference between American and French yields seems inexplicable at first. A possible explanation may be the French practice of harvesting seed from fiber crops ("lint seed") rather than from specially planted seed crops (although seed harvested for sowing comes from plants cultivated for that purpose). Quite possibly seeds form only at the top of a spindly French fiber stalk, rather than throughout the many stems and branches of bushy American hemp specially cultivated for seed.

Hemp Seed Production in the United States (151)
Year Acreage Planted Acreage Harvested Seed (Bushels) Bushels per Acre Yield
1938 40 500 12.3
1939 210 1,568 7.5
1940 510 8,409 16.5
1941 2,200 15,500 7.0
1942 36,300 29,300 242,273 8.3
1943 47,700 40,500 318,523 7.9
1944 1,500 1,200 12,000 10.0
1945 1,200 800 6,364 8.0
1946 400 4,818 12.0
1947 600 6,614 11.0
1948 400 4,000 10.0

Importations of hemp seed into the United States represent a market that domestic growers might tap. Historically, imports have fluctuated widely.

Bushels of Hemp Seed Imported into the United States (152)
1931 122,500
1932 81,500
1933 145,000
1934 295,000
1935 2,647,500
1936 1,427,000
1937 10,750
1938 11,500
1939 29,250
1940 26,500
1958 11,500
1959 3,000
1961 7,500
1962 6,500
1963 2,500
1964 5,000
1965 4,500


One person familiar with the hemp industry in the 1940's said the key to its future would be marketing hurds for enough money to pay for crop production. If the fiber sales were no longer needed to pay for production, hemp fiber prices could drop low enough--at no cost to farmers-- to compete with other fibers. (153)



Fiber hemp grows best in well drained soil that doesn't crust and that holds moisture within two or three inches of the surface. (154) Illinois experts recommend silt loams and clay loams. (155) Iowa experts emphasize good drainage, (156) noting that soggy soil produces weak fiber. (157) A USDA agronomist declared Missouri's soil and climate "favorable" for commercial hemp. (158) In the 1940's , northwest and southeast Missouri were considered the best areas in the state for commercial hemp production. (159) An acre that produces 75-80 bushels of corn can produce 2.5-3.0 tons of hemp, (160) but land that produces slightly lower corn yields may produce far lower hemp yields. (161) Fertility is crucial to hemp yield.

Although nitrogen appears unimportant to growth of wild hemp (162), good nitrogen supply improves yields of cultivated stalk. Commercial nitrogen fertilizer works, and so does crop rotation. (163) Planting hemp after alfalfa or clover works well, planting after soybeans helps to a lesser extent. (164) Phosphorus and potassium can be helpful, and manure is universally recommended. (165) Authorities note, however, that fertilizers may increase yield of stalk but decrease yield and quality of fiber from the stalk, (166) thus fertilizer application requires knowledgeable judgment. Although hemp crops remove quite a bit of nutrient, (167) hemp sheds leaves that return nutrients to the field, and upper leaves remaining on stalks drop to the ground as part of the field "retting" process described below. (168) In field retting the soil also recovers about 20% (by weight) of organic material from stalks, and farmers can plow stubble under. (169) Hemp's net extraction from soil fertility is thereby less than many other crops (170) and is considered comparable to corn. (171) Corn, incidentally, does well when planted after hemp. (172) During the 1970's in France winter wheat commonly followed hemp. (173) French growers find that hemp clears weeds and cereal parasites from wheat fields, and the deep hemp roots help with tilling. (174) Hemp crops are noted for improving physical condition of soil. (175) Indeed, hemp has been recommended as a crop for soil building purposes. (176) U. S. hemp production fell after World War II because planted acreage fell, not because soil fertility declined. (177)

Fields can be plowed in fall or spring, though some authorities recommend fall. Hemp thrives in the type of seedbed prepared for alfalfa. (178) Seed can be broadcast or planted by seed drill no deeper than one inch; drilling improves yield. (179) Seed is about the size of wheat, 44 pounds to the bushel, and 33-55 pounds per acre are recommended for fiber crops. (180) Higher seeding rates don't increase the yield of stalks per acre, but can increase yield of fiber from stalks. (181) Experiments suggest that treatment with seed disinfectants have small or zero effect on yield. (182) In the Midwest the best time to plant hemp is after oats and before corn. (183) The first week of May may be ideal around Ames, Iowa. (184) Growing season is 120 days.

Hemp grows quickly and reaches heights of 5 to 15 feet; for fiber production, height of 6 to 8 feet and stalk thickness of 0.25 inch is ideal. (185) Fiber hemp is planted in thick stands (20 or more plants per square foot) that smother weeds. Few diseases or pests trouble crops. Once seedlings appear, farmers rarely must do anything until harvest. Hard rain is unlikely to lodge hemp, but strong hail can damage crops (by destroying leaves and thereby harming plant growth). (186) Fiber hemp needs ample moisture, and drought harms crops; a climate with at least 30 inches of annual rainfall is recommended. (187) In the 1920's authorities reported irrigation to be feasible. (188)

Traditionally in the United States, mills that contracted for crops rented mechanized hemp harvesting equipment to farmers, relieving farmers from the large up-front cash outlay that purchase of such equipment would require. (189) In the 1940's equipment rental in the federal program was $ 4 to $ 7 per harvested acre, deducted from crop payment by the mill rather than paid up-front by the farmer. (190) Private mills had similar arrangements with their growers. (191) Harvest starts in late August and continues through September. American authorities recommend harvesting while pollen sheds and before seeds form. (192) Before 1967 French growers harvested after seed matured, but French practice now follows the American one. (193)

If harvested stalks are stacked and stored in dry conditions they will keep for years. They do not have to be processed right away. (194)

Normally, harvested fiber stalks must be "retted." In retting, stalks are commonly left on the ground for weeks or months so weather may start to decompose them, making it easier for breaking and scutching mills to remove fiber from stalks. Field retting is sometimes called dew retting. Heavy dew, "reasonably high" humidity , and intermittent rain are important for field retting. (195) Stalks can also be retted underwater in ponds or tanks. This method produces better fiber than field retting, but in the 1940's American technology did not make water retting economical in comparison with field retting. (196) Research at Iowa State College established that controlled water retting could be accomplished in 36 hours. (197) The head of the federal hemp program declared in 1944, "If a program of controlled retting can be developed, I am very confident that there is no limit as to the tonnage that can be grown successfully and profitably in this country." (198) One account from the 1970's noted a Swedish water retting operation with capacity for 150 tons of stalk at any given time, producing 33 tons of fiber per day. (199) Some work has been done in processing unretted hemp. (200) Retting is universally considered the hardest part of hemp farming, because shrewd judgment is needed to determine when the crop is properly retted. Fiber yields from improperly retted crops are inferior.

In the 1980's Canadian Hemp Industries Corporation demonstrated a decorticator that stripped fiber from stalks upon harvest in the field without retting. (201) Such technology eliminates the riskiest part of raising hemp fiber crops, making them more economically viable than they were in the 1940's.

After stalks are field retted, they are bound and shocked. These steps typically occur at the peak of soybean and corn silo filling, and require more labor than corn harvesting, but 1940's farm operations handled the labor demand. (202) Until around World War I hemp farming was labor intensive, but mechanical harvesters and mill machinery dramatically reduced labor requirements. In the 1920's mechanized Wisconsin hemp farmers were able to compete with cheap foreign labor. (203) In 1943 a typical Illinois hemp farm required 19.4 man hours per acre for the season. (204)

Farmers send bales of retted stalks to breaking mills.

As a general rule, the higher the yield of stalks per acre, the higher the quality of fiber from that yield. (205)


Although Missouri had large hemp fiber crops in the 1800's, the last remnants of the state's hemp production in the 1940's supplied seed for fiber growers. (206)

Climate and soil types recommended for fiber production are essentially the same for seed production, although ample soil calcium is emphasized for seed. (207)

Seed hemp is commonly planted in hills 4 or 5 feet apart, thinned to 3-5 young plants. (208) Plants become bushy.

With American varieties growing season for seed is at least 180 days. (209) Traditional harvest method is to cut the plants by hand 8-24 inches above the ground, and shock small bundles of them. After drying (a process taking a few days to 3 weeks) each shock is put on a tarpaulin and seeds are manually beaten off with sticks. "While this seems a rather crude way of collecting the seed, it is doubtless the most economical and practical method that may be devised. The seed falls so readily from the dry hemp stalks that it would be impossible to move them without a very great loss. Furthermore, it would be very difficult to handle plants 10 to 14 feet high, with rigid branches 3 to 6 feet in length, so as to feed them to any kind of thrashing machine." (210) Seed for new crops is sent to a cleaning mill. Seed for oil is shipped to a crusher.

Although traditional U. S. cultivation practice requires farmers to choose between fiber or seed production, foreign seed growers have harvested seed stalks for low grade fiber. (211) Before the mid-1960's such practice was also traditional among fiber growers in France, where fiber is used for paper rather than textiles, and can therefore be of lower quality. Seed harvested this way is used for animal feed and for planting new crops. (212) American experience indicates that such seed is poor for new crops, however. (213)


In the 1940's each hemp breaking mill constructed by the federal government cost $ 300,000 and required about 4,000 acres of crops for an ideal level of operation. (214) (Breaking mills are the first step of the fiber manufacturing process, and are a different operation from spinning mills that turn fiber into thread and yarn.) Federal authorities expected mill profits to recoup construction costs in five years. (215) Farmers apparently raised hemp as one element of a diversified production agriculture operation; Illinois hemp farmers planted an average of 30 acres each. (216) Reputedly the country's largest crop in 1944 was 270 acres on an Iowa farm. (217) Transportation factors, heavily influenced by war rationing of rubber and fuel, generally required crops to be grown within a 15 mile radius of the government breaking mill in order to be economical. (218)

We don't know whether such factors would constrain hemp production today. Even by 1944 the head of the federal hemp program believed that improved farm efficiency might soon allow government mills to run from the production of 3,000 acres instead of 4,000. (219) Private mills constructed to different specifications might serve different size acreages. For example, around 1917 Wisconsin mills needed 300-750 acres of ideal operation. (220) In 1924 a California authority said 50 acres would serve. (221) In 1937 the Amhempco Corporation mill in Illinois could handle 15,000 acres but did not run at capacity. (222) In 1978 a French breaking mill serviced 6,000 acres grown by 93 farmers. (223) Before World War II some retted hemp was processed by portable breaking machinery in the field, (224) but the mills seem to be standard practice.

Mechanized harvesting equipment is another factor. If not provided by a mill, equipment must be purchased by farmers, singly or in cooperation. In the 1920's each 100 acres needed a mower-spreader and a binder in order to harvest at the proper time. (225) Harvesting machinery for other crops can be adapted to hemp.

Factors governing fiber economics may be irrelevant to oil seed crushers. For instance, in the 1930's they shipped hemp seed by railroad boxcar, (226) so obviously seed growers did not have to be located within 15 miles of crushing factories. Indeed in the mid-1930's crushers annually imported tens of thousands of tons of seed, (227) mostly from Manchuria. (228)

Breaking mills are a source of employment for rural towns. (229) Each government mill in the mid-1940's hired 125 to 140 hands. (230) In the latter 1940's a mill producing 10,000 pounds of fiber in 8 hours employed 80 persons. (231)


Low Drug Content. Authorities have long held that the greater the industrial value of a hemp variety, the lower the drug content. (232) When the first federal anti-marijuana law was proposed in 1937, "these people in Minnesota did not know until 2 months ago that the hemp which they grew there contained marihuana. Until this agitation came up they did not dream of it." (233)

In the 1940's farmers allowed youths to work in fields of leafy, growing cannabis hemp with no more concern than if the crop were soybeans or corn.

As early as the 1940's, American research had isolated plant varieties having one-eighth the amount of drug contained by other varieties, and had further lowered the content by selective breeding. (234) Of industrial hemp a USDA agronomist declared in 1944, "We hope anyway to get it sufficiently low that a boy walking along the road beside a hemp field, if he reached in and grabbed some leaves and dried them and smoked them, he would get no effect from the drug." (235) Modern fiber plants from Turkey, Hungary, Germany, and France contain tiny amounts of THC the psychoactive marijuana drug. (236) Flowers are one of the most potent sources of THC, but persons who experimentally smoked French industrial hemp flowers report no drug effects. (237)

In France a low drug content in hemp crops is required by law. Cannabis contains many chemicals. As a rule of thumb, the more nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) in a cannabis variety, the more useful it is for fiber crops. (238) The more delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the more useful the variety is for drug purposes. French scientists also include the nonpsychoactive drug cannabinol (CBN) when measuring drug content. A formula determines whether fiber crops meet low drug standards required by French law:

X =
% THC + % CBN


If X is greater than 1, the cannabis is illegal marijuana. If X is less than 1, the cannabis is legal hemp. In addition, under French law overall content of THC cannot exceed 0.50% in hemp regardless of X value. (239)

The 3 drugs in the preceding formula are interrelated. As the growing season progresses, CBD changes to THC, and THC changes to CBN. Enzymes seem to control the change. Those enzymes are genetically inherent in any particular variety of cannabis and cannot be changed by environment. Although climate, cultivation, and harvest time can promote or retard production of drug resin, cannabis varieties deficient in enzymes cannot produce much THC. Industrial crops comprised of such varieties are guaranteed to have low THC drug content. (240)

Wild marijuana in Missouri has descended from old industrial fiber crops. The slang that smokers use to describe such wild marijuana ("ditch weed" and "Missouri Mud") indicates the contempt in which it is held by users, despite the great interest that law enforcement authorities show in this variety of cannabis. (241) As in Missouri, wild marijuana in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana has descended from old industrial fiber crops. Scientists have measured the drug content of such plants. (242) Scientists find the THC content of wild marijuana in Kansas to peak at 0.06% in flowers, the most potent part of the plant. (243) That level is far below the amount that French law specifies for fiber crops. THC content of sample Indiana leaves is 0.10% to 0.50%. (244) Applying the French formula (noted above) to wild marijuana descended from hemp crops in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois yields X values of less than 1. (Insufficient data was available to compute Indiana value.)

[A graph follows}

A marijuana user has no interest in smoking seeds; they are discarded. Legal restrictions on seeds relate to their possible use to grow plants, not to drug content, which was found to be nil when the first federal anti-marijuana law was passed, (245) a finding confirmed by subsequent research. The hemp seed industry did not even realize that the law affected it. An astonished spokesman for one company told Congress, "Hempseed is a harmless ingredient used for many years in the seed trade. They say that hemp and marihuana are one and the same thing, but it was not until Monday that we knew they were." (246)

Climate. Drug resin is affected by climate. Hot dry regions of high altitude promote drug production; temperate moist regions of lower altitude retard it. (247) Missouri's climate would retard drug content in crops.

Cultivation. Cultivation techniques can promote or retard production of drug resin. Techniques for industrial cultivation reduce the drug. Fiber cultivation minimizes leaves and flowers, the parts of the plant used in marijuana cigarettes. Stalks grow tall and spindly, and lower leaves drop off as the growing season progresses. (248) Fallen leaves are quickly ruined by weather. Field retting ruins any leaves that remain on stalks. Seed cultivation promotes leaves and flowers, but apparently the low drug content of commercial hemp deters persons who might otherwise be inclined to strip plants. In France seed crops have barely any drug content. At Congressional hearings in the 1930's and 1940's hemp industry spokesmen could recall no instances of field stripping, and federal officials knew of only one. (249) In 1991 an official in France (a country about the size of Missouri) reported one or two field stripping incidents occur per year. In such cases [ ] notifies law enforcement and industry authorities. French authorities voice small concern about field stripping, both because of its infrequency and because industrial hemp has insignificant drug content. Thieves who seek marijuana from hemp fields are described as "incompetent." (250)

The next two views illustrate field conditions at harvest time. Both photographs show mature hemp fiber crops undergoing harvest. The first photograph shows a Wisconsin harvest around 1920. Few leaves remain; most dropped from stalks during the growing season and were ruined by weather. The second photograph shows plants in a similar condition as harvest progresses in France during 1980.


The competition of cheap foreign labor was putting our hemp raisers out of business when the hemp harvester was devised in Wisconsin to take the place of expensive hand-power methods.

Although wild cannabis is common and apparently comprises most of the marijuana "confiscated" by Missouri law enforcement authorities, cultivated hemp is unlikely to "escape" and produce more stands of wild cannabis. Hemp is an annual plant, and to take root its seed requires disturbed soil. Apparently this is why wild stands are typically found along watercourses; the water flow disturbs the soil enough for seeds to take root. For the same reason, wild stands rarely increase in size; they soon fill the area where disturbed soil exists and can go no farther. Seed dropped by birds is unlikely to take root where a wild stand doesn' t already exist. (In contrast, seed in fecal deposits of large farm animals such as cows may well take root; the size of deposit is large enough to allow seedlings to grow until they are able to penetrate undisturbed soil. Such isolated plants in a pasture are easy to spot and eradicate.) After 2 or 3 years on the ground wild seed no longer germinates. (251)

Harvest Time. Fiber harvest occurs when pollen shedding begins and before seeds form. Authorities used to believe that such harvest preceded the maximum development of drug content. Modern research finds the drug content to peak when flowers first appear and then fluctuate and decline. (252) Regardless of whether one accepts the traditional or modern view, when industrial crops are harvested their already low drug content is becoming even less significant. THC drug content of crops harvested for seed should be no more significant than in crops harvested for fiber. When crops are harvested, they are unlikely candidates for illicit diversion. (This harvest time assumes crops are field retted. Water retted crops might be harvested later, (253) but field retting has been almost universal in the United States.)

Retting. "Heat, light, and especially air are the enemies of THC [the psychoactive marijuana drug], and sophisticated users try to minimize marijuana's contact with all three." (254) Any drug-containing resin disappears from retted stalks. (255) This is one reason why "mature stalks" are excluded from the legal definition of marijuana. (256) Leaves and flowers are quickly ruined after dropping to the ground. The few remaining on stalks are ruined by field retting. (257)

Manufacturing. "The paper manufacturer, when he gets the plant, simply blows these leaves away. They disappear when dried. They are gone." (258)



From a biological production agriculture standpoint, hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, Cannabis sativa L. But, as will be detailed below, the law distinguishes between hemp and marijuana, in order to permit hemp commerce while forbidding marijuana commerce. For many years the federal government maintained a registration system that promoted hemp commerce even though marijuana was illegal. After hemp farming disappeared in the 1950's, the federal government dismantled its system and allowed each individual state to establish its own system if desired. Missouri can establish a system to encourage hemp commerce while suppressing marijuana, a system modeled on the successful federal one.

Recognizing hemp growing as a legitimate agricultural pursuit, Congress exempted mature stalks from the original version of the first federal law to regulate cannabis (H. R. 6385). The original bill, however, defined seeds and oil as marijuana. The seed and oil seed industries immediately objected. National Institute of Oilseed Products spokesman Ralph F. Lozier ( a former judge and U. S. Congressman from Carrollton, Missouri) protested, "No crusher, up to this good day, ever knew or even dreamed or suspicioned that in crushed hemp seed, he was dealing with a narcotic or habit forming commodity, nor is that now evident." (259) He told a House committee, "Never until the last 3 weeks was any suggestion made that they were handling a commodity that was carrying a deleterious principle that was contributing to the delinquency of the people of the United States." (260)

Lobbying by the seed and seed oil industries exempted those parts and products of the cannabis plant from the legal definition of marihuana. H. R. 6385 was replaced by H. R. 6906 which excluded "oil or cake made from the seeds...., oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination." Moreover, commerce in viable seed was legal if persons involved paid a $ 24 annual registration fee and used the seed for "manufacture of birdseed or for the manufacture of seed oil, seed cake, or any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such oil or cake." (261) No government order forms were required for such seed sales. (262)

Clinton M. Hester, assistant general counsel of the Treasury Department, who played a large role in drafting and passing the bill, assured Congress that:

production and sale of hemp and its products for industrial purposes will not be adversely affected by this bill....The hemp producer will pay a small occupational tax [$ 5 a year] but his fiber products will be entirely exempt from the provisions of this bill... Similarly, the manufacturers of oil and the byproducts of seed, such as hemp seed cake and meal, will pay an occupational tax, but their purchases of seed and sales of such oil, cake, and meal will be entirely exempt from the provisions of the bill except that purchases of such seed will be subject to regulations designed to prevent diversion [for planting illicit marihuana].
Manufacturers of birdseed will also pay an occupational tax, but...under the definition of marihuana, the bill will not apply to their sales of birdseed, if the hemp seed contained therein is sterilized so as to be incapable of germination. (263)

Hester urged Congress to regulate trade in cannabis, not outlaw it entirely. Otherwise:

you would put all of these legitimate industries out of business...We have tried throughout this measure not to interfere materially with the production...but to permit it. (264)

Federal Bureau of Narcotic Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger confirmed that the proposed legislation bore no threat to hemp growers: "They are not only amply protected under this act, but they can go ahead and raise hemp just as they have always done it." (265) He pledged that a farmer need not worry about government agents snooping around farm property. The Bureau was "not going to supervise his crop. It would not be possible....We would certainly know the sheep from the goats without any close general supervision." (266)

Anslinger emphasized that the nominal tax to be paid by hemp growers would simply be a means for the government to know who was raising hemp: "It is just an information return. That is all we would be interested in." (267) Hester agreed:

The farmer here will not even have to go to the Collector's office. All he will have to do will be merely to mail in his $ 5.... When he wants to sell his crop of seeds all he will have to do....will be to obtain some evidence from the person to whom he sells it, that that person is entitled to the exemption. That is the situation with respect to the seed....Of course the fiber products are entirely out of the bill. (268)

Although substantial criminal penalties would apply to anyone who raised commercial hemp without registering with the Treasury Department, the registration was not technically a license. A license can be refused by an issuing agency. Registration by the Treasury Department was automatic for anyone who sent in the fee. Anslinger noted that even known illicit drug dealers would be registered, although their cannabis crops would be closely watched. (269) The point here is that federal registration was automatic upon receipt of the fee; no criteria existed by which anyone could be denied registration.

Congress passed the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act with the understanding that it would not interfere with the hemp industry. (270) Production statistics given earlier in this report demonstrate no damage to the industry after the law went into effect.

Marijuana was just as illegal in the 1940's as in the 1990's, yet large industrial hemp crops were grown. During the 1940's farmers participating in the government-sponsored hemp program had to buy seed from a government agent, specify what part of their land would be used for hemp, and deliver all stalks to an approved breaking mill. Farmers had to register under the 1937 federal Marihuana Tax Act, obtain any necessary state license, and pledge to obey malrijuana laws. (271) War Hemp Industries, a private corporation owned in trust by the U. S. Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corporation, supervised hemp crops on behalf of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. (272) Agriculture agents, rather than drug control agents, were responsible for marijuana law enforcement. War Hemp Industries agreed to cooperate with federal and local law enforcement authorities (273) and to absorb any penalty applied to Commodity Credit for a marijuana violation. (274) War Hemp thus had financial incentive for strict enforcement of marijuana laws.

The Commodity Cooperative Association of Lexington, Kentucky, operated as the federal government agent in all transactions, purchasing seed from cleaning mills and selling it to farmers for sowing. The Association had to keep strict records of all transactions in seed to assure that none was diverted for illicit planting of marijuana. (275) Before being able to sell to a cleaning mill (which in turn sold to the Association) seed producers had to present their federal tax stamp or registration, demonstrating their compliance with federal marijuana law. Cleaning mills, in turn, had to post substantial bonds to guarantee compliance with contractual regulations supporting marijuana laws. (276)

Every step of hemp growing involved guarantees that no portion of crops would be diverted for illicit marijuana use.

Toward the end of the war, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics decided to regard mature hemp stalks as marijuana if a single leaf remained on them, a stand later modified to permit 10% of the leaves. (277) It was unclear who would count and record the original number of leaves on each stalk in order to calculate the percentage. Because marijuana taxes ranged from $ 1 to $ 100 an ounce, and stalk harvests were measured in tons, the effect would have been to extinguish the American hemp industry. Narcotics Bureau chief Harry Anslinger told the industry that the tax would include the entire stalk and come to about $ 32,000 a ton. (278) Bureau Assistant Chief Counsel B. T. Mitchell stated that Anslinger personally decided to classify mature stalks as marijuana. "He handled that himself," agreed Deputy Commissioner Will S. Wood. Neither Mitchell nor Wood offered an explanation for Anslinger's action, nor apparently did Anslinger reveal one. (279)

The reason cannot have been diversion of industrial hemp crop leaves or flowers from the growing field into the illicit marijuana market. In 1937 when Anslinger urged federal regulation of cannabis commerce he told the U. S. Senate that only one instance had ever been involved in the illicit traffic at all. This case in Texas is the only case I know of." (280) In 1945 a private Wisconsin mill operator declared, "In the 30 years we have operated and grown large acreages we have never heard of one instance where there was an illicit use made of the leaves of this hemp plant....We have never heard of anybody trying to get into a field and take the leaves for illicit purposes." (281) An Illinois hemp plant manager (who was a former school board member in his community) concurred, saying he was "on the alert and made considerable effort to determine if this hemp plant was being harvested by anyone for narcotic uses...[but] never observed anyone in the act of gathering the plant for this purpose." (282)

Nor can the reason have been diversion of residual leaves of flowers after harvest. Upon inquiry in 1991, a senior French hemp industry official dismissed the possibility of marijuana thieves attacking between time of harvest and delivery of stalks to mills: "There is never a theft between the harvest and utilization by industry for at this stage the foliage (leaves and flowers) have practically disappeared as dust." (283) As to conditions at mills themselves, in 1945 a senior U. S. Department of Agriculture official stated, "We have never had any difficulty at our own [government] mills. We have had no reports of anyone attempting to secure leaves or blossoms nor have I heard of such attempts being made at the privately-owned mills." (284)

The definition of "mature stalks" was discussed when Congress passed the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, as hemp industrialists wanted to be sure fiber harvest was permitted before the plant reached biological maturity, and that regular cultivation, harvest, and milling practices would be unaffected by the law. (285) The Treasury Department also accepted amendments to the bill that exempted oil, oil meal, oil cake, and seed cake products that happened to contain small residual quantities of "a few twigs, leaves, or portions of the flowering tops." (286)

The definition of "mature stalks," the acceptance of small amounts of marijuana in hemp delivered to mills, and the absence of any illicit diversion of hemp crops were all well established in 1945 when the Bureau of Narcotics issued its ruling about residual leaves on stalks. Having failed to discover any reason for the ruling, Congress amended the anti-marijuana law to nullify the Bureau's action.

First, Congress exempted from the marijuana tax "any transfer of marihuana from one miller to another miller, or from a farmer to a miller." (287) Millers, like hemp growers, now had to register with the Treasury Department but Congress specified criteria for miller registration: The Secretary [of the Treasury] shall not permit the registration of any

person....unless in the opinion of the Secretary such person (or if a corporation, each officer thereof) is a person of good moral character and unless in the opinion of the Secretary such person is a person of suitable financial standing, intends to engage in good faith in the business of manufacturing or producing fiber or fiber products from the plant Cannabis sativa L. on a commercial basis, and is not seeking registration under this section for the purpose of facilitating the unlawful diversion of marihuana. Any person who is registered under this section....shall afford agents of the Bureau of Narcotics ready access at all times to any part of the premises of such person and the right to inspect any and all books, papers, records, or documents connected with the activities of such person in dealing in, manufacturing, and processing Cannabis sativa L.--and fiber or fiber products thereof, and the handling of marihuana. The Secretary may cancel or may refuse to renew....the registration of any such person. (288)

Administrative regulations supplemented the law. For example:

Investigation shall include a comprehensive inquiry to determine whether the applicant is equipped with technical facilities and technical skill adequate to establish and maintain the proposed milling operation with a reasonable degree of efficiency; whether the applicant has a market for the prospective fiber products; and whether there are or will be appropriate safeguards against diversion of marihuana while en route to, or at, the mill premises. (289)

Upon learning of plans to exempt hemp stalks from the marijuana transfer tax even if they had residual leaves or flowers, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics declared that upon passage of such legislation the Bureau would require mills to erect high fences and to hire guards to patrol the premises. (290) Apparently no such requirement resulted, however.

In May 1945 the Bureau's Deputy Commissioner Will S. Wood told Congress that the Bureau did not wish to destroy the hemp industry. (291)

In the 1940's, as in the 1930's, when hemp industrialists protested anti-marijuana measures that would harm the hemp industry, Congress took decisive action to guarantee continuance of the industry. Clearly Congress intended to encourage hemp growing, not discourage it. Hemp producing states took a similar attitude. Growing marijuana was illegal in Iowa in 1946, but the anti-marijuana law said, "Any person, firm, or corporation engaged in growing cannabis for the purpose of obtaining therefrom seed or fiber or engaged in the processing of hemp for either of such purposes under contract and holding a federal license therefor shall be exempt from the provisions of this section." (292)

In the 1960's Congress provided further protection to hemp growers by ratifying the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which took force in the United States in 1967. The treaty explicitly protects "cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes." (293) Under the long standing judicial doctrine, treaties supersede any conflicting federal or state legislation. By ratifying this treaty Congress protected the hemp industry against any subsequent national or state prohibition attempt.

Although hemp farming declined dramatically in the late 1940's, a half dozen private hemp companies remained active. In 1952 the U. S. Department of Agriculture published a pamphlet advising farmers how to grow hemp, and in 1953 124 growers were still registered. By 1958, however, commercial hemp farming no longer existed in the United States. (294) When the federal anti-marijuana laws underwent a major revision in 1970, Congress deleted mechanisms for registering growers and processors. (295) Commercial hemp production and processing remained legal, but federal registration mechanism under which the industry had operated since 1937 were abandoned, apparently as irrelevant to the production agriculture scene of 1970.

When the federal government abandoned regulation of commercial hemp, regulatory authority passed to the states. Each state has authority to establish a mechanism by which producers and processors of hemp can register as legitimate business enterprises, with such state certification allowing them to operate even though marijuana remains illegal--just as was done under the federal system.


The current federal definition of marijuana still keeps the hemp industry legal:

The term "marihuana" means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination. (296)

Missouri statute language is almost the same:

"Marihuana," all parts of the plant genus Cannabis in any species or form thereof, including, but not limited to Cannabis Sativa L., Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Americana, Cannabis Ruderalis, and Cannabis Gigantua,whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin. It does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination." (297)

Hemp growing in Missouri is as legal as it has always been. The grower, however, must be able to prove that the crop is not being used illicitly for marijuana. Although technically a state certificate is not necessary for such proof, state registration would officially identify a grower or processor as pursuing legal commerce. Without a registration system, anyone interested in growing or processing hemp will likely fear prosecution for cultivating or transacting in marijuana. A state registration system would benefit hemp farmers and simplify marijuana law enforcement. Any grower without a state certificate would be hard pressed to claim that the crop is legitimate.

Because hemp commerce is legal and is exempt from drug control laws, interstate commerce in hemp is legal. Missouri farmers and processors would have a right to engage in interstate and international commerce.

Note: The federal government has not relinquished its regulatory authority over drugs. State registration as a hemp grower or processor would not give the registrant permission to grow or process cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Also: Holders of a state registration certificate would be allowed to produce hemp, not marijuana. Holders would not be exempt from obeying anti-marijuana laws. Holders could not lawfully permit someone to strip leaves from fields or otherwise divert any part of the crop for illicit purposes. Such conduct would be liable to harsh criminal penalties, and we may be confident that law enforcement authorities would take keen interest in observing the fate of hemp crops.

A certificate would merely shift the legal "burden of proof." Currently, without a registration system, a Missouri hemp cultivator would be presumed to be cultivating marijuana. Upon such accusation, the hemp farmer would have to prove otherwise. If a cultivator is a registered hemp producer, however, the legal assumption is that the crop is lawful hemp, and the prosecutor has to prove otherwise. Without a registration system, criminal charges against a hemp cultivator would be automatic (although the farmer might eventually prevail in court). With a registration system, criminal charges would never be filed unless a prosecutor believed the farmer was diverting part of the crop for use as marijuana--and authorities never detected even one such incident while the federal registration system was operating. Under state registration hemp farmers could go about their business unmolested, just as corn or hog farmers do. Although a registration system would not change anti-marijuana laws, the shift in legal burden of proof would make hemp production a viable agricultural proposition.

There is nothing contradictory about encouraging hemp while discouraging marijuana. Although they come from the cannabis plant, they are different products. While the federal registration system operated, agriculture agencies encouraged cannabis growth while law enforcement agencies destroyed unregistered cannabis acreage. This policy is documented by government records: (298)

Year Registered Growers Legal Cannabis Harvest Illegal Cannabis Destroyed
1938 371 1,400 acres 12,900 acres
1939 174 1,650 6,500
1940 219 2,600 19,300
1941 566 9,600 23,300
1942 8,929 43,800 6,600
1943 14,913 186,700 150
1944 ------ 54,600 110

Experience suggests that the following elements would help a state hemp registration system to succeed

1. Evidence that grower has identified a buyer for crop, or that processor will receive raw materials from identified growers. 2. Evidence that applicants have sufficient financial backing for their enterprise. 3. Posting bond to guarantee compliance with anti-marijuana laws. A percentage of such bond might be returned annually if good conduct continues. 4. Strict record keeping by which farmers identify exact areas used for raising crops and report disposition of crops, and records by which processors account for all raw materials received. 5. Periodic renewal of registration, and means for revoking registration. 6. Regulating agency should be one that encourages cannabis hemp commerce (such as Agriculture, Conservation, Natural Resources) rather than one oriented toward restricting cannabis marijuana commerce (such as Public Safety, Mental Health).

Examination of old federal statutes and regulations, noted above, could benefit discussion of a Missouri hemp commerce registration system. The systems of Minnesota, France, and Canada may also be of interest.


Minnesota has a system for hemp commerce. For many years registered persons could harvest wild hemp as well as cultivated crops, (299) but in 1969 the law was changed to allow only commerce in cultivated crops. (300) As of 1981 Minnesota law read as follows:

18.321 Growing hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) for commercial purposes; licenses Growing or maintenance of hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is permitted only for commercial uses, as herein defined. Commercial uses are such adaptations of hemp as are necessary and proper for the manufacture of rope, sacks, and other sisal hemp products and such other non-injurious commercial products, including the manufacture of batts, yarn, thread, cordage, merchandise, cloth, and such other products as may be made from linen fiber, as have been or may be developed; submitted to the commissioner and approved by him. The commissioner is hereby authorized, and it shall be his duty, to license and authorize the growing of hemp when the derivatives thereof are to be used solely for the commercial uses herein defined. Any person desiring to grow hemp for commercial purposes, as herein defined, shall file an application for a license therefor with the commissioner, giving a description and the area of land intended to be so used. The commissioner shall issue a license to the applicant for the growing such hemp for such commercial uses as are specified in the application and license, and the growing of hemp, pursuant to the terms of the license issued by the commissioner shall be lawful to the extent granted by the license. 18.322 Licensee to notify commissioner Any person to whom a license for commercial growing of hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is issued shall notify the commissioner of the sale or distribution thereof, and the names of the persons to whom such hemp is sold or distributed. 18.323 Penalty Any person violating any of the provisions of sections 18.321 to 18.322 is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Those statutes remained essentially unchanged into 1991, except for modifications designed to remove gender prejudice in Minnesota statutes. Apparently Minnesota had no registered commercial hemp growers in 1991.


Although marijuana is prohibited, hemp is protected as a textile plant throughout the European Economic Community. (301) In France a farmer who wishes to raise hemp must first obtain a contract for the crop. A person cannot simply grow hemp on speculation. Crop yield is estimated and a price for the crop is set before field production begins. The producer must notify the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture. Only seed certified for producing cannabis with low drug content can be used. Crops are tested during the growing season to be sure drug content remains low. In 1991 a senior hemp industry official described anti-marijuana regulations as "very strict." (302)


Canadian anti-marijuana legislation is even more stringent than U. S. law. In Canada marijuana is defined as all parts of Cannabis sativa. No exceptions are made for mature stalks or any other portion of the plant. (303) This rigid definition is confirmed by case law. The law, however, explicitly allows farmers to apply for a license to grow hemp. (304) Apparently such a license is obtainable, otherwise the Canadian hemp paper operation (described above) would have been impossible.


Supplement--January 1992

After the main report was completed, additional market information arrived from industry trade associations and individual experts.

A robust potential market exists for hemp in the pulp and paper industry.

Dr. Gerald Touzinsky, expert in non-wood fibers and former chairman of the Nonwood Plant Fibers Committee of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) says hemp pulp is currently desired for cigarette paper, for currency and other security papers, and for light weight printing grades used in Bibles and other applications requiring strong, thin sheets. Dr. Touzinsky notes that although most hemp paper in the United States is recycled from used rope and cordage, the paper industry should have no difficulty processing hemp crops. He is uncertain whether domestic crops would be a cheaper source of material than imports are.

Jim Young, Technical Editor of Pulp and Paper, the main journal of the U. S. paper industry, reiterates that cigarette papers are a proven market for hemp. He also feels that boxboard and corrugated containers are a potential market because of hemp's strength. He sees hemp's role in the paper industry as a fiber to blend with others, rather than 100% hemp papers. He believes domestic crops would definitely be a cheaper source of material than imports are, thereby being more attractive to the U. S. paper industry. He also thinks the paper industry should have no difficulty processing hemp crops. He notes, however, that adjustments in current machinery would be required.

Joseph E. Atchison, one of the world's foremost authorities on non-wood fibers, sees demand for hemp bark fibers in high priced specialty papers used for cigarettes and currency. He says the main raw materials now used for such papers in the United States are flax, cotton ginning waste, and tropical abaca. Manufacturers of such papers could readily use hemp bark fiber. Due to price, he sees no market for hemp in markets for ordinary paper. Nor does he see a paper market for hemp hurd fibers. He doubts that domestic crops would be a cheaper source of materials than imports are unless stalks could be broken cheaply (breaking is the process of separating bark from hurds). Dr. Touzinsky notes that the outer bast (bark) and inner core (hurds) of hemp stalks yield different length fibers suitable for different types of paper. The short hurd fibers can produce papers similar to those from short hardwood fibers. The long bark fibers, however, allow manufacture of papers having extraordinary strength. This quality of hemp pulp attracts special interest from paper makers.

Dr. Touzinsky sees two options for hemp pulping mills. One option is to pulp the entire stalk without separating the bark and hurds. The resulting pulp would have qualities similar to hardwood pulp and would have to compete in that market. Mr. Atchison speculates that if the entire stalk were used, the resulting pulp might compete economically with wood pulp for writing paper and newsprint. He is, however, unaware of any proven means of pulping the entire hemp stalk.

The other approach would be to break the stalks and separate the bark and hurds, allowing the special characteristics of bark fibers to be exploited in making strong papers. Dr. Touzinsky sees a ready demand for bark fiber pulp in markets that would not compete with hardwood pulp. Moreover, hemp pulping can be done economically on a much smaller scale than wood pulping. One process could yield a profit on 100 tons of pulp a day.

He also notes that pulping hemp for paper should produce pollutants that are less harmful to the environment that those produced by wood pulping. Mr. Young agrees on this point, but notes that a mill to pulp kenaf (which has many qualities similar to hemp) has had difficulty getting an environmental permit in Texas.

Mr. Atchison makes the important point that one acre of hemp could produce as much paper as four acres of forest in 1916, but modern scientific cultivation of pulpwood plantations has eliminated the productivity advantage that hemp once had over forests. He says U. S. Department of Agriculture officials no longer accept the agency's 1916 findings on this point.

Dr. Touzinsky feels that demand might exist for hemp in manufacture of particle board and in poultry bedding. Mr. Atchison concurs that particle board, panelboard, and medium density fiber board would be possible markets for hurds.

The United States market for other traditional uses of hemp appears bleak.

G. P. Foster, Executive Director of the Cordage Institute, reports that the U. S. twine, cordage, rope, and netting industry no longer uses natural fibers. Machinery for producing natural fiber products no longer exists in the American industry. Moreover, the character of natural fibers is inferior to synthetics. The traditional rope market has passed into history.

O'Jay Niles of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute reports that hemp is not currently processed for yarn or textiles in the United States. A major economic difficulty has been that foreign hemp and domestic cotton have been cheaper than domestic hemp due to farm labor costs and the lack of automated hemp harvesting equipment. He also notes that hemp's coarseness damages modern American high speed carding and spinning systems. He sees no textile or clothing market emerging for hemp in the United States.

Robert Reeves, president of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils in Washington, DC, reports that hemp seed could be crushed and refined in much the same way that canola and linseed are processed. He believes, however, that hemp oil has no compelling advantage over competitors, and that establishing a national market for the product would therefore be difficult. The worldwide demand for hemp oil is so small that neither the International Association of Seed Crushers nor the National Oil Processors Association has any knowledge of the product.

Kenneth Zacharias of the National Paint and Coatings Association reports that competing oils with superior qualities have replaced hemp oil in the paint industry, and that oil paints in general are giving way to latex. He sees no market for hemp oil in the paint and varnish industry today.

"Cottage industry" markets might be developed for hemp cloth, hemp oil, and hemp twines, but no national markets exist.

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