Even though hemp has been used for medicinal and industrial purposes for millennia in many parts of the world, many countries have strict laws prohibiting its cultivation and use. Up until 2014, the United States was one of these countries with outdated laws restricting the use of hemp in the states for most of the 20th century.
But why was hemp illegal if it’s completely safe?
Major propaganda campaigns had long demonized cannabis since the 1930s. These campaigns, started by Federal Bureau of Narcotics secretary Harry Anslinger, sought to criminalize cannabis as a way to find new sources of revenue after the end of prohibition. Anslinger and his associates relied on dishonorable tactics to turn the public against cannabis creating films like Reefer Madness and campaigns associating marijuana use to minorities.
Throughout the 1930s, Anslinger wrote columns in national newspapers to promote anti-marijuana views. His columns often contained racist themes exemplified in excerpts such as:
“Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery, she was found to be suffering from syphilis.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
As disingenuous as these campaigns were, they were successful to some extent. They managed to impose some restrictions on cannabis and its derivatives though cannabis did not become officially illegal until 1970.
The War on Drugs
Almost two years into his first presidential term, President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 as part of his “War on Drugs.” The act criminalized heroin and other hard drugs; however, it also banned marijuana and grouped the plant with all type of cannabis including hemp. The act was the final nail in the coffin for hemp and put CBD on hold for almost five decades.
The 2014 Farm Bill
The 2014 version of the farm bill was the first significant piece of legislation to establish a path for the legalization of hemp giving states the power to regulate the production of hemp through research programs conducted by approved institutions. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD became legal in most states proving extremely popular among the public as a medicinal supplement and among lawmakers who saw in CBD enormous potential for profit.