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DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | Hemp (Marijuana) | Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Professor of Agronomy University of Wisconsin
DR. WRIGHT: Gentlemen, let me say to you in the first place that
while I am connected with the University of Wisconsin, so far as the hemp
work is concerned, the hemp being Marihuana, I am working as an agent and
in cooperation with the Bureau of Plant Industry here in Washington.
I had better assume that you are about the agricultural side like I am
about chemistry, that you do not know very much about it. Therefore,
suppose I sketch briefly the practical every day procedure by which hemp
is handled in the United States and Canada, not mentioning anything about
the European situation, and as Dr. Robinson is going to review something
about the history of hemp, I will leave that out entirely.
In the United States hemp is an annual crop produced from seed
planted each year, planted in the Spring the same as small grains are
planted, the same as corn is planted.
It has been grown during recent years almost exclusively in very few
sections; Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
It is planted en masse thickly as small grain, in other words, it is
It is planted on very good soil in order to be a profitable production.
It is a crop limited to good soil
for profitable production most every where in the world, and it is seeded
about a bushel to the acre on soil, prepared as for small grain.
After it is planted, there is nothing left to be done except to wait
for it to be harvested, and it is harvested in the latter part of August,
throughout September, and sometimes extending into October depending on
the section of the United States or Canada.
The seed is usually produced in Kentucky, and in the North American
Continent, very rarely any other place. In the sections where it is grown
for fibre or industrial uses, seed is not produced.
The usual, or arbitrary way of determining when to harvest a crop is
when it is well in blossom, we will say rather late blossom when the
pollen is being fairly cleared, depending from that time on how
circumstances work out, but that is when it is begun.
It is generally harvested now by special machinery which has been
developed during the last few years. It is cut and spread in swaths of even
length. It is left in the stuble, spread out for retting.
Now, the exact procedure varies in different sections of the country.
This retting period, that is the period when the so-called fibre portion of
the stem is released
from the woody portion, varies from two weeks to, in certain cases, two
After it has reached that stage where the fibre can be removed from
the straw by being dressed, it is gathered and bound in bundles and
shocked. Then it is put in stacks, usually in hemp mills or processing
From these stacks it is sent to the dryer, and dried to what is
commonly called in the trade bone-dry condition and which would mean 8
or 9 or 10% moisture.
Then it is crushed by the breaking process, that is the fiber is
separated by the usual process called scutching, and it is divided into two
kinds of fibre, one the long stretch, and the other tangled, and then it is
inserted in bales.
That, I believe, is the agricultural procedure of the handling of the
There is a little variation in Kentucky because of the weather
conditions. It is not retted immediately, but shocked until later in the
season when the retting conditioning can be done.
In the northern part of the country, it is spread on the ground and the
retting is done immediately.
Now, I want to avoid going into the acreage and that phase of the
work for Dr. Robinson is going to cover that.
I would like to inject this thought here for I am sure it will do no
harm, and that is that hemp has been an American industry ever since
Colonial times It is not a large industry. It has had its ups and downs, but
it has been an American industry since Colonial times, and it is one of the
oldest crops that we have in the United States.
It is used, as you know, from an industrial stand-point for textile
purposes, and to a minor extent for other purposes and Dr. Robinson will
Now, there might be perhaps some questions right now. One or two
other items I want to take up before I am through.
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: Go right ahead.
DR. WRIGHT: You know I might not have another chance to say
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: You will be given a chance. Go right
ahead, Dr. Wright.
DR. WRIGHT: I was just wanted to throw this into the pot, and that
is, of course, that we who work with the commercial producers, and the
industry naturally collectively, and I suppose we are justifiable in that,
our prejudices are on that side. I do not think we would be human if we
were not, and I do not claim to be other than human. We have a small
industry in the United States that
has had its ups and downs over a long period of time. We still produce
commercial hemp and fibre. Those in the industry are naturally concerned.
They have a stake in that they have what little they have invested in the
They are not concerned about this last law because I believe they
were given a very square deal in the national legislation on the matter.
What they are concerned about is the public position, that indefinite
intangible thing, public feeling about growing hemp at all.
They have already been subjected to some rather embarrassing
Now, just suppose that as a result of the agitation, warranted or
not, and there are probably two views on that, and I am open to both
views, the extensive publicity that has been given in the hemp states,
particularly Wisconsin where there is much agitation, that some kind of a
legislation will come up to put out or eradicate the production of hemp
under the Weed Control Department or the Legislature appropriating money
to do it.
I will not bother you long on that, but I just want to mention that
and show what problem we will be called on to face. Those men have
managed to keep their mouths
shut and have expressed no views concerning Marihuana in public, for we
feel we are not in a position to do so, and we would like to be sure of our
ground before doing it.
Of course, having worked with eradication procedures and
eradication programs, unless you would convince us otherwise we would
oppose the eradication program in Wisconsin as we see it now with the
immense cost and the things of that sort.
Now comes the other phase of it. We have been trying, in cooperation
with the Bureau of Plant Industry, and Dr. Robinson and the Division of
Pharmacy of the University of Wisconsin and Dr. Link who is head of the
Bio-Chemistry Department of the University of Wisconsin to begin a study
of Cannabis in relation to hemp as a crop.
Without going into details, I think I have told you my story for the
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: We thank you very much, Doctor. Before
we go on to Dr. Robinson, I think there were various points brought up that
our conferees would like to discuss.
There is one point about commercial hemp. We did not make a survey
in your State, but we did make a survey in the State of Minnesota, and
some of the hemp that was harvested in 1934 is still on the ground.
DR. WRIGHT: That is right.
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: It is giving us a great deal of difficulty.
The farmers up in Minnesota in some of the sections have been subjected
to various promotion schemes. Due to the existence of stacks of the old
1934 and 1935 crop of harvested hemp in Southern Minnesota, which is a
menace to society in that it has been used by traffickers, we have
arrested a gang who took a truck load of this Marihuana into New York.
I will say that the farmers up there have been cooperating with us
100%. If they see anybody around that section who looks like a trafficker,
they bring out their old shot guns, and he is soon disposed of. We have very
little trouble from the farmers up there.
It is said that every stack contains a plentiful supply for smoking
Allegations have been made that if it was on the ground three years
there would not be any resin left. Mr. Wollner can tell you how much resin
some of the experts reported after Marihuana had been lying on the ground
three years. It seems that the traffickers can find it. Our own chemists
have found it.
We feel that the farmer is entitled to a reasonable return for these
old crops. He planted the crop in goodfaith; he has no desire to violate the
law, and we have
been assured that the removal of the harvested crops is very desirable. It
is a very difficult situation.
Have you any observations to make, or any discussion on the
DR. ROBINSON: As to thw commercial procedure, tha plant is spread
out on the land, and left there until the stalks are retted, and some of the
leaves are gone. It is shocked and taken into the hemp mill. The grower is
uncertain as to where he stands, and whether the leaves that are
associated with the straw are in the legal sense Marihuana, referring, of
course, to that particular clause in the law which refers to dry stalks.
Now this is done as follows: the straw is left on the land in the
stubble for varying times, as I say, from two weeks or longer during this
retting process. It is subject to the action of rains and bleaching and
decomposition with the various effects of bacteria and fungi, but when it
is taken in, it still retains a trace of the leaves. That is what affects the
folks up there in Minnesota.
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: I notice the term "hurds" referred to.
DR. WRIGHT: That is the non-fibrous material crushed and taken away
from the fibrous. It is the residue. It
would be the same as shives in flax.
MR. WOLLNER: I am afraid to say that the experiment with Minnesota
hemp is rather inconclusive. As I understand it the hemp was bundled
before it had been permitted to ret for an extended period of time.
It may be we will find that if the hemp is permitted to ret before it
is stacked, a further decomposition of the drug will ensue. However, we do
know that the Minnesota hemp of 1934 is active.
DR. WRIGHT: It would be active.
MR. WOLLNER. It is active but whether the activity was retained by
improper handling of the hemp, I don't know. As I understand it they were
advised to bunch their hemp before it was retted.
DR. WRIGHT: It was never rotted or retted. The plan of handling in
Minnesota was unauthorized. In other words, it was contrary to the usual
procedure. They put the green hemp or the semi-green hemp in a bundle,
and at a later stage it would be known in the trade as green hemp. That
was never used for textile purposes. It was not suitable for textile
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: Then, Dr. Wright, your opinion is that if
harvested properly most of the leaves avould remain on the ground and not
adhere to the stalks?
DR. WRIGHT: I will be perfectly frank in telling you that will vary in
seasonal conditions, and so we are much concerned about that. There are
leaves left. As to the condition of those leaves, we don't know. They are
left, and there is no use in denying that. There are considerable left on the
straw. There are not a great deal, but there are leaves left.
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: Then prompt harvesting would reduce this
danger we are now confronted with?
DR. WRIGHT: It would.
DR. MATCHETT: What about the hemp stacked green in Kentucky;
doesn't that mold more than that left on the ground?
DR. WRIGHT: Hemp is left in the shock in Kentucky. You will correct
me Dr. Robinson, if I'm wrong, because it has been fifteen years since I
was down there, but it is my impression that it is shocked. It is first
spread and allowed to wilt on the ground.
DR. MATCHETT: Then there is no molding?
DR. WRIGHT: If properly handled there will be no molding.
MR. WOLLNER: From our point of view that would be improper
handling; there would be no decomposition of the resin.
DR. WRIGHT: The general weathering we would get would be during
the curing stage.
MR. WOLLNER: How long, about, does that take?
DR. WRIGHT: Now, after it is shocked, cured and stacked, later it is
spread on the land again and retted.
DR. MATCHETT: But, during this period, of course, it would be in
excellent condition for smoking, - that is, relatively dry in the stack.
DR. WRIGHT: From the time it is cut until it is rotted, whatever
leaves there are should be suitable for Marihuana.
MR. SMITH: While we have not found in New York State a large
agricultural growth, we do find that the largest part of our growth,
instead of being on good soil, is on poor soil.
For the past two years when I have been looking for wild growth, I
have found it in dumps or soil that has a high content of ashes or cinders,
and I have found it trying to grow it in my own garden but the growth does
not begin to compare with that of the cinder growth, and as a matter of
fact we have found that most recently the wild growth seeks that kind of
That does not prove anything, of course, except we have probably
most of our wild growth coming from ashes
and cinders and public dumps. This did strike me very forcibly, and what
struck me more forcibly was that we had some of the biggest growths in
Brooklyn where it was almost a clear cinder dump.
Our experience in New York State so far has not produced anyone who
desired to be licensed as a cultivator.
I think some of that might be offset if the public was assured that
the cultivator would have to be licensed, after proper investigation, and
that definite qualifications exist to establish control.
DR. WRIGHT: As to your first statement about hemp growing on
cinder beds, wild hemp, - it is not a fibrous hemp. As all of you who are
familMWith the middle west know, you will find blocks that were
formerly even cinder beds, but fibrous hemp will not grow there.
MR. SMITH: The point I was chiefly interested in was the public
interest, where it was grown, whether being produced by chance or design.
DR. WRIGHT: We are hopeful we can clarify this situation. Since
legislation may be introduced to eradicate or to bring pressure upon the
legitimate producer, I appreciate your suggestion. I think it is a good one.
MR. SMITH: We have also in New York State given some consideration
to definite measures for removal, but so far we have operated under
difficulties acting under nuisance laws. Under the Public Health laws in
New York, we can fix a penalty for maintaining a public nuisance. We have
in a few instances removed Marihuana from private property where the
owner wouldn't undertake it himself, and then assessed a lien against the
property within the Public Health law on the ground that we have removed
a public nuisance.
DR. WRIGHT: It might be construed to apply to Marihuana under our
Public Health regulations in Wisconsin. I do not know whether it has been
discussed or not.
COMMISSIONER ANSLINGER: Dr. Robinson, we would like to hear from
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