George Washington raised large quantities of hemp. So did Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and virtually every other 1700s American farmer.
It is also highly likely at least some of them smoked its potent sibling, now known as marijuana.
Perhaps we should commemorate the upcoming President's Day by honoring George Washington with a National Celebration to Re-Legalize Hemp and Marijuana.
Indeed, in the Age of Obama, this old news has a new meaning. It is time to end Hemp/Marijuana Prohibition. With Bush gone and a new generation taking charge, we may finally have a chance to do it. Our nation's famous Founders are our key allies.
Since 1937 the US has suffered through a period of hemp persecution that all the Founders -- from Washington to Franklin, from Adams to Madison -- would have deemed absolutely insane.
In their honor, in renewed protest against this absurd Prohibition, Passions of the Patrios, by "Thomas Paine," is now being published. As we approach President's Day, this "based on true history" novel shows Washington and his cohorts in their natural state, growing and smoking what we now call "pot" in mass quantities.
In his farm journal of August 7, 1765, Washington notes that he "began to separate the male from the female hemp... rather too late." An astute agronomist, Washington could only have been seeking a crop with stronger "medicinal" qualities. Founders who smoked bales of tobacco and consumed oceans of beer (Washington was young America's leading brewer) could not have missed the recreational properties of a crop well known for five millennia.
As for industrial hemp, growing it has actually been mandatory at various times in our history. Most recently Kansas was virtually carpeted with it as part of the effort to win World War Two.
For more than 5,000 years, dating back at least to ancient China, hemp has been used for paper, rope, sails, cloth, clothing, fuel, food, and much more. Today the rich oil in hemp seeds should be a staple of our conversion to clean, green bio-diesel fuels. Its stems and leaves could be a core crop for making cellulosic ethanol. Re-legalized hemp cultivation could quickly become a multi-billion-dollar bonanza for American farmers, just as it was immensely profitable for George Washington and his cohorts.
Hemp is great for the environment because it is a hardy perennial. It needs no annual re-seeding, no plowing, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no herbicides. Its seeds are loved by birds of all varieties, and are so full of vitamins and protein they comprise a pure, clean supplement for the modern human diet.
An acre of hemp produces five times as much paper as an acre of trees. The product is more durable and easier to manufacture. At least one draft each of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were written on it.
Hemp growing is legal in Canada, Germany and China, among other places, where it is productive and profitable. Desperate for income, farmers in the Dakotas and elsewhere throughout the Great Plains have been organizing to get this time-honored plant re-legalized.
They have America's Founders on their side. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and the entire early American farm community -- about 90% of the populace back then -- would be astonished to hear that industrial hemp or its smokaeble sister are illegal.
With the coming of a president who has admitted to smoking marijuana and liking it, it's time to link Number 44 with Numbers one through four, and beyond.
With our economy on the ropes, there are billions of dollars to be made from growing industrial hemp, and from taxing legalized marijuana. This great plant belongs in our national stimulus package.
On this coming President's Day, Barack Obama should take a hint from our First President by kicking off a national campaign to end Prohibition and re-legalize both hemp and marijuana. It's time to honor our ancestors.
Harvey Wasserman's History of the U.S. is at www.harveywasserman.com, along with Passions of the Patriots by "Thomas Paine."