The Low, Dishonest Decade*

by David P. West

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade...
—W.H. Auden September 1, 1939

The Marihuana Tax Act slithered largely unremarked through the slime of the "low dishonest decade" to then lay coiled and hidden awaiting devotees seeking the origins of marijuana prohibition to roll the rock off it. And when the beast was described it was given the head of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) Commissioner Harry Anslinger, the body of the DuPont Chemical Company and rattles of Randolph Hearst. The myth arrived as revealed truth and grew to orthodoxy. The scripture tells how DuPont with its vested interest in synthetic fibers conspired to have the FBN undo the nascent hemp industry with the eager collusion of yellow journalist Hearst whose self-interest in the issue was rationalized by his position in pulpable timber.

Far from a threat to anyone, in 1930, there were only 1500 acres of hemp grown annually in Wisconsin. Around 1933, the acreage began expanding although it remained under 7000 acres until the war emergency, a paltry area for an agricultural crop.

By 1935, new nuclei of hemp processing could be found in Minnesota and Illinois in addition to the stalwart industry in Wisconsin, still growing about 1500 acres. They kept on growing about that much in Wisconsin until 1957. But the industries in Minnesota and Illinois were gone by the war, due to the Marihuana Tax Act. The hemp they were growing was Kentucky Hemp; today we call it ditchweed. People don't smoke it. But the FBN in 1935 could obfuscate that fact: who knew?

The Marihuana Tax Act was supposedly a drug control measure. One thing is clear: The brunt of the enforcement of the MTA was born by these new midwestern producers of hemp, while the industry in Wisconsin went on undisturbed. The agency responsible went to great lengths to force the identification of hemp with marijuana to rationalize their intrusion. Why go to the trouble to hassle Minnesota farmers when they knew the marijuana was actually coming in from Mexico?

If we're going to understand the MTA—a big IF—we must look within the zeitgeist of the age that hatched it: the complicated, formative, low, dishonest and totally paranoid decade of The Thirties.

The decade of the thirties arrived with the economy of the world blowing its engine and careening off the road. People were looking for answers and guilty parties to hang as the anger and frustration of the Depression gave rise to a snake pit of political demagoguery. The fascist solution which broke the political surface in Germany and Italy with the complicity of wealthy industrialists was a transnational movement spreading its tenacles throughout the western world and Japan.

Fascists and Nazis, yes; but few today have heard of the Sinarquista in Portugal; the Falangista in Spain; the Croix de Feu and Cagoulard in Belgium and France; the Stahlhelm in Austria; the Knights of St. Michael and the Iron Guard in Roumania, the Ustachl in Yugoslavia; the Arrow-Close of Hungary and others in Poland, Lithuania , Norway and elsewhere.

The fundamental aspect of these factions was a call for the use of state control to set economic matters straight, and retribution. Generally, they shared the opinion that ultimately the Jews were to blame. Behind the front could be found wealth protecting itself from the threat of labor unions and such manifestations of "Commie rabble" by using their own rabble as storm troopers and union busters. And, of course, there needed to be scapegoats to sacrifice.

In our standard Disney version of this history, these sordid, unpleasant matters we view as archaic aspects of European politics—over there. Erased from memory are the isolationist, pro-fascist and obligatorily anti-Semitic movements in the United States: the Silver Shirts and their "fuhrer" William Pelley, styled after the Nazi Brown Shirts; or Fritz Kuhn's German-American Bund; or the pro-German isolationism of Lucky Linde's America First; or the Crusaders for Economic Liberty, the American Vigilanate Federation or the Priest from Detroit, Father's Coughlin's National Union Party.

As for the latter, in a 1949 retrospective on Coughlin, with the memories still warm, Wallace Stegner wrote:

Many people believed and still do that he was taking Nazi money to run his machine. Whether he took money or not, he took Nazi ideas and Nazi methods, and evidence at the Nuremburg war-guilt trials later attested Germany's intense interest in promoting Father Coughlins' activities. His gangs were on the loose in a dozen cities; Jewish mothers were afraid to send their children to school for fear of the young hoodlums, influenced by their Christian Front elders and companions, who made a practice of beating up every Jewish boy they could catch alone.

To those of the Semitic persuasion—and with rapidly increasing clarity as the decade progressed—the insinuation of these movements into the fabric of American society was a clear and present danger. The evidence of where it would lead flowed out of Germany, known to those who cared to know. And what was known to those in-the-know was how far into nations west of the Atlantic had spread a deliberate network of espionage and political subversion. This network was a key component of the Third Reich's strategy for success in the coming war, the war to restore to the Fatherland the Lebensraum needed for the ultimate triumph of the Teutonic race—or so the plan went. Remembering the result of America's late entry into their last attempt, keeping America neutral for the next one was critical to the German strategy.

One who was in-the-know was an investigator named John L. Spivak who had been dogging the anti-union fascists for most of the decade as a Left-inclined reporter. His book, Secret Armies: The New Technique of Nazi Warfare, Exposing Hitler's Undeclared War on the Americas, sold for 50 cents in 1939 and has more the look of a Dashielle Hammet novel than a serious exposé. He unfolds startling detail after detail of the extent of preparations. His description of extensive physical emplacements of a fascist network in France that French police had just uncovered was precisely what agents were watching for on this side of the pond:

It was obvious from what the police uncovered that it had taken several years to organize the gigantic conspiracy. Within the teeming city of Paris itself, steel and concrete fortresses had been secretly built. Other cities throughout France were similarly ringed in strategic places. Every one of these secret fortresses was stocked with arms and munitions, and throughout the country, once the confessions began, the police found thousands upon thousands of rifles and pistols, millions of cartridges, hundreds of machine guns and sub-machine guns. The fortresses themselves were fitted with secret radio and telephone stations for communication among themselves. Code books and evidence of arms-running from Germany and Italy were found. A vast espionage network and a series of murders were traced to this secret organization whose official name is the "Secret Committee for Revolutionary Action." At their meetings they wore hoods to conceal their identity from one another, like the Black Legion in the United States, and the press promptly named them the "Cagoulards" ("Hooded Ones").

Meanwhile in Mexico, Spivak tells, German and Japanese agents were actively establishing coastline reconnaisance and militant understudy fascist organizations. One such was the Gold Shirts (we may run out of shirt colors for fascists; next, the Mauve Shirts?):

The Nazis began to build fascism in Mexico right after Hitler got into power. In 1933, Schwinn called a meeting in Mexicali of several Nazi agents operating out of Los Angeles, including General Rodriguez, and several members of a veterans organization. It was at this meeting that the Mexican Gold Shirts were organized.

None of this would have been news to the Treasury's Henry Morgenthau, Jr. who had his agents out looking for Nazis everywhere. This is the Morgenthau labelled as "arch-Germanophobe" by historians. The same Morgenthau who would soon be penning the infamous "Morgenthau Plan" which called for the de-industrialization of Germany and the return of that country to a pastoral state. Exposed, the plan actually prolonged the war as Hitler was able to use it to demonstrate the fate that was planned for the Fatherland by the Allies. Henry Jr. had been keeping tabs on Nazi front companies since coming to office with Roosevelt in 1933.

The front company was a well developed method of Nazi infiltration, a subterfuge the Third Reich inherited whole from I. G . Farben. Infamous Farben marched in lock step with the policies of the Fuhrer, provided Zyklon-B for the gassings and worked to death slave labor from the concentration camps in its buna rubber and other factories. Its directors were tried at Nuremberg.

Having lost all of its chemical patents as war booty following WWI, Farben had become adept at disguising its ownership of foreign assets. In neutral Switzerland, I.G. Chemie was the front through which ownership of such American assets as Sterling, American Cyanamid and General Aniline & Film were hidden. Contrary to the Disney version, it wasn't the mountains kept Germany from invading Switzerland.

One flagrant Farben front operating in the US was a company cleverly named Chemnyco— in New York, you see. It was purely an espionage cover used to acquire details of chemical patents and processes. David Kahn, in his 1978 book, Nazi Spies, gives us a succinct description of Chemnyco's activities:

Chemnyco swept up everything it could find from open sources. Its subscription list to technical and other publications covered 16 single-spaced typewritten pages; the magazines alone cost $4,000 a year. It obtained maps of the mineral industries of Ohio, of oil and gas fields, of shore lines and pipelines. From the chambers of commerce of cities and towns it learned about the industries there and the economic advantages of the localities....Each week Chemnyco sent scores of clippings and a report to Germany. When the war supervened, and Britain made such direct transmission impossible, Farben gave Chemnyco cover addresses in Portugal for it to use. And Chemnyco operated up to the day Hitler declared war on America.

On that day, October 11, 1941, Treasury agents seized Chemnyco as an asset of the enemy.

To the Secretary of the Treasury had been conferred "the power to define as a national of Germany any person determined to have acted directly or indirectly for the benefit of, or under the direction of, Germany." The Secretary of the Treasury had reason to be paranoid. The threat was not abstract. The Roosevelt administration had taken office with sweeping programs for rescuing the country from the Depression and within a year it had faced a coup attempt.

Don't be incredulous if you've never heard about it. Much of what went on in the 1930s has been swept under the carpet. No better example exists than The Plot to Seize the Whitehouse. This amazing tale went untold for decades until Jules Archer's 1973 book by that title—but who ever heard of it? Archer told this writer he thought the book went largely unremarked because people assumed it was a work of fiction. But it's not. If you can find this tome at an antiquarian, it goes for upwards of $150. (Watch for the History Channel's treatment coming next year. [The History Channel's program has never—as far as I know—been repeated after showing once. There was talk that Archer's book was being made into movie. This has not materialized. The book was recently reissued. See inset.])

The hero of this story is General Smedley Butler, an archetypal Dudley Doright. He was an authentic Rough Rider who saw his first action in Cuba during the Spanish-American War when he was only 17. He was in China for the Boxer Rebellion; he was in Nicaragua during the uprising; in Panama; in Haiti; in Africa. In fact, he played a part in virtually all the significant conflicts of the first decades of the century. He was everything a Marine was supposed to be and respected by the troops as the consummate soldier who'd risk his own life and limb to carry out a wounded man. To the soldier, Butler's word was gold. And that's just what certain powerful interests wanted him for in 1934.

Butler was approach by a wheeler-dealer named—yes–Jerry MacGuire (different spelling) who threw large sums of money on the hotel bed and said he was very well backed. Indeed, he was, as time would tell, because Butler decided to play along and find out if MacGuire was just blowing smoke. And, to corroborate what he was being told by MacGuire, he sought the clandestine services of a reporter from The Philadephia Inquirer, named Paul Comly French. (Butler served for a time after his military career as Chief of Police of Philadephia where he went after the bootleggers more vigorously than the political machine could tolerate. But he earned the respect of the local press for his honesty.)

Butler and French subsequently testified before the House of Representatives' McCormack-Dickstein Committee convened on November 20, 1934, to hear from them "all that you know about an attempted Fascist movement in this country." The transcript of this hearing was censored, but much of the expurgated text was obtained by another investigator, our friend Spivak. (Archer dedicated The Plot to Spivak.)

Archer unfolds the whole plot. Briefly: MacGuire said his backers were deeply concerned for the plight of the veterans, who had—until recently—been camped on the DC Mall, the "Bonus Marchers," protesting the failure of the government to fulfill its promises to them for their service. The concern these men of wealth felt for the unfortunate veteran had brought them to the conclusion that the soldiers would best benefit were the president to reverse his recent departure from the gold standard. Speaking of Roosevelt, MacGuire told Butler, "He has either got to get more money out of us or he has got to change the method of financing the Government and we are going to see to it that he does not change that method. He will not change it."

By "us" MacGuire meant the backers of this plan, which was specifically "to develop an American Croix de Feu." These men were formed into an organization called the Liberty League. Archer names names:

Its contributors included representatives of the Morgan, DuPont, Rockefeller. Pew, and Mellon interests. Directors of the League included AI Smith and John J. Raskob. The League later formed affiliations with pro-Fascist, antilabor, and anti-Semitic organizations.

General Butler's mission—should he accept it–was to speak to gatherings and conventions of the American Legion and other veteran groups urging the soldiers to put pressure on the president regarding the gold standard. But it went far beyond that. In fact, what they were conspiring to do—Archer describes–was the equivalent of a fascist putsch. The president was to be gradually moved into a figurehead function and his power transferred to a new cabinet position, a "Secretary of General Affairs." They were merely going to assist the beleaguered Roosevelt.

"The American people will swallow that," Butler quotes MacGuire (he kept notes). "We have the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everybody can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second."

Moreover, the body of disaffected soldiery that was in great abundance, would back up these changes with threat of arms—arms that would be provided by DuPont's subsidiary, Remington Arms, the country's major armaments supplier. That was the plan!

And why not? Hitler had just accomplished the same. And these men were rather impressed by the success of Hitler and Mussolini in streamlining the industrial production of their countries while keeping the communistic unions under control. Jerry MacGuire told Butler he had just come back from a tour of Europe for his bosses with a glowing report on Hitler and Mussolini. In contrast to their contentious relationship with the US government that had been one of anti-trust suits and regulation, Germany was evolving an exemplary harmonization of industrial and social organization with the IG Farben dyestuffs and chemical concern formed of the amalgamation of Hoescht, Bayer, BASF, and others. They seemed to be of one mind on many issues.

The banking industry in the US, on the other hand, had just been slapped with a huge New Deal regulatory apparatus and the chemical industry, i.e., DuPont, had been the target of continuous anti-trust investigations already for decades. Of all the comparative aspects of German and American society at this time, perhaps the most significant in the events to come was embodied in this contrast: On the one hand, government and industry designing society to suit their objectives, and, on the other, the government as watchdog. The regulatory agency which dogged them was the Treasury Department.

And, in case you didn't notice, the theory that the Treasury Department would do DuPont's bidding just shattered like crystal in the night.

Jerry MacGuire miscalculated. Smedley blew the whistle. The plot was exposed by McCormack-Dickstein, but the influence of this oligarchy was sufficient to keep the details out of the official transcript of the hearings and under the carpet for decades. There were no reprisals. Butler went on to write a book titled War is a Racket.

The reader was expecting a discussion of how hemp became illegal and we're talking about Nazis and coups. What does any of this have to do with the Marihuana Tax Act? Bear with.

The mantle of the McCormack-Dickstein Committee was inherited by Texas Democrat, Martin Dies. The "Dies Committee" evolved into the House Un-American Activities Committee which only later would become the commie hunting organ of fame. At this time it was still equally concerned with far Right as far Left. The threat from the Right did not recede with the exposure of the plot. By the time the report of the Dies Committee appeared in January, 1939, it concluded that "unless checked immediately, an American Nazi force may cause great unrest and serious repercussions in the United States." But the Dies Committee was late to the party. For espionage outside the US, there was the OSS. Tracking the Fascist threat on the domestic front needed an agency that could operate surreptitiously. The task fell—or was it pushed?—to Morgenthau's Department of the Treasury.What were the Treasury Agents tracking?

Take for instance the case of Fritz Kuhn. (Kuhn and his "German-American Bund" figure prominently in the Dies report.) Born in Germany in 1895, Kuhn joined the Nazis in 1921, but was forced to flee Germany to Mexico in 1923. In 1927 he came to the US and went to work for Henry Ford. He joined the Friends of New Germany (Der Bund der Freunde des Neuen Deutschlands or "German-American Bund") in 1933 the same year he became a naturalized US citizen. By 1935, he was national president of the organization.

The Bund operated summer camps around the country at which campers studied the German language and were schooled about the Jewish menace. There was Camp Siegfried at Yaphank, Long Island; Hindenberg in Grafton, Wisconsin; Nordlund near Andover, New Jersey. By summer 1937 there were over thirty such camps operating in the US. The hinterland was taking on the aspect of an enormous open wound through which the Nazi infection would intrude if Morgenthau and his agents fail to staunch it.

The ooze of Nazi sympathy appeared to flow forth particularly vigorously from Detroit. There was Father Coughlin, the anti-Semitic, radio-celebrity, Catholic priest of the Detroit diocese. On June 19, 1936, Coughlin announced his new political party, the National Union Party, to an attentive radio audience estimated at thirty million. And Fritz Kuhn, who, as soon as he arrived in the States, found employment in the Ford plant in Detroit where he joined the Detroit branch of "Teutonia," another pro-Nazi organization for German immigrants.

And top of the list was Henry himself.

Henry Ford has been described as "an incredibly naive, simple and ignorant man;...a grammar school boy having trouble making the fourth grade." He has largely been rehabilitated in our memories, but there's no denying: Henry was a terrible anti-Semite. And since he was rich and powerful he "emerged as the indispensible link between the mild ethnic prejudice of a more simple agrarian past and the more virulent anti-Semitism of the 1930s."

Ford believed in industrial order. He was for the common man, although with a stroke of his pen he laid them off by the tens of thousands. He didn't like bankers. He once proclaimed, "If people understood how the economic system works, there'd be a revolution in a minute." He didn't like unions either: communists. And you could have any color shirt you want, as long as it's black.

One of Ford's pet projects was publishing anti-Semitic literature exposing the "International Jew" and the latter's plot for world conquest. Chief among these documents were the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion." History now informs us that these Protocols were the fabrication of one Sergei Nilus, a secret police agent in the employ of Tsar Nicholas II, but to Ford and the other true believers they were an explication of historical causation, laying it all on the Jews.

Ford and Hitler belonged to a mutual admiration society. The latter kept a picture of Henry in his office and in 1938 awarded Ford the highest honor Germany could confer on a foreigner.

Ford, in turn, was attracted to Nazi ideas of national sovereignty and self-sufficiency. His goal of "growing a car on the farm" is the quintessential statement of Chemurgy, the obscure and forgotten science of creating industrial (ie., organic chemical) output from organic (i.e., farm) input. From soybeans and hemp he built a "fiberglass" car shell. Ford Motor Company has used the celebrated picture of Henry sledging the car in a national advertising campaign, but they only mention the soybean component.

These notions about hemp were another thing Ford shared with Germany. Germany had advanced the mechanized processing of hemp beyond all others with the invention of the decorticator. With the German concern for self-sufficiency, hemp had a natural role, being a temperate crop and a source of fiber they could grow at home. And, besides the fiber, there was also cellulose from the byproduct hurds, and cellulose in the 1930s was, as one author expressed it, "the chemical that grows." Hemp was the quintessential chemurgic crop.

So while the Treasury Department is watching the festering Nazi sympathies pouring forth from Detroit, what does it see? There is a sudden expansion of the German ideas about hemp seeding itself in midwestern agriculture. This crop requires the construction of large warehouses to handle the storage and processing of the fiber. What are the chances the Treasury is going to want to look closely at their activities? But under what pretense? It's just a crop that's been grown in this country from the earliest times. And is still being grown in one place: Wisconsin. But Treasury wasn't worried about Wisconsin. We know this because they never bothered the Wisconsin industry. It was these other people, the "chemurgy" ones. What's "chemurgy?"

It was Dr. William Hale, a biochemist with Dow Chemical Company, who coined the term "chemurgy." He, and Wheeler McMillan, turned it into a movement. The Farm Chemurgic Council was inaugurated in Dearborn in 1935 under Ford's auspices. The science was reasonable. Why pay farmers not to grow on their land—as the Roosevelt Administration had begun doing with the Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1933— when what you really should do is find expanded uses for the crops? Organic chemistry had just been invented and it was dazzling with the plethora of groovy new stuff: celluloid film, nylon hose. The chemists were having their day. They'd recently had their war.

Soon they'd have another.

But this is just farmers—isn't it? How did we get from Nazis to farmers?

Times had been hard in the farm sector through the Twenties while they roared inebriant in the Prohibited cities. Wheeler McMillan put it in a nutshell:

The seeds of the depression of the nineteen-thirties were planted in the war years 1914-18. They sprouted in August, 1921. That was when country banks were ordered by the Federal Reserve Board not to renew their notes from ranchmen and farmers but to collect them in full and at once.

It was a ripe ground for isolationist, nationalist, fascist, anti-Semitic sentiments. It was a packaged deal and Coughlin and his ilk found fertile soil.

As were the Bonus Marchers that MacArthur had evicted from the Washington Mall in 1932, the farmers were looking for relief. And with the same cynicism toward farmers they had recently shown toward the vets, namely, that they represented a naive and loutish bunch who could be led like sheep, the Liberty League—whom we met trying to enlist Smedley Butler for their coup— sought to exploit this disaffection. The League had spawned another front which now feigned concern for the plight of farmers. We read about it in William McCune's 1956 exposé Who's Behind Farm Policy?

During the mid-thirties, [Farm Bureau Federation President, "Ed"] O'Neil blasted the Farmers' Independence Council of America, which had been created by the Liberty League to fight the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the foundation of price supports. A Senate investigation in 1936 found that financial backers of the Farmers' Independence Council included Lamont DuPont ($5,000); Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., of General Motors; Winthrop A. Aldrich, Board Chairman of the Chase National Bank; Ogden Mills, former Secretary of the Treasury, Arthur Beeter, attorney for Swift & Company; and J. N. Pew, of the Sun Oil Company.

Here again we find the same set who had just tried to overthrow the government, this time, down on the farm. Lamont and his friends (O'Neill called them the "Wall Street Hayseeds) were supporters of the Farm Chemurgic Council. The support came via the Chemical Society, a private company set up by the Alien Property Custodian, Frances Garvan. In his role as Alien Property Custodian, he handled the allocation of chemical patents seized from Farben in the last war. These, of course, went preferentially to DuPont. (The accusation of a sweetheart relationship between Garvan and DuPont went to the Supreme Court, which let DuPont keep the booty in 1928.) Garvan, Hale, McMillan and Ford were the founders of the Farm Chemurgic Council. They were undeniably birds of a feather of whom the Treasury Department would have been quite leery given the publicly declared political views of the more outspoken of them.

Take Billy Hale. Dr. William J. Hale was the philosopher of the Chemical Age, which he thought was going to be jimdandy. He looked forward to all the great stuff the organic chemical industry was spewing forth. But the farms, Hale argued, not oil wells, should be the source of biochemicals: "anything you can make from hydrocarbons, you can make from carbohydrates." He was precocious in recognizing the problems of petrochemical pollution: "...the death rate from degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders, has doubled between 1900 and 1940." He wrote several books, one a history of mankind tracing civilization and its discontents to their origins in the usurious "Babylonian" banking system.

He also favored "rational" approaches to fixing social ills. He liked the historical arguments of the post-WWI German geographer Karl Haushofer that "a new world order is in the making—an order that will center about three regional nuclei: the United States, Japan (eastern Asia), and Germany (Europe and North Africa)."

We have a few red flags here.

Hale was an inventive chemist and his ideas of chemurgy are enjoying some revitalization today. We might overlook that from Plato to the present men like Hale who have sought to fix the world tend to conjure control systems, which, when they become actualized political systems, end up committing grievous atrocities. Hale and his ilk, we can hope, might admire the social order of the fascist systems, without taking it to the extremes of inhumanity they ultimately achieved. The modern fascist, having learned from experience that gas chambers make bad PR, has better ways of dealing with the humanity they want to dispose of, by, for instance, warehousing people under mandatory minimum sentences for some artificial transgression that serves as a convenient marker for the political opposition. You know, something like that.

When the death camps were exposed, Henry Ford was profoundly ashamed, we're told. That made it all better.


Afterward

On New Year's Eve 1937, the Winona (Minnesota) Republican-Herald printed a glowing report of the opportunity some new industries presented to the area.

The article describes two hemp companies operating in Winona. One of these was cleverly named "Chempco, Inc." Though operating solely in Minnesota, it was incorporated in Delaware as a "foreign corporation." Agents of the Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics used the Marihuana Tax Act to saturate their operation with agents and regulatory redtape. It is strange that they did so because there is adequate evidence that the FBN knew the hemp being grown there wasn't the same as the Mexican product people were smoking in the Jazz clubs. A conference convened by the FBN in 1938 was told by the USDA hemp expert,

"the hemp of Chinese origin which has been distributed throughout the world has practically always been used for fibre purposes. The hemp that has come from India has been of the narcotic type and has not been cultivated generally for fibre...hemp does not appear to constitute a narcotic problem in China. That is of a fibrous variety, and there is a great difference between that hemp and the hemp that came from India."

Moreover, the hemp industry which had operated in Wisconsin for several decades wasn't bothered by the FBN or the MTA, and continued in operation until 1958. The "new" industries which appeared after 1933 in Minnesota and Illinois—at the 1938 conference they're labelled as "unorthodox" because they were interested in chemurgic uses for the plant—were the specific target of the FBN. The Marihuana Tax Act provided the means.

When Bonnie and Whitebread wrote their 1972 study, The Marihuana Conviction, they noted that the government line had changed radically from that of 1937 when FBN Commissioner Harry Anslinger had pointed at the hemp fields of the midwest and cried "Marihuana!"

One provision of the [Import And Export] act reveals a curious lapse of memory between 1937 and 1956 regarding the origins of marihuana. Congress finally got around to amending the Import and Export Act, creating a new offense of smuggling marihuana, and mere possession was made sufficient evidence to convict the possessor of knowingly receiving or concealing imported marihuana. This presumption was based on two suppositions—that marihuana traffic depended upon importation from Mexico and that possessors were likely to be aware of that fact... Commissioner Anslinger estimated that 90 percent of all marihuana in the country had been smuggled from Mexico.

The other Winona industry was named "Cannabis, Inc." The son of its president, Dr. J. T. Schlesselman, a Mankato, Minnesota, ear-nose-and-throat doctor, described to this writer how federal agents hamstrung his father's venture with MTA redtape until it choked. The "new" hemp industries disappeared when the war broke out. They did not exist to participate in the WWII War Hemp Emergency.

Interviewed circa 1970 about the origin of the Marihuana Tax Act, Commissioner Harry Anslinger told Dr. David Musto that the impetus for the law had come down from his boss, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau.


*A version of this article was first published in Hemp Times, Fall, 1999.

Sources cited in text:

Archer, Jules. 1973. The Plot to Seize the Whitehouse. Hawthorn Books, Inc.

Auden, W. H. September 1, 1939. Collected Works.

Bonnie, R. J. and C. H. Whitebread II. 1974. The Marihuana Conviction: A History of Marihuana Prohibition in the United States. University of Virginia Press.

Borkin, J. 1978. The Crime and Punishment of I. G. Farben. Barnes & Noble, NY.

Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 1938. Procedings, 1938 Marihuana Conference. DEA Library.

Hale, Wm J. 1949.The Farmer Victorious. Cowan-McCann, Inc.

Kahn, David. 1978. Nazi Spies: German Military Intelligence in World War II. MacMillan.

McMillen, W. 1946. New Riches from the Soil. D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. NY

Musto, David F. 1973. The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. In, Mikuriya, T., ed., Marijuana: Medical Papers 1839-1972. Medi-Comp Press

Smith, G. S. 1992. To Save a Nation. Elephant Paperbacks.

Spivak, J. L. 1939. Secret Armies: The New Technique of Nazi Warfare, Exposing Hitler's Undeclared War on the Americas. Modern Age Books.

Stegner, Wallace. 1949. The Radio Priest and His Flock. In Leighton, I. ed., The Aspirin Age. Simon and Schuster.

Taylor, G. D. and P. E. Sudnik. 1984. DuPont and the International Chemical Industry. G.K. Hall & Co. (Twayne).