This article on AlterNet takes to one of the enduring controversies of our own movement’s history: did the Hearst and DuPost financial empires conspire to prohibit hemp because of its competition with paper and nylon industries? The author, Steven Wishnia, argues that conspiracy theories like this are easy to debunk, and that the real reason behind marijuana’s prohibition is racism, culture, and control of certain populations by the ruling class.
Scratch a pothead and ask them why marijuana is outlawed, and there’s a good chance you’ll get some version of the “hemp conspiracy” theory. Federal pot prohibition, the story goes, resulted from a plot by the Hearst and DuPont business empires to squelch hemp as a possible competitor to wood-pulp paper and nylon. These allegations can be found anywhere from Wikipedia entries on William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont Company to comments on pot-related articles published here on AlterNet. And these allegations are virtually unchallenged; many people fervently believe in the hemp conspiracy, even though the evidence to back it up vaporizes under even minimal scrutiny.
You could make a stronger case for Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin of John F. Kennedy; Oswald at least left a not-quite-smoking gun at the scene.
The belief that marijuana prohibition came about because of the secret machinations of an economic cabal ignores the pattern of every drug-law crusade in American history. From the 19th-century campaigns against opium and alcohol to the crack panic of the 1980s, they have all been fueled by racism and cultural war, conflated with fear of crime and occasionally abetted by well-intentioned reform impulses. (The financial self-interest of the prison-industrial complex has been a more recent development.)
It’s worth reading the whole piece, especially the detailed rebuttals to the three themes offered by Jack Herer as support for the Hearst/DuPont conspiracy. This in no way diminishes the incredible work and research in Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes, but if we are to win the argument to end adult marijuana prohibition, we have to stick to the provable facts and not conspiracy conjecture. There is more than enough evidence to show that racism is a prime reason for anti-marijuana laws.