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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


Hemp Once Grew Where Pentagon Now Stands

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Keith Goetzman, environment, politics, hemp, marijuana, Pentagon, Lyster Dewey, drug war, Hemp Industries Association, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post,

Kentucky hemp farm postcard

Where generals now meet in war rooms, hemp plants once waved in the breeze. The Washington Post reports on the recently discovered “hemp diaries” of a government botanist, Lyster H. Dewey, who tended a USDA hemp farm that was eventually turned over to the War Department for the construction of the Pentagon:

Just in case there’s anyone who still believes that hemp equals marijuana, it must be noted that the stuff Dewey was growing—albeit with names like Keijo and Chinamington that connote some very kind bud—wouldn’t even get an evidence-embezzling sheriff’s deputy stoned. The government was growing it for practical uses such as ropes on Navy ships and for World War II parachute webbing.

The Post reports that the Dewey’s diaries were found at a yard sale, where a sharp-eyed buyer snapped them up and listed them on eBay for $10,000. The Hemp Industries Association, a trade group, bought them with the help of a benefactor, the scion of the Dr. Bronner’s soap company:

As Bronner tells the Post, “It’s kind of ironic that we dug up DEA’s lawn to plant hemp seeds and highlight the absurdity of the drug war, but you take it back 50 years and that’s what the government itself was doing.”

Source: Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post

Image from the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.