Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
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:
So now, hempsters can claim that an important piece of their legacy lies in the rich Northern Virginia soil alongside a hugely significant symbol of the government that has so enraged and befuddled them over the years.
All thanks to Lyster Dewey.
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:
The group has a sugar daddy: David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which has grown from a $5 million company to a $31 million firm in the past decade since adding hemp oil to its products to “improve skin feel” and produce a smoother lather. Bronner agreed to pay about $4,000 for the trove—an easy call, given his court battles with the Drug Enforcement Administration when it tried to ban food products containing hemp. Bronner was also arrested last October after planting hemp seeds on a lawn at DEA headquarters.
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.”
Image from the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana.