Hemp is a grass of Asian origin historically cultivated for its fibres. Hemp was used to make ropes, straps and canvas used on naval ships during the Second World War. Farmers were hired by the US government to grow and deliver hemp. Hemp was sown and grown to maturity in farm fields. It was cut and piled to dry. The piles were about one metre high and one metre wide. Once dried, it was delivered to a site near the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) plant in Hutchinson.
During the Second World War, Japan cut off the supply of hemp and fibre, two vital products. As a result, a program was launched to grow hemp for military use under the banner "Hemp for Victory".
Hemp for Victory is a black and white film made by the American government during the Second World War and released in 1942. It explains the uses of hemp, encouraging farmers to grow it as much as possible. During World War II, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was briefly lifted to allow the production of hemp fibre to create rope for the U.S. Navy, but after the war hemp returned to its de facto illegal status.
The film was made to encourage farmers to grow hemp for the war effort because other industrial fibres, often imported from overseas, were in short supply. The film shows the history of hemp and its by-products, the cultivation of hemp and the processing of hemp into rope, fabric, cordage and other products.
Before 1989, the film was relatively unknown. The U.S. government denied ever making such a film. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Library and the Library of Congress told all interested parties that no such film had been made by the USDA or any branch of the U.S. government. Two VHS copies were retrieved and donated to the Library of Congress on 19 May 1989 by Maria Farrow, Carl Packard and Jack Herer.
The only known copy in 1976 was a broadcast quality copy 3/4″ of the film, originally obtained by William Conde in 1976 from a reporter for the Miami Herald and the Ethiopian Coptic Zion Church in Jamaica. It was given in the hope that it would be made available to as many people as possible. It was handed over to Jack Herer by William Conde during the 1984 cannabis initiative in Oregon.
In July 1989, Jack Herer and Chris Wright of the Grassroots Party attempted to obtain a copy of the film from the National Archives where it was listed, but the curators were unable to locate it. Subsequently, in May 1990, the founder of the Hemp Institute, John Birrenbach, retrieved a copy of the film from the National Archives. The film was a two-part film, the first section being 6:46 and the second being 7:16. The film was approximately 15 minutes long and described in detail the cultivation of cannabis for fibre production. This is the first time the film has been recovered from a government source.
Hemp for Victory was produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and contains scenes from the 1926 silent film Old Ironsides.
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