Spencer Kellogg | @TheNewTreasury
Every 4/20, pot smokers and marijuana advocates alike join together to celebrate their love of cannabis. The holiday renews calls for legalization of the plant and stokes the fire of many urban legends that have been long held surrounding cannabis, our founding fathers and the early years of the republic. One thing you might hear while lighting up a spliff today is that “The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp.” But was it?
As much as we all want it to be true, sadly, the Declaration of Independence was not written on hemp. In fact, the document seen as the greatest testament to American freedom was actually written on parchment made of animal’s skin. Further investigation shows that the paper’s origin was likely Dutch or European and at that time, flax or linen was the prized material.
According to ElectricEmperor.com (and backed by historical evidence), it is likely that many of the original drafts of the Declaration Of Independence and The Constitution were written on hemp. Before 1883, over 80% of the paper produced in the industrial world was made of hemp and laws had yet to be enacted that would criminalize the plant product.
Four founding fathers were farmers and proponents of the hemp crop. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, and Franklin are all on record as advocates for the robust use of the plant. Furthermore, it has been suggested that Thomas Paine’s declarative work “Common Sense” was published on hemp paper.
Officials at Jefferson’s Monticello have long argued that the DOI was not written on hemp and many of our politicians today will be happy to bury the suggestion as myth. However, what cannot be argued with is the dependence and use of hemp in the early colonies. Today, the cultivation and use of hemp is a major battleground pitting social conservatives and progressive liberals against one another. Although our founding documents weren’t written on hemp paper, the plant has a long and historic use in our country and its contemporary illegality is blasphemous for any early American scholar.
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