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Date: Wed, 31 May 1995 19:17:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Hemp Article in Washington Post
Message-id: <>

>From The Washington Post, May 31, 1995 


_A Fashionable Joint Venture_ 
Marijuana May Be Illegal, but Use Of Hemp Fiber Is Growing Like a Weed 

By Danny Hakim 
   Special to The Washington Post 
  First they called it the Chronic, after the street-slang term for marijuana.
But then a picture of the Adidas sports shoe ran in the April issue of 
Details magazine - in an article on the international pot scene.  After 
some quiet corporate discussions, company execs decided to settle for 
the more innocuous Adidas Hemp. 
  The newly named olive green shoe will be available in the United States 
in October.  It's just the latest in a burgeoning trend of clothing made 
from that thin-leaved flora of modern-day infamy.  Farmers call it hemp, 
scientists call it _Cannabis sativa_, but to cops and dope dealers across 
the country, it's simply marijuana.  And it has a lot of other names too. 
  In the '50s, rayon ruled in an era when America was proud of its plastics. 
In the '70s, polyester rode disco's coattails to stardom.  Will hemp be 
the fabric for the '90s?  It certainly isn't a newcomer - by some estimates 
it's been around for 10,000 years.  But if a hemp renaissance is upon us, 
the material's durability and environmentally safe properties may not be 
the only cause. 
  Since the Marijuana Prohibitive Tax Act of 1937, growing hemp has been made 
financially unfeasible, except for a hiatus during World War II when it was 
needed for uniforms and ropes.  In 1961 it became illegal.  This despite 
the fact that, because of the growing methods, (page break to page 8) 
agricultural hemp produces negligible amounts of THC, (tetrahydrocannabinol) 
the plant's narcotic compound.  Even if you tried to smoke it, you wouldn't 
get high. 
  Now, the cosmetic connection between hemp the textile and hemp the 
dope-bearing plant is making the long-scorned fabric even more attractive 
for American companies seeking to capture the youth market.  Pot is hip. 
Feet and footwear fashion follow pop culture trends.  It was direct market 
research with young Americans that gave Adidas the idea for its new shoe in the 
first place.  "Gangsta" rapper Dr. Dre's breakthrough pot-extolling album, 
"The Chronic," was the likely inspiration of the shoe's original name.  The 
hip-hop group Cypress Hill turned into a mantra of cool with its album 
"Black Sunday," rapping in nasal whines about the virtues of weed, and loudly 
and proudly flaunting the rappers' dubious dalliances. 
  Converse, seeking a test market for its now-defunct hemp high-top, turned 
to grunge rockers Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, and hop-hop group Arrested 
Development to road-test the prototypes, according to the Details report. 
Why Hemp Is Hip 
  Small companies have been buying hemp from Europe and Asia and selling 
hemp-made clothing for years.  Ecolution and Hemp Heritage make hemp shoes, 
hats, panties and jeans.  And now even mainstream corporate America is 
cautiously tiptoeing into the once-fringe industry. 
  Last spring, Vans became the first major U.S. shoe company to break the 
hemp barrier, marketing two hemp variations on the traditional Vans deckshoe 
style.  The shoe, according to Vans senior designer Sherri Noel, was marketed 
as a novelty item, and sold a modest 15,000 pairs domestically.  It seemed 
to fill a particular California, neo-hippie niche for Vans.  It was "marketed 
towards vegetarians," says Noel. 
  The Adidas Hemp, though, will not be a novelty, but an all-puropose sports 
shoe marketed toward teens and twentysomethings. 
  "The question is why," asks Steve Denistrain, vice president of the 
Partnership for a Drug Free America.  "At its core," he says, "the hemp 
movement is an attempt to legitimize a drug.  There are plenty of other 
  There are, indeed, plenty of other fibers.  Denistrian, for one, wonders 
what hemp's got that makes it any better than cotton.  Hard-core hemp 
backers would chafe at such questions, and seem to be able to find a 
thousand and one uses for the plant. 
  John Birrenback, president of the Institute for Hemp, a nonprofit 
organization researching and working to legalize agricultural hemp, cites 
a plethora of uses for hemp - for paper, textiles and fuel products. 
  It's a protein-rich food source, much like soybeans, even healthier. 
(There's a green cheese-like product called Hemprella.)  As a fabric, 
it requires a fraction of the chemical processing that cotton does, 
Birrenbach says.  He estimates that 1 percent of America's farmland could 
produce all the hemp paper the United States would need, a much more 
eco-friendly option, he says, than current deforestation practices. 
  Birrenback is quite lucid and rational.  When he talks, it's not in 
the stoner's nasal cough-speak, and he says his organization has no 
position on legalizing hemp grown for narcotic use.  In short, he is 
not pulling data out of thick clouds of reefer smoke. 
  Just ask Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones (D), who last November, created 
a task force to explore the agricultural viability of hemp.  Kentucky was 
the largest producer of hemp in the United States before the prohibitive 
1937 Tax Act. 
  While stressing that he does not in any way condone growing hemp for use 
as a drug, Jones said at the time that "if there are crops which can be 
grown legally for a profit in Kentucky which we are currently not growing, 
then we as public officials have a duty to examine these crops and provide 
answers for the farmers of Kentucky."  
  Such practical pursuits are clouded by more strident hemp advocates.  Chris 
Conrad, in his book, "Hemp: Lifeline to the Future," describes a house in 
the "biosustainable society" of tomorrow. 
  "Hemp will be used in almost all the component parts of the house itself: 
the construction boards, insulation, finishes, paint and plumbing.  Hemp 
is incorporated into the desk and all the papers of the house, the clothes 
in the closet, the fabric of carpets and curtains, and all the plastic 
components of phone and entertainment systems, computers and accessories. 
Hemp biofuel provides the household's energy supply." 
  Oh, and it's cool when you smoke it too.  Conrad cites the rich tradition 
of marijuana dating back to the Hindu epic story "Rig-Veda," some 3,500 
years ago. 
  Hemp, in short, is the only essential element of a peace-full, non-nuclear 
bio-world where the Grateful Dead rules the radio and Jerry Brown is president 
for life.  "Hemp: Lifeline to the Future" includes such ringing endorsements 
on the back cover as: "This information changed my life to give me new hope 
and a sense of direction."  This comes from "Kirk Hampton, college student." 
  Sue Parker, the U.S. marketing director for Adidas, spent weeks talking 
to students in their late teens and early twenties across the country, 
seeking new fashion trends.  Hemp, she found, has become the hippest new 
fabric on campuses such as Pepperdine, UCLA and Boston University. 
  "These kids are very environmentally conscious, much more than I ever 
was," says Parker, "and this is the fiber they feel is important." 
  But Parker's explanation may belie less eco-friendly obsessions.  The 
name the Chronic came from the students themselves, though Parker 
acknowledges that she is hip enough to know what it meant. 
  Other major companies have been much more nervous about pushing hemp 
products in an atmosphere of Third Wave family values.  Converse shelved 
its hemp high-top, and J. Crew - according to industry sources - has 
been bashfully selling "linen" bags in its catalogues that are actually 
made of hemp. 
  But hemp products aren't hard to find.  Hemp jeans, jackets, dresses and 
blouses can be bought at all-hemp stores like Baltimore's Hemporium. 
Young hemp companies are thriving.  Deja Shoe of Portland, Ore., has grown 
into a $5 million-a-year enterprise in just two years and now offers 30 
styles of hemp shoes.  Its shoes can be found in Lady Foot Locker, 
Bloomingdale's and even the occasional Nordstrom. 
  Studies such as an ongoing University of Michigan poll show that marijuana 
consumption has been rising gradually for the past few years.  Many smokers 
have become more overt about their habit, wearing hemp leaf emblems on 
T-shirts, hemp hats and fanny packs.  The meaning and associations of hemp, 
to them, is not at all confused. 
  When the Adidas Hemp comes out, then, will America's youth throw their 
sneakers in microwaves and torch their fried fiber shoe-shards with Bics 
in a desperate search for narcosis?  Probably not.  At $55 a pair, it will 
be a lot cheaper and a lot easier to get high at street prices. 


Article accompanied with photos and caption.  Front page (Style section) 
photo is of sneakers, jeans, shirts and caption: "But do they they make 
Mary Janes?  Sneakers, jeans and shirts made of hemp are among the 
latest environmentally conscious and non-habit-forming fashions." 
Inside photo is: "The latest in smoking jackets?  Donna Kurtz, owner 
of Baltimore's Hemporium boutique, sports a hemp blazer."  

(The W. Post had had several articles on this store a year or two 
ago, when it was founded by another lady who had been harrassed out 
of her home in rural Maryland (and lost her farm, business, and freedom) 
for having (sterilized) hemp seeds displayed for sale.   They found 
small personal quantities of the banned leaves at her home which she 
had for relief of a chronic illness.  The prosecuter blamed her for the 
moral breakdown of society and drug use among children.  He was really 
so far over the top it was pathetic.  She was eventually released from 
prison and said she probably would have died if kept there much longer.  
In fact I discovered the store - a couple miles from here on the ride 
home - from this newspaper.  I am wearing hemp items from there as I 
type.  And Donna, who took over the business, is a nice lady.)   

  Of the many articles in the Post on marijuana and the few on hemp 
over the past years, this is only the second I recall in which the 
two words were mentioned in the same article and the first in which 
the connection was addressed.  And here I thought there was a 
conspiracy );-) to keep hemp awareness away from the public.