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Vital Hemp Blog

vital hemp produces quality hemp apparel and accessories, made in the USA

  • Why is hemp illegal?

    Things I Hear in the vital hemp store: Part 11: Why is hemp illegal?

    Another question people often pose while trying on their hemp clothing: "If hemp is so good, why is it illegal?" The answer to this question requires a bit of a history lesson, best explained in Jack Herer's The Emperor Wears No Clothes; but here's the short version in case you're curious:

    Hemp was grown throughout the world for centuries and widely-used for a huge range of real-world applications, such as hemp rope, hemp sails, painter's canvas (the word "canvas" comes from the word "cannibas"), hemp paper, hemp oil, hemp ale, hemp clothing (sailor's gear and the original linen), etc....

    In the mid-30's, Dupont bought the German patent for Nylon.  They wanted to get all the lucrative government contracts for such things as the stitching of soldiers' shoes, parachute lines, sails, ropes, etc..., so used their influence in Congress to pass a prohibitive tax (of $500/plant) against the cultivation of industrial hemp--essentially making it illegal.

    When we entered WWII, the generals and admirals of that war appealed to congress, saying they could not successfully wage the war without hemp.  Congress reversed itself; the government made pro-hemp documentaries, such as Hemp for Victory, encouraging cultivation of the industrial hemp crop, and even prosecuted farmers who refused to grow it.

    After the war, William Randolph Hearst, who owned the largest newspaper chain in the USA and a vertical monopoly to support it, felt threatened by industrial hemp.  Up to this point, he had been supplying all his newspapers with wood-based paper, made from old growth trees in the timber stands in the Pacific Northwest.  When some inventors came up with a machine that made low-cost, high-quality newsprint from industrial hemp, Hearst thought that could give others the chance to compete with him, threatening his monopoly.

    So he decided to demonize hemp, calling it the evil
    "Mexican marijuana", the first time the word "marijuana" was used in the common parlance.  Notice how he conflates hemp/marijuana and Mexican, using fear to drive public policy against the interests of our citizens.  Sound familiar?  This was the beginning of our domestic reefer madness. Hearst published articles about how the evil Mexican marijuana was driving people crazy, causing all sorts of outrageous behavior, such as our virginal white women sleeping with black men!

    Unfortunately, our Congressmen entered these propagandistic articles into the Congressional record in hearings against marijuana; the predecessor to the DEA was born, headed by a monomaniacal crusader named Henry Anslinger, who decided that the best way to deal with hemp was to burn all the crops. So much for the indispensibility of hemp.

    Dupont got their way with nylon; Hearst continued to sell tree-based newspapers, and the American public got deprived of our nation's plant inheritance, deprived of our natural right to grow a supremely useful plant, a plant that was serving life on the planet long before Dupont or Hearst, and will probably outlive the last Dupont and last Hearst.  
    So how is it that we're now not able to grow the very plant that comprised the paper upon which all drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written?  How is it that we can buy food made from Canadian hemp, such as hemp milk, hempseed bars, hemp oil, etc…in Whole Foods, but not grow the crop here?

    Many states want to grow hemp. According to, to date, thirty-one states have introduced hemp legislation and seventeen have passed legislation; nine (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia) have removed barriers to its production or research.

    Hemp is now legally grown in over thirty countries with the largest producer being China, that grows the bulk of hemp for textiles. Other countries that legally grow hemp for industrial use are: Australia, Austria, Canada (where they grow it for food; and it is by far the most profitable crop/acre), Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, North Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.

    If all these countries are smart enough to avail themselves of a useful and profitable crop, why aren't we?  At this point, there's no good reason.  There are a couple of sham excuses offered by the DEA…but that's a topic for another blog....

  • April Newsletter

    After years of peddling hemp at festivals and the local farmer's market, I finally went all-in and made a nest for the vital hemp line, opening a storefront here in Santa Monica, a few miles from where I grew up and two blocks from the beach. I like it here, next to the Tao Healing Arts Center and Rawvolution (the local raw food restaurant, and it feels somehow right to be across from the Community Gardens. If only we could grow hemp there too...

    For years, customers have entertained me with their spirit, wisdom and vitality. Just yesterday, a man named Colin tried on some men's hemp Anywhere Pants and a tee. Just outside the dressing room, he busted out some yoga poses in the hallway. Moved by his moving, I asked if I could photograph him, and shuttered away for a few seconds, thinking,
    "This stuff always happens in the vital hemp vortex!"

    Another things that happens repeatedly: people ask the same questions. In the interest of saving thought-energy, I've developed a few practiced replies. For example, when people ask, "If I get tired of my hemp t-shirt, can I smoke it?" I now reply, "Hemp won't get you high, but wear these clothes will raise your spirits!"

    I know that when they ask this, they're just joking, playing off the old myth that industrial hemp and marijuana are the same thing. But other people still express concern. Some wonder whether the guard dogs at the airport will sniff out the clothing in their luggage.

    To these folks and to others who are still confounded that two living things can come from the same family and have vastly different properties, I sometimes bring up the analogy of a Labrador retriever and a Wolf. They're both canines, and could probably mate, but both have very different characteristics. You wouldn't outlaw dogs just because some canines can be dangerous if approached the wrong way. Similarly, we don't outlaw poppy seed bagels, because Afghans make opium from their fields.

    Specifically, industrial hemp and marijuana differ in the following ways: Marijuana grows short and wide, about one plant per square yard, and five to eight feet tall. These plants produce flowers (or buds) that contain between twelve and twenty-five percent THC (the stuff that gets you high, and that can effectively be used medicinally in a variety of ways.

    In contrast, industrial hemp grows tall, and very densely-packed. These plants may grow from fifteen to twenty feet tall, with up to 200 plants per square yard. Industrial hemp has between ZERO percent and .025% THC. That's so little that you could smoke an acre of hemp and it wouldn't get you high. In other words: hemp won't get you high (but wearing hemp clothing will raise your spirits!).

  • The Buzz About Hemp at Expo West

    The Buzz about Hemp at the Expo West
    by Ron Alcalay, hemperdasher,

    OK, so it's not just the hemp building materials and hemp car applications that are exciting people about the real benefits of industrial hemp..  The people and companies at the Natural Products Expo love hemp more than ever.  Of course, some countries and companies (Canada, Nutiva) have long been vital players in the future of the most-useful (and profitable) agricultural crop.

    So what's different this year?  While vital hemp held down the root of the hall with our hemp clothing and accessories booth at the far end, one didn't have to go far to find hemp thriving in other places.  


    A few rows over, Ziggy Marley debuted his Hemp Rules™, organic roasted and flavored hemp seeds that contain no THC and serve as a most excellent source of easily-digestible protein and Omega fatty acids.  While the sweet smell of hemp's cousin may have been present at Ziggy's concert Saturday night, so was his message about industrial hemp, projected all night on the wall of the great hall as his music soothed our souls and animated our show-worn bodies.

    revelers get the message

    Back in the vital booth, we had innumerable non-hemp related visitors interested in putting their logos on our superior, comfortable hemp clothing.  Ben from Big Tree Farms bought three hemp t-shirts to keep him cool in Indonesia.  Our new friend from Lifefactory bought a hemp button-down to style the streets of San Francisco.  The Lundberg Rice crew and the folks at Frey Winery all want hemp apparel for their family-owned companies.  Why?  Because they understand what the natural products industry and many in America have known for decades and have until now been too timid to say: that hemp is the best resource for so many things, and whether cotton, timber or oil interests like it or not, hemp is here to stay!  
    Beyond the community that forms and catalyzes each year, what I love most about Expo West is the innovation.  Like mad organic scientists, we come with our new inventions--uncanny mixes that revitalize a category, like hemp and chocolate or goji berries and chocolate or pretty much anything and chocolate!

    --And then you're shaking the hand of the inventor (or perhaps the Director of Marketing) and letting them know how good it tastes, or they're letting you know how good it works, and if they're humble, like the guy who owns the bamboo-encased water bottle company, they'll even tell you a weakness.  In this case, how some people don't love the plastic tops….  And then I'm suggesting the hemp bioplastic alternative (like Audi, BMW and Mercedes use to replace the petroleum-based plastic interior body panels of their cars), and the guy's excited, envisioning an even more sustainable product for next year and writing it all down….

    And then, that night, at dinner, an old friend tells us he heard a Whole Foods Buyer say that hemp's the new thing, and I laugh a little inside, because as well all know, it's been the new thing for about six thousand years…but I'm happy to hear it, because I've got this new style of hemp yoga pants that we just designed….

    Ron Alcalay
    store: 310.450.2260

  • January Newsletter

    vital ones,
    January brings great diligence, renewed commitment, and a vision of the best year ever. This month, we invite you to participate in two stellar hempyvents:
    First, the GRAND OPENING PARTY of our new vital hemp store:
    When:  Sunday, January 15, from 4-7 pm. 
    Where: 2305 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405
    Come join us for treats, champagne, bodywork, music, hemp prizes and more!

    Spend $100 in January and receive a $25 coupon to spend in February; spend $50 and receive a $10 coupon.
    Our online stores is up and barreling, so feel free to surf your order through our threads of the vital web! Best sellers this month include hemp/tencel hoodies and a super-comfy hemp t-shirt/long sleeve tee combo that feels yummy, is eminently huggable and regulates body temperature really well. 

    Our baby hemp beanies, adult beanies and scarves will also keep your loved ones cozy through spring.
    We look forward to seeing you in the shop or at one of the events we'll be attending this year. If you have a story to tell about our clothes or our shop, feel free to send it to us as we'll be posting these on the site.  Finally, we just joined Yelp, so if you're a Yelper, yelp away!
    As ever, thank you for supporting vital hemp.

    Stay vital,

  • $5 off any order for the first 100 people

    Promo: $5 off any order for the first 100 people who use the coupon code: YUMMY
    at checkout!

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