Constable: ‘Ditch weed’ still part of marijuana’s new frontier in Illinois
In the summer of 1970, when marijuana was giving Pabst Blue Ribbon a run as the drug of choice among rural teenagers, I was a sixth-grader chopping it down.
The Chicago Tribune wrote about the law enforcement billboard a few miles from our family farm outside Goodland, Indiana, that warned, “If marijuana is your bag, don’t fill it in Newton County.”
Young people, or “hippies” as they often were called then, would drive from Chicago and the suburbs to fill garbage bags with what we called “ditch weed.” That Cannabis sativa L (the L is in honor of 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus) is a subspecies of the Cannabis sativa “pot” plant that young people smoked from their “bongs” and “joints” as a way to get high.
I didn’t know anything about smoking the stuff, but I did know that ditch weed was sturdy enough to require several whacks with the scythe before it toppled. The plant could grow as tall as the basketball hoops on our farm and was tougher than the baling twine wrapped around hay harvested from the back 40.
That tough quality is why my grandfather, in a patriotic gesture, planted industrial hemp during World War II as part of the “Hemp for Victory” initiative to provide our troops with sturdy material for ropes and parachute cords.