Easily recognizable with his Hemp snow cap and quick smile, actor Woody Harrelson found fame following his Emmy winning performances as bartender Woody Boyd on the long running television series “Cheers” and the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” costarring Wesley Snipes. At that point in his life, Woody became interested in making positive changes for the Environment, and he began promoting Hemp as a solution to deforestation. That decision touting the hemp plant led him on an intense journey over the years, and remains a common thread throughout his celebrity career. From making hemp documentaries and investing in hemp businesses, to putting his freedom on the line by standing up for American farmers’ rights to cultivate hemp, Woody stands tall among those dedicated to perhaps the World’s most useful plant.
Activists passionate about making positive change have to be creative and sometimes go to extremes to get their message to the masses. Woody Harrelson is no stranger to the risks involved in guerilla art as a valid form of protest. In 1996, when Harrelson learned of Pacific Lumber’s plans to clear cut the Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County by, he immediately brought a group together and planned an extreme act to increase public awareness in an attempt to stop the corporation from destroying those treasured ancient trees.
Woody’s part in the plan took place on November 22, 1996, when he and eight other activists climbed the Golden Gate Bridge Tower with a sign weighing over 100 pounds, and draped it across the bridge for motorists and pedestrians to see. The sign read “Hurwitz, Aren’t Ancient Redwoods More Valuable than Gold?” The sign was seen by hundreds of spectators, as traffic was stopped on the bridge while the activists were brought down and arrested on misdemeanor charges. The project, headed by CEO Charles Hurwitz, was protested far and wide, and resulted in the arrests of approximately 1,300 people.
Shortly thereafter, Woody was again arrested for planting a small handful of French industrial hemp seeds in a Kentucky farm field. He was charged and offered a plea deal, which he refused and opted to go to trial. A Jury acquitted Woody of all charges and the case was closed. Afterwards, Woody was quoted, “These are strange times when drug enforcement decides the American farmer cannot grow a crop that could revolutionize the economy simply because it bears a resemblance to another plant that makes you euphoric.”
Dedicated to educating people on the benefits of Hemp, Woody contributed to the Kentucky Hemp Museum which opened in May of 1997 in Camperville, KY. Woody has focused much of his attention towards restoring Hemp to Kentucky farmlands, known for their rich history with Hemp. Kentucky at one time was the leading producer of hemp products in the World, exporting seeds to other countries. All of that ended in 1937 with the inception of the Marihuana Tax Act, when farmers would have to obtain a special tax stamp from the US Government to grow Hemp. The US Government has not issued any tax stamps allowing farmers to grow Hemp.
As an Entrepreneur, Woody knew that by increasing consumer demand, the US Government would be pressured to end the prohibition of the non-psychoactive Hemp plant, enabling American Farmers to again cultivate a crop that was once a staple commodity. To help make this happen, Woody invested in the Hempstead Company, a firm dedicated to importing quality Hemp foods and textiles for manufacturing in the United States. The company went on to supply major hotel chains with the materials needed to outfit rooms in Hemp products. Hotels replaced window curtains, bed sheets and duvet covers with Hemp materials, including San Francisco’s Hotel Triton. The Triton’s Graham Nash Suite, named after the Crosby, Stills and Nash co-founder, is completely outfitted in Hemp fabrics.
Many companies would eventually catch on to the benefits of Hemp fabrics, including the Fortune 500 Hanes Corporation, which in 2010 added Hemp into their underwear line. Those high end hemp fabrics were provided by the Naturally Advanced Company, of Portland Oregon, a business run by former Adidas executive Ken Barker.
Woody’s other hemp related investments were Agricultural Hemp Dietary products, and Woody practices what he preaches. His family lives on a strict raw foods diet, of which Hemp is a large part. Hemp contains all the necessary essential amino acids, many other vitamins and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, with a ratio optimal for digestion.
Woody has appeared at several Hemp related free speech events in support of raising public awareness, including the Seattle Hempfest in 2001. To add a little flair, Woody took the Main Stage at 4:20 pm on Sunday. “The War on Drugs is a war on non-corporate, natural drugs. I believe all of you are going to do something about it.” The crowd of over 150,000 was very receptive to Woody’s message. The Hempfest, held annually on the third weekend in August, draws hundreds of thousands of Hemp friendly attendees to Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park, and is one of the oldest Hemp education events in the United States.
Featured in the documentary, Hempsters: Plant the Seed, Woody states “That’s why I am in the Hemp Movement. I see all of the alternatives and I would like to see the power get out of the hands of the Beast and into the hands of the People.” The “Beast” that Woody refers to is the petroleum, nuclear, chemical, and mining companies destroying Mother Nature while enjoying giant subsidies and tax breaks from the US Government.
In Ron Mann’s documentary “Go Further,” released in 2003, Woody is featured touring the country in a bus run on hemp fuel. The interior of the bus is fitted in all hemp fabrics. The bus stopped at towns along the route went from Seattle to Los Angeles, where activists spoke on environmental issues highlighting Hemp’s potential as the solution to most of the problems the World faces today. Woody still owns the bus, bringing it on location to many of the movie sets where he has worked since the documentary.
Woody’s vision is simple. He would like to see Hemp Fields growing everywhere, and he is not alone, working with many talented and creative individuals to extend this message to the masses. In 2010, Ziggy Marley released a duet with Woody named “Wild and Free” The song, released on the album “Wild and Free,” speaks of Hemp fields growing everywhere. The Lyrics clearly state Ziggy and Woody’s vision for the World, “I see Hemp fields forever growing Wild and Free.” It speaks of the damage done by prohibition: “A crime against Nations, a war is waged. There’s a message in the wind for every race.” The album is available now online and in music stores everywhere.
Woody has often received criticism for his association with the cannabis sativa plant, and he has always taken it with a grain of salt. It is interesting to note that Woody’s lifestyle choices are clearly more ecologically sustainable than the majority of cannabis opponents. When asked about negatively charged vindications left over from decades of fear based ideology and failed policy from the War on Drugs, Woody’s reply is simple; “What is important to me is my connection with family and friends, and to nature, and to stand up for what I believe in. It really makes you feel good to follow through with your convictions.”
He has stated that he would like to see the “The Lorax,” by Dr Seuss, dispersed in elementary schools everywhere. His daughter often quotes the line, “I speak for the trees.”
Woody goes on to say, “We’ve cut down the old-growth trees. We’ve polluted our water sources. We’ve polluted the air. You can’t swim in the ocean in many places. The fish are bad. We poison our food with pesticides and herbicides. Cancer is rampant. And we’re not thinking about our kids and the kids they will have. It’s time that we do that. We have to retool. For me, that means starting with industrial hemp.”
Woody has shown his commitment to coexisting peacefully with the environment by adopting sustainable living practices. Woody and his family reside on properties considered off the grid and self sustained, leaving the smallest footprint as possible.
Learn more about the many beneficial uses of hemp in our Hemp education area named the Hemp University.