From 1996 through 1999, HIGH TIMES also published HEMP TIMES, a sister publication that promoted the hemp industry. This interview appeared in the Summer 1998 issue.
In 1998, Roger Daltrey consented to a fashion shoot. “What have I gotten myself into?” he lamented good-naturedly. Actually, he knew exactly what he’d gotten himself into. It was hemp, and he didn’t mind at all. Even if it was on a Sunday afternoon. At his house, no less! But he had his reasons: “I think it’s a disgrace that it is illegal to grow hemp in the US -- an absolute disgrace. If I can promote a little common sense about this issue by putting on a few clothes and posing for a few photos, then I’m glad to.”
Time magazine once wrote that no group ever pushed rock so far -- or asked so much from it -- as The Who. What’s your reaction to a statement like that?
I love The Who because I realize what the band was. We live on a planet with God knows how many billions of people. The chances of four people coming together in one place to create that kind of chemistry -- well, it was a gift from God just to play music with those guys. But we were stupid and we wasted a lot of it. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but I wouldn't have done anything different. It’s made me into what I am today.
What might that be?
Someone who seeks balance. I went to live in the country very early on in our career, because I realized I needed balance. I lost so many friends. I love the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but a part of me needed to be totally away from it. Something exactly the opposite. So I went to the countryside.
So what has that taught you?
That you can’t treat the earth like a dormitory. I’ve always thought that the Earth is more or less a transient place for us. I don’t know whether we actually ever belonged on this planet. We were parked here for a reason [laughing] Maybe if we clean it up, we won't have to come back!
Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?
I’m a farmer in England and I believe all farmers are environmentalists. I admire people who have this balance and stability that comes from working with the soil. I love agriculture, but whatever you say about organic farming, it will never feed the world population. If you have great land, great soil and a few other factors going for you, you can have some great yields. But, by God, you can end up in trouble with a few bad years. I don’t think any population can afford to take that chance.
I’ve done everything on the farm, but now my farm manager takes care of things. I farm beef and a few crops, but I’m not organic because my ground isn’t good enough. We use artificial fertilizers to a minimum. If we ever use a pesticide, it’s really as a last resort. The reality is if I don’t do that, my farm won’t support my workers, and I love my guys – three guys farming 400 acres. We have to break even, although this year we will have a loss. That’s why I’m here in Hollywood, doing as much work as I can, because I’m not going to lose it.
Does your success and visibility motivate you to put your weight behind eco-causes?
Not really. I just believe in common sense. I’m not part of the “Save the planet” brigade. What a meaningless phrase! And people repeat it incessantly without thinking. The world will look out for itself. Whether we are a part of the equation is another matter.
Maybe it’s the ramifications of being part of the first two generations to grow up in a society where we hid our mortality. We don’t live very well with the fact that we’re going to die so we try to pretend that everything can last forever. In the Elizabethan Age, people began preparing for death at the age of fifteen. It was a major part of their life. We live as if we’re never going to die. I find that very weird.
Today people shout out their viewpoints and whoever yells loudest or declares they have been injured grievously gets the attention, regardless of research – or the lack of research. People constantly are grinding their viewpoints with blatant disregard for truth. I’m not prepared to jump on anybody’s bandwagon without a thorough look at what is actually based on fact.
There are so many bad government decisions, like the dismissal of hemp in America, and they’ve been perpetrated by keeping the public ignorant. But that can’t be done anymore with the Internet around, especially with young people. You can’t offer kids the same misinformation anymore, because they can get on the Net and find out anything they want to know, and within 24 hours, if you’ve bullshitted them, you’re in trouble.
The hemp question, however, is taking a little longer than 24 hours here in the US, even with legal hemp growing in Canada.
It’s the lobbyists. You vote in different governments, but basically you’re voting in the same people because they’re pressured by the same lobbyists. And the political parties are supported by huge amounts of money from these people with vested interests. It ain’t going to change until you change, or someone comes along with a different agenda entirely.
I’ve been aware of hemp for at least five years now. As a farmer, I know that it’s imperative that the government start looking into alternative crops like hemp, because it’s an incredible fiber restorer. The roots go deep, so it’s great for soil structure.
But the hypocrisy of it just drives me nuts. Governments have linked hemp up with marijuana and preach about addiction and dangerous drugs. But meanwhile the most addictive drugs of the lot are the sanctioned ones – prescriptions. So are the other ones you get over the counter: tobacco and alcohol. The War on Drugs is another example of a government policy that has failed miserably and has cost billions. It could have been changed years ago, but instead, even more money has been poured into a miserable failing program.
It’s much like a charity – when the program becomes more important than what the goals originally were. Nobody wants to stop the flow of money. In that sense, I’m a pessimist about human nature.
England is cultivating industrial hemp. What do you think the problem is in America?
It can happen if people demand it. But I’m left open-mouthed at the ignorance of America. You’ve got some of the brightest people in the world here, but the majority is so uninformed -- more than the rest of the planet. How do you make people aware who don’t think there’s anything outside of their own country? This generation will be the one to use all of the information and technology. Perhaps when they get bored with playing, they can really make things work.