When aviator George Bush bailed out of his burning airplane during World War II, the life-saving parachute strapped to his back was made from hemp.
And, once the future U.S. president was pulled safely from the Pacific Ocean, he stood in boots stitched with hemp thread on a ship with ropes made of hemp.
At least, that's what hemp activists say.
"It is ironic there is a prohibition on production of hemp for those purposes now," said David Almquist, co-founder of Kansas University's student chapter of NORML.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws was formed about 20 years ago. The KU chapter was started in 1991 and has about 300 members.
Almquist said that since March supporters of NORML have picketed city hall in Lawrence on Tuesday nights.
"We need to raise local awareness on campus and in the community about the uses of cannibis. We are working toward legal cannibis for all uses," said David Cook, president of KU's chapter of NORML.
"ONCE YOU learn the facts about hemp it's very difficult not to get involved," said Kenda Sessions, vice president of the KU organization and a frequent protester at city hall.
Hemp was harvested for many uses for thousands of years, but Almquist charges that the lumber and energy industries have sustained a prohibition on production of hemp for the past 55 years. The exception was in World War II when overseas supplies of hemp were cut off.
That ban has kept off the market versatile natural resource that could substitute for paper and oil, Almquist said.
According to the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp in Los Angeles, there is huge economic potential for hemp farming throughout the United States.
BACH said the hemp plant's fiber strands can be spun into thread, which can be made into rope or woven into clothing, sails and linens.
Fragments of dried hemp stalk can be made into paper, paints, sealants and plastics, according to BACH.
COOK SAID it was silly to allow hemp paper and cloth to be imported to the United States while prohibiting farmers from growing hemp for domestic production.
BACH said the leaves and flowers of hemp, called marijuana, have medical value for easing pain and treating glaucoma and nausea.
Hemp is a good plant source for biomass fuel to make gas, charcoal and methanol. Hemp seeds produce oil for cooking, lubrication and fuel, BACH said.
"We don't have to cut down trees for paper," Almquist said. "Everything you make out of petroleum you can make out of hemp. We have the technology to take us off the synthetic cycle and put us on the natural cycle."
NORML does advocate repeal of laws that prohibit the smoking of marijuana.
"That issue becomes a non-issue when it's put up against other economic interests," Almquist said.