‘George Toked Weed’
Of all the scenes we love from the classic 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused, the “George toked weed” bit – in which stoner stereotype Ron Slater spouts about George Washington’s love of marijuana – still cracks us up. Is it true that America’s first president was pro-cannabis, or was Slater just rewriting history to carry the conversation during the film’s third act?
With the Fourth of July holiday looming, we decided to dig a little deeper into America’s cannabis past and its influence on our presidents. While many of the 45 men who have occupied the White House have loudly declared their anti-cannabis agenda to the masses – noted crusader Ronald Reagan famously claimed marijuana was “probably the most dangerous drug in the United States” – others, such as Barack Obama, have proudly admitted their cannabis use, while history continues to search for the truth when it comes to presidents of eras long past.
Before we light the fireworks (and a lot more) this Independence Day, we’re giving a shout-out to presidents who, whether they knew it or not, would end up on the right side of history.
Saluting Our Cannabis-Loving Presidents
Slater was right, Washington did see cannabis as a cash crop for the budding United States of America. While historians continue to search for evidence that our first president used cannabis for recreational purposes, it’s well known that Washington cultivated hemp at Mount Vernon. According to the estate, “The fibers from hemp held excellent properties for making rope and sail canvas. In addition, hemp fibers could be spun into thread for clothing or, as indicated in Mount Vernon records, used in repairing the large seine nets Washington used in his fishing operation along the Potomac.” He might not have sparked a movement, but Washington can certainly be labeled our first pro-cannabis president.
It’s long believed that Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh president and a United States Army general, smoked cannabis with his fellow troops during the War of 1812. The proof has been uncovered in letters Jackson wrote centuries ago, long before scientists had officially recognized the positive effects of cannabis on soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Jackson, it appears, was ahead of his time.
John F. Kennedy
Kennedy biographers have claimed that the nation’s 35th president smoked marijuana in the White House. Kennedy, who suffered from back pain and the symptoms of Addison’s disease, was supplied the joints by close “friend” Mary Meyer. All was going well, but the president apparently took a pause when he wondered aloud, “Suppose the Russians did something now.”
The aforementioned 44th president admitted without regret that he dabbled in cannabis on much more than one occasion. Obama was a member of the so-called “Choom Gang” which was exactly what you think it sounds like. Under Obama, America’s cannabis industry started to grow as his administration eased up on federal enforcement of the product. In a Rolling Stone interview just before leaving office, Obama addressed the “War on Drugs” and cannabis, saying, “I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
Bill Clinton (Honorable Mention)
While Obama openly stated, “I inhaled, frequently, that was the point,” Bill Clinton famously claimed he “didn’t inhale.” Points for at least having a joint in your hand, Mr. Clinton. That’s more than we can say for some presidents.