On this Presidents’ Day, people often ask us, “Which presidents of the United States have smoked marijuana?” While there are rumors and half-truths floating around the cannabis community about early presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, we know without a doubt that at least four modern presidents have taken a toke or two.
Here, then, are a baker’s dozen of the forty-five United States Presidents on pot, organized into categories based on how sure we are that they did or did not smoke marijuana for mind-altering or medical purposes:
We’re Absolutely Sure These Four Presidents Smoked Marijuana
#44 – Barack Obama: As a youth in Hawaii, President Obama used cocaine and marijuana, according to his memoirs. He also famously said, “When I was a kid, I inhaled, frequently. That was the point,” when running for president in 2008.
#43 – George W. Bush: President Bush would never respond directly to questions about his marijuana use. But he did tell his biographer, Douglas Wead (yes, pronounced like “weed”), “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.” Also, appearing on The Tonight Show, Mr. Bush admitted “I might’ve smoked something…” when referring to youthful indiscretions.
#42 – Bill Clinton: President Clinton shocked the political world when he famously said, “When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale and never tried it again,” when asked about his marijuana use.
#35 – John F. Kennedy: According to “John F. Kennedy: A Biography“, President Kennedy used marijuana to deal with severe back pain. “On the evening of July 16, 1962, according to [Washington Post executive] Jim Truitt, Kennedy and Mary Meyer smoked marijuana together. … The president smoked three of the six joints Mary brought to him. At first he felt no effects. Then he closed his eyes and refused a fourth joint. ‘Suppose the Russians did something now,’ he said.”
We’re Pretty Sure These Four Presidents Smoked Marijuana, Too
#14 – Franklin Pierce: Prior to his election to the presidency, President Pierce was a soldier who enjoyed smoking marijuana with the troops while fighting the Mexican-American War. In a letter to his family, Mr. Pierce wrote that marijuana smoking was “about the only good thing” about the war.
#12 – Zachary Taylor: President Taylor was also a military officer who smoked marijuana with the troops, according to some of his correspondence.
#7 – Andrew Jackson: President Jackson was also an officer whose letters referred to smoking marijuana with the troops.
#5 – James Monroe: President Monroe preceded his presidency by becoming ambassador to France under the Washington Administration, where he took up hashish smoking and continued smoking it until his death at age 73.
But These Four Presidents Could Just Be Talking About Hemp
#4 – James Madison: While the “Father of the Constitution” claimed that hemp gave him the insight to create a new democratic nation, it is likely that President Madison is referring to the industrial variety of cannabis so prized by the early colonists. Still, some believe that the “insight” part refers to the mind-altering properties of an ingested variety of cannabis.
#3 – Thomas Jefferson: In addition to farming hemp, Mr. Jefferson was Ambassador to France during the hashish era there. At risk of imprisonment if caught, Mr. Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds known for their potency from China to America. However, the archivists at Monticello tell us that Mr. Jefferson never said or wrote,
“Some of my finest hours have been spent sitting on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.”
#2 – John Adams: President Adams was a huge proponent of industrial hemp in Colonial America. There is a postscript to a column he wrote under the pseudonym Humphrey Ploughjogger for the Boston Evening-Post in 1763 where he states, “we shall by and by want a world of Hemp more for our own consumshon.”
#1 – George Washington: The father of our country kept meticulous diaries, wherein he noted “Sowed hemp at muddy hole by swamp” away from the hemp he grew for fiber. “Began to separate the male from female plants at do [sic]–rather too late” and “Pulling up the (male)hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month” indicates he was going for female plants with higher THC content. There is also indication he used hemp preparations to deal with his toothaches.
No, Abraham Lincoln Didn’t Smoke Marijuana (As Far As We Know)
#16 – Abraham Lincoln: Many cannabis aficionados believe that Honest Abe smoked weed, based on a couple of quotes that have circulated across the internet. The first claims that Mr. Lincoln loved
“a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” The problem is that Hohner didn’t make harmonicas until two years after the alleged quote and didn’t export them to America from Germany until 1868, four years after Abe’s assassination.
There is also a famous supposed Lincoln quote that
“Prohibition… goes beyond the bound of reason…” But that is a fake, written by a former mayor of Atlanta in 1922 to court black voters to oppose alcohol prohibition. That doesn’t necessarily mean Lincoln didn’t partake; we just have no proof that he did.