Modern presidents often face a rigorous background check into possibly checkered histories. We throw them through the ringer, separating them apart to discover what drives them underneath. One of those oft-asked queries includes cannabis usage.
Through documentation and research, we can firmly conclude at least four modern president used cannabis. Others range from speculation to possible hemp consumption. In one way or another, however, these 11 presidents were fans of the green.
No. 44 Barack Obama
Prior to entering the political sphere, Barack Obama wrote Dreams from My Father back in 1995. In the memoir Obama referenced dabbling with both marijuana and cocaine.
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“When I was a kid, I inhaled,” he admitted during an interview leading up to his presidential campaign. “That was the point.”
No. 43 George W. Bush
In a conversation taped by former George Bush Sr. aide Doug Wead, Dubya tacitly acknowledged marijuana usage. “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana question,” he says. “You know why? ‘Cause I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.” The conversation was taped without Bush’s knowledge, though he did also cop to cocaine usage and a drinking problem. He also said, “”Do you want your little kid to say ‘Hey daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will’?”
No. 42 Bill Clinton
Always the clever rhetorician, Clinton copped to and condemned his possible marijuana usage with one quotation. “When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again,” he publicly said.
He might not have been lying about the inhale part. Christopher Hitchens attended Oxford University around the same time as Clinton. In his memoir Hitch-22 he wrote, “He preferred, like many another marijuana enthusiast, to take his dope in the form of large handfuls of cookies and brownies.”
No. 35 John F. Kennedy
The biography John F. Kennedy: A Biography reveals that the President used marijuana to deal with back problems. One excerpt from the book reads: “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.
No. 14 Franklin Pierce
Prior to running for President, Franklin Pierce was just a soldier in the Mexican-American War. In correspondence back home, he wrote marijuana smoking was “about the only good thing” regarding the war.
No. 12 Zachary Taylor and No. 7 Andrew Jackson
Though the evidence isn’t as documented as previous entries, both Taylor and Jackson were said to have smoked marijuana alongside their troops.
No. 5 James Monroe
When he served as the ambassador to France, James Monroe openly smoked hashish and continued to do so until his death at 73.
No. 4 James Madison
The Father of the Constitution once claimed that hemp inspired him to create a new democratic nation. As one source notes, “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.
No. 3 Thomas Jefferson
Speculation abounds regarding Jefferson’s usage. He was a known hemp farmer and thought to be cultivating the plants for himself. This remains unconfirmed, however. Though it is worth noting that Jefferson was an ambassador to France during the hashish era.
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No. 2 John Adams
America’s second president was known to be a huge proponent of industrial hemp. In a postscript, he wrote under the pseudonym Humphrey Ploughjogger for the Boston Evening-Post in 1763, “we shall by and by want a world of Hemp more for our own consumshon.”
No. 1 George Washington
Like other presidents on this list, George Washington grew hemp. In a letter of correspondence he wrote, “Began to separate the male from female plants rather too late…Pulling up the (male) hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month.” The implication here is that Washington was chasing the female plant for its higher THC content.