By Michael Saunders
According to historical records, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison all grew hemp. This has led to historical speculation that our founding fathers liked to recreationally consume cannabis. However, there’s really not a lot in the way of evidence to support this notion (National Geographic Magazine, 2019).
What is clear is that they were supporters of the use of hemp for manufacturing ropes, sails, clothing and as a cash crop. It is likely too that they would have been supporters of a federally legal, regulated hemp industry. The prohibition on the growing of hemp would have likely confused them. Our founding fathers were not free from vice. As an example, it is well documented that George Washington liked drink alcohol for recreation and used laudanum (an opiate and alcohol-based solution) to treat his pain (Wasserman, 2011).
People who adamantly believe that Washington smoked cling to the fact that George Washington not only grew hemp for clothes, fishing nets, sails and other items, along with a quote from one of his diary entries. Specifically, there’s a quote from his diary from August 7, 1765: “— began to separate the male from the female hemp at Do — rather too late.” It is definitely up for debate, but today that technique is used solely for ensuring that female plants avoid being pollenated by males—this process improves drug potency in cannabis. Although some trace evidence of the idea that our founding fathers smoked hemp for pleasure exists, it seems likely (WorldHistory.com, 2019).
The president of the American Historical Reference Society, Dr. Burke, has noted seven of the earliest presidents as hemp smokers, based on early letters from the following founders referring to the pleasures of smoking hemp. These include: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce (Worldhistory.com, 2019).
Regardless of whether or not our founding fathers consumed cannabis, they would likely be very confused to learn about the attitudes about the plant that led to its prohibition back in the turn of the 20th century. Further, it is very likely that they would be in support of a legalized, regulated federal cannabis market. Prohibition has existed for too long, and a government by, or and for the people should work to pass sensible federal legalization and leave it up to the individual states to enact their own cannabis policy.
National Geographic Magazine: Marijuana Medicine the Science Unlocking the Secrets of Cannabis Use