More and more Americans think that marijuana should be legal. Plus, an increasing number of Americans now use marijuana. While some Americans are just coming around to the idea of allowing the use of marijuana, many presidents have been on board with the idea, reaching farther back into American history than you might think.
You probably know that Barack Obama has smoked marijuana. But what about Donald Trump? Read on to get the details on those presidents’ attitudes toward marijuana, and to discover which commanders-in-chief have given it a try.
1. George Washington grew hemp, but probably not the right kind
His plants probably didn’t contain as much THC as marijuana. | Wikimedia Commons
- 1st president of the United States
The Daily Beast reports that George Washington, America’s first president, “may have been one of the nation’s original users of medicinal marijuana.” Washington had rotting teeth and dentures, both of which caused pain that some believe he treated with marijuana. In one of his letters, Washington wrote about harvesting female hemp plants. The implication? Perhaps he wanted the female plants for their higher THC content.
However, as The Daily Beast notes, it’s more likely that Washington was looking for the female plants for seeds to sow. Plus, while hemp and marijuana come from the same plant family, hemp doesn’t contain as much THC as marijuana. According to Mount Vernon, Cannabis sativa, the type of hemp that Washington grew, contains less than 0.3% THC. (Not enough to produce physical or psychological effects.) Conversely, Cannabis sativa indica, or marijuana, contains 6% to 20% THC.
Next: This president likely didn’t smoke marijuana.
2. John Adams probably didn’t smoke marijuana, either
He was a proponent of hemp. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
- 2nd president of the United States
It’s possible, though very unlikely, that John Adams tried marijuana. Weed News characterizes Adams as “a huge proponent” of industrial hemp in Colonial America. But Adams was almost certainly a fan of the kind of industrial hemp that colonists used to make rope, clothing, and paper. Nonetheless, he was a major advocate for that kind of cannabis plant. As Weed News explains:
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.’
Next: This president smuggled cannabis seeds into America. But did he ever smoke weed?
3. Thomas Jefferson smuggled cannabis seeds to America
He could have been thrown in prison for smuggling seeds. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
- 3rd president of the United States
The Daily Beast reports that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson served as ambassadors to France during “the initial surge of the hashish vogue,” and Jefferson brought cannabis seeds from Europe to America “at great personal risk.” In fact, he could have been imprisoned for smuggling the seeds into the country.
Nonetheless, the publication notes that we have no direct evidence that Jefferson ever used the resulting crops for recreational purposes. Additionally, Franklin isn’t known to have smoked marijuana. But he did use laudanum, a mixture of alcohol and opium, to reduce pain caused by gout, kidney stones, and other ailments.
Next: This president could have smoked marijuana. But we aren’t sure.
4. James Madison might have smoked marijuana
He reportedly claimed hemp gave him “insight.” | GeorgiosArt/iStock/Getty Images
- 4th president of the United States
Weed News reports that some speculate that James Madison smoked marijuana. But it’s far from definitive. As the publication explains of the limited evidence:
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.
Next: This president seems to have picked up the habit of smoking marijuana in France.
5. James Monroe might have smoked marijuana in France
He reportedly picked up the habit as an ambassador. | Wikimedia Commons
- 5th president of the United States
As The Daily Beast reports, “James Monroe allegedly began smoking cannabis as Ambassador to France and maintained the habit into old age.” The Miller Center characterizes Monroe’s stint as a minister to France as “an eventful appointment that lasted two years.”
But even if Monroe did smoke marijuana with his French hosts, that wasn’t enough to salvage relations between the two nations. As the Miller Center explains, Monroe’s mission was to uphold George Washington’s policy of neutrality toward Britain and France (while assuring the French that America wasn’t favoring Britain). The French became convinced that the Jay Treaty that the U.S. signed with Great Britain altered the terms. Washington eventually recalled Monroe from France.
Next: This president used the drug during wartime.
6. Andrew Jackson used marijuana during wartime
He’s rumored to have smoked with his troops. | Wikimedia Commons
- 7th president of the United States
The Daily Beast reports that Andrew Jackson is rumored to have smoked marijuana with his troops. Jackson reportedly fought in the American Revolution at age 13, and rose through the ranks to become a general and help win the War of 1812. It was his military career that propelled Jackson to the presidency.
But back to the reports that Jackson smoked marijuana: Seeker reports that Jackson openly used the drug on occasion. He used it, as well as tobacco cigars, at least during wartime.
Next: This president also smoked marijuana with his troops.
7. Zachary Taylor smoked marijuana with his troops
He also might have smoked with his troops. | National Archive/Getty Images
- 12th president of the United States
The Daily Beast reports that Zachary Taylor is also rumored have smoked marijuana with his troops. The Miller Center reports that even in his childhood, Taylor aspired to a career in the military.
“Taylor received his first commission as an officer in 1808 and was immediately assigned to command the garrison at Fort Pickering, located in modern-day Memphis,” The Miller Center explains. “From that moment until his election as President, Taylor was in the military, stationed at a succession of frontier outposts.”
Next: A third president also smoked marijuana with his soldiers.
8. Franklin Pierce also smoked marijuana during wartime
He smoked during the Mexican-American War. | National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images
- 14th president of the United States
According to The Daily Beast, rumor has it that Franklin Pierce also smoked marijuana with the troops he commanded during the Mexican-American War. In one letter he wrote to his family, Pierce seems to have characterized hemp as “about the only good thing” about serving in the war.
In fact, some have speculated that cannabis was “twice as popular” among American soldiers in the Mexican war as it was among U.S. troops in Vietnam.
Next: This president probably didn’t partake.
9. Abraham Lincoln didn’t smoke marijuana (as far as we know)
Rumors about his smoking might be false. | Alexander Gardner/Getty Images
- 16th president of the United States
Weed News reports that some people believe that Abraham Lincoln smoked marijuana. But that belief seems based only “on a couple of quotes that have circulated across the internet.” The first of those quotes claims that Lincoln enjoyed smoking “a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.”
The only problem with that story, according to Weed News? Hohner didn’t make harmonicas until two years after the date of the alleged quote. And the company didn’t export them to America from Germany until 1868, four years after Lincoln’s assassination. Another quote erroneously attributed to Lincoln says that prohibition “goes beyond the bound of reason,” but was manufactured by an Atlanta mayor in 1922 to get voters to oppose the prohibition of alcohol.
Next: This president likely didn’t try marijuana, either.
10. Ulysses S. Grant probably didn’t smoke marijuana
He might not have smoked marijuana, but he did use cocaine. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
- 18th president of the United States
Some speculate that Ulysses S. Grant used marijuana, too. A quote supposedly about marijuana reading, “It is of great value to the wounded and feeble, and that it is harmless,” is attributed — likely erroneously — to Grant. And we don’t have much evidence whether Grant partook of the drug or not.
However, Seeker reports that Grant did use cocaine. (That was before it became a controlled substance that came with a long jail sentence for abusers.) “Stricken with oral cancer, President Ulysses S. Grant used cocaine throat drops regularly to soothe his pain. In fact, Grant reportedly took cocaine while he wrote his now famous memoirs. He would remain addicted to the drug until the illness claimed his life at age 63.”
Next: This president definitely partook.
11. John F. Kennedy tried the drug (as well as many others)
He experimented with it for his back pain. | National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images
- 35th president of the United States
The Daily Beast reports that in addition to painkillers and stimulants, John F. Kennedy allegedly experimented with marijuana to relieve his back pain. Several written accounts mention Kennedy’s marijuana usage. Among those, The Daily Beast points out a passage from John F. Kennedy: A Biography, which gave an apocryphal (and questionable) account of one White House scene:
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.
Next: This president seems to have hated marijuana.
12. Richard Nixon vilified marijuana
He hated marijuana. | Keystone/Getty Images
- 37th president of the United States
As the man who brought the United States the war on drugs, Richard Nixon reportedly wanted the public “to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin.” A top Nixon adviser characterized the president’s war on drugs as a political move intended to help him attain and keep the presidency.
High Times reports that further, “The Nixon Tapes are replete with Nixon’s mix of irrational hatred of marijuana and non-white races and ethnicities, with quotes like, ‘I want a Goddamn strong statement on marijuana, I mean one that just tears the ass out of them. You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.’”
Next: This president supposedly never smoked marijuana.
13. Jimmy Carter has supposedly never smoked marijuana
He might not have smoked, but he was open to reducing penalties for marijuana possession. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
- 39th president of the United States
High Times reports that Jimmy Carter has reportedly never smoked marijuana. (Even though Carter’s son did smoke on the roof of the White House with Willie Nelson.) Nonetheless, the publication characterizes Carter as “the most progressive president on pot in the War on Drugs era.”
Carter once told Congress, “I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.”
Next: This president both smoked marijuana and tried pot brownies.
14. Bill Clinton smoked marijuana and tried pot brownies
He said he experimented while in England. | Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images
- 42nd president of the United States
Time reports that Bill Clinton once admitted that he tried marijuana as a 20-something Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. “I’ve never broken a state law,” Clinton said. “But 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.”
As High Times reports, Clinton may have been telling the truth. “The late Christopher Hitchens, who attended Oxford with Clinton, said Bill had an affinity for pot brownies, so he may not have ever tried ‘it’ (inhaling) ever again.” Interestingly enough, Clinton is far from alone in enjoying marijuana (one way or the other). As The Daily Beast points out, “every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992 is on record as having smoked pot: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama.”
Next: This president tried marijuana, too. But he wasn’t a Democrat.
15. George W. Bush tried marijuana
He’s admitted to smoking when he was younger. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
- 43rd president of the United States
The Daily Beast reports that in a recorded interview with a friend, George W. Bush admitted to past marijuana use. Time notes that Bush wanted to avoid questions about his drug use because he didn’t want to set a bad example. He said that he didn’t want an American child to think, “President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will.” According to Weed News, Bush later admitted on The Tonight Show “I might’ve smoked something,” referring to his youthful indiscretions.
Bush wasn’t the only Republican nominee who tried marijuana. So did other Republican presidential candidates. “Newt Gingrich told the Wall Street Journal in 1996 he used to toke up. Even Rick Santorum admitted to smoking in college. Ditto, Sarah Palin when marijuana wasn’t illegal in Alaska.”
Next: Barack Obama definitely smoked marijuana.
16. Barack Obama smoked a lot of marijuana
He apparently smoked a lot. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
- 44th president of the United States
Barack Obama has openly admitted to what The Daily Beast characterizes as “prodigious” marijuana use. The Week reports that as a high school student in Hawaii, Obama associated with a group of boys called “The Choom Gang.” The boys reportedly “loved basketball and good times,” and smoked plenty of marijuana.
Obama continued to smoke marijuana as an undergraduate at Occidental College in Los Angeles. And even when he ran for president, Obama was relatively open about his past drug use. But that didn’t stop Americans from feeling scandalized when one of Obama’s daughters got caught smoking at Lollapalooza.
Next: Did Donald Trump ever try marijuana?
17. Donald Trump says he’s never smoked marijuana
He’s said marijuana legislation should be up to the states. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
- 45th president of the United States
Vice reports that “Unlike the three presidents before him, Donald Trump swears he’s never smoked weed.” But the publication notes that on the campaign trail, Trump emphasized that his personal aversion to marijuana “had nothing to do with his politics.” He even said multiple times that marijuana legalization “should be up to the states.” However, that didn’t stop Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions from launching what Vox terms a “new war” on marijuana legalization.
Trump may not smoke marijuana himself. But he famously inspired someone else to partake on at least one occasion. As Vanity Fair reports, Woody Harrelson claims that he had to smoke a joint halfway through a dinner party with Trump to get through the evening.
Read more: You’ll Never Believe How Many People Have Died in the White House
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