High Approval: A history of pot-smoking U.S. presidents

By Oscar Pascual |
Photo credit: Mountvernon.org

The nation celebrated President’s Day yesterday with nearly half of the states in the Union bearing medical or decriminalized marijuana laws on their books.

Those laws didn’t come soon enough for a select few of our forefathers, including first president George Washington, who the Daily Beast believes might be our first medical marijuana patient as well.

As marijuana continues to become more socially acceptable throughout the current Obama administration and quite possibly future presidents, it’s a perfect time to reflect on our past commanders who chief.

Here’s a brief history of notable American presidents who were known to use marijuana.

George Washington: Passages from some of Washington’s letters suggest that he was growing female marijuana plants for higher THC levels, according to the Daily Beast. They suggest that America’s first president smoked in order to alleviate constant pain from rotting teeth and painful dentures set by gold springs and brass screws.

Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson was known to grow hemp for industrial purposes, and also for smuggling cannabis seeds from Europe and China. Jefferson would eventually invent a hemp processing device in 1815, though there’s no evidence he ever smoked his crop.

James Monroe: Monroe allegedly began smoking cannabis as an ambassador to France, and continued to enjoy smoking it well into old age.

Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce: All three presidents were known to smoke tobacco and cannabis cigars with troops while serving for the military, according to Hemp – American History Revisited.

John F. Kennedy: JFK reportedly smoked joints to medicate his severe back pain and rare disorder known as Addison’s disease. According to a biography, Kennedy was seen smoking three joints in one evening at the White House.

Jimmy Carter: Although the former president has been ambivalent at best in his stance on marijuana legalization, Carter was known to throw some smoke-filled parties during his administration, including a 1980 concert where Willie Nelson supposedly smoked a “big fat Austin torpedo” while on the White House roof.

Bill Clinton: Clinton will always be cited for his now famous quote, “I didn’t inhale, and I didn’t try it again.” Despite the disingenuous claim, Clinton now flatly admits that he did indeed try smoking. “I didn’t say I was holier than thou, I said I tried. I never denied that I used marijuana,” Clinton said in a 2013 interview with Time.

George W. Bush: Although Dubya refused to answer questions about marijuana during his presidency, he would later reveal his past to his father’s former aide Douglas Wead. “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried,” said Bush in a recorded conversation with Wead.

Barack Obama: The most honest president of the bunch happens to be the one we have right now. When running for president in 2008, Obama admitted to his former pot use while also calling back to Bill Clinton’s quote on not inhaling. “When I was a kid, I inhaled, frequently. That was the point,” said Obama. The president would further add that he believes marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol in a 2014 New Yorker profile.