Did the Founding Fathers Smoke Weed? Myths About the Founding Fathers and Cannabis
Published on 2/21/22
There have been so many hazy cannabis myths over the last few decades that it is hard to keep up with them all. There are myths about overdosing on cannabis, not getting high the first time you consume and that 4/20 has a connection to Adolf Hitler. Another one of the common myths about cannabis postulates that the Founding Fathers loved to toke up and may have even been high when writing the Declaration of Independence. Below we'll clear up the air once and for all about the link between the Founding Fathers and cannabis.
Cannabis & The Colonies
Before we get into cannabis, hemp, and the founding of America, it is important to define what hemp actually is - because many still can be confused to this day. Hemp is something like a cousin to marijuana. While both hemp and marijuana are derived from the cannabis sativa plant, hemp is derived from the fibrous part that contains little to no THC. Cannabis is used primarily to enjoy the psychoactive feelings that come from THC. On the other hand, hemp is used to make a variety of products, from paper to rope to cloth.
Knowing that hemp could be used in this way during that time, no wonder it was such an important crop in the New World as colonies were being established. It was so important that colonists were encouraged to grow and cultivate cannabis for hemp production. In fact, in 1619 Virginia even passed a law that required hemp to be grown on every single farm and was considered a legitimate form of currency in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
As we all know, cotton eventually replaced hemp - especially in clothing production - and hemp had come and gone by the end of the Civil War. Marijuana, however, was on the rise and was increasingly used as an ingredient in tinctures and medicines for those who survived the wartime efforts.
The Founding Fathers and Hemp
The Founding Fathers saw hemp as a cash crop, and whether or not they consumed cannabis is a whole other story that we will get to later. George Washington grew cannabis, but not the kind you toked up with. His growing interests were strictly for hemp production and considered hemp a huge financial asset, allowing greater profit margins than tobacco and other crops.
Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the United States, was the first to acquire a U.S. patent for his invention of a device for processing hemp in 1815. He even once wrote that "hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country."
James Madison grew hemp himself, and as the 4th president of the United States, there are multiple correspondences where Madison and Jefferson debate and discuss current hemp prices and the hemp economy.
Benjamin Franklin, an inventor and politician, spoke not only on the greatness of the crop but also helped create the hemp industry. Franklin owned one of the first paper mills that processed hemp into parchment. This parchment was used in many drafts of the Declaration of Independence and beyond.
Did The Founding Fathers Smoke Weed?
Due to the importance of hemp production during colonial times and the eventual grouping of hemp and cannabis together, there is no wonder why some may say that these men were lighting up. However, those who say that the Founding Fathers smoked weed are wrong (unfortunately).
The rumors are always fun to hear, though. Thomas Jefferson is often misquoted, saying, "Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as the eye can see." He didn't say this. Other Fathers, such as Washington, used hemp to soothe tooth pain, but this never occurred either. Some say he conceived the constitution in a haze of hemp, but for James Madison, hemp was nothing more than a cash crop.
While there is no evidence that these men consumed, we know without a doubt that they were enthusiastic grows of this low-THC crop.
What Does it Mean for Us Today?
Sure, the myth that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp has been debunked, but that doesn't mean that the conversation stops there. As we all know too well, cannabis has had a rocky road to get to where it is today and has needed to break down stereotype after stereotype to finally be taken seriously.
The Founding Fathers were Presidents, scholars, diplomats and inventors, so any conversation about them possibly smoking cannabis is a good conversation to be having. It breaks down the lazy, do-nothing stoner stereotype entirely and shows a completely different side to things. Even though these toking up rumors have been disproven, seeing that these men placed such an importance on hemp production, it can be modeled going forward as we search for alternatives for fuel and plastics.
Did you think that the Founding Fathers actually smoked weed? What are your other favorite cannabis myths? Tell us in the comments below.