US presidents who liked cannabis

US presidents who liked cannabis
Steven Voser

As cannabis legalization is spreading like wildfire the last couple of years, we take a look at the relationship US presidents had with the plant.

The USA is riding on a new wave of cannabis legalization the last few years and it seems, that there is no end in sight. Be it for medicinal or recreational purposes, state after state is giving this gift of God a free pass. Living in times as these, we found it interesting to research what kind of relationship former US presidents had with cannabis, especially as recent commanders-in-chief have publicly admitted, that they used cannabis at some time in their life.


The first president of the United States of America and the founding father of the country, George Washington is probably the most popular political figure in American history. His father was a tobacco planter and George inherited the love for agriculture and the knowledge, that goes with it from him. Before he became president, hemp started to be used as a cash crop and gradually replaced the tobacco plantations. George Washington recognized the agricultural value of hemp and soon started growing it with success. However, did George Washington use cannabis recreationally, or in stoner terms, did the first president of the United States get high?

A disputed topic, due to the fact, that diary entries and letters exist, that could shed light on the first president's cannabis use. One of the more popular quotes – a diary entry from August 7, 1765 – states: “Began to separate the male from the female hemp …”, which is an indicator, that he used female cannabis plants for higher potency. It seems, that the founding father preferred to smoke hemp leaves rather than to drink alcohol.


The third president of the United States of America, one of the founding fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, had been a hemp farmer just like George Washington. And not only was he a hemp farmer, he revolutionized hemp processing by designing a hemp thresher that was much more efficient in breaking the plant's stalks.

It should be noted, that the first couple of working drafts of the Declaration was written on hemp paper, but that was a common practice in those days. With regard to these facts, there is a great chance, that Thomas Jefferson smoked cannabis, as he had a known distaste for alcohol and tobacco. On top of all of that, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were ambassadors in France during the initial surge of hashish.


In modern times, a lot of public figures admitted using cannabis, especially in their younger, formative years. A lot of these public figures were from political circles and many of them were US presidents. Maybe the most prominent of them is John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The 35th president of the United States allegedly used cannabis to treat severe back pain. According to an anecdotal proof, JFK smoked three joints with Mary Meyer in July 1962. At first, he didn’t feel anything, but then he closed his eyes, refused the fourth joint and said: “Suppose the Russians did something now.”

Bill Clinton was recorded confessing about experimenting with cannabis while spending time in England. “When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale and never tried it again.” That was his response to the weed question. Also, it should be mentioned that Christopher Hitchens noted, that President Clinton had a preference for space brownies rather than smoking cannabis.

Barack Obama is another president that publicly acknowledged his past experimental drug use. He admitted using cocaine and cannabis while living in Hawaii. His most famous statement regarding cannabis was during his 2008 presidential campaign where he said: “When I was a kid, I inhaled, frequently. That was the point.”


A number of presidents, that were the military man in their pasts have been reported of smoking hemp with their troops. Among them are Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce. Jimmy Carter was one of the most progressive and vocal presidents regarding cannabis legislation. Whether he used cannabis or not, we don’t know, but he proposed a federal law to eliminate all federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.

And last on our list, but not least, is George W. Bush. He was honest about his past alcohol and cocaine use, but always dodged the weed question. Later he explained in his biography, that he didn’t want children to copy his acts by trying themselves.

There are a handful of anecdotal proof and stories related to presidential cannabis use. If you take into account, that cannabis is around for centuries and hemp farming was a big thing during the birth of the United States, one can reason, that these stories aren’t as far-fetched as they seem. Add to that the confession of the most recent US presidents and you can safely assume, that there is a connection. Imagine for a moment if you were one of the leaders of the modern world, wouldn’t you indulge in one of Mother Nature’s finest children?

Steven Voser
Steven Voser

Steven is a long-time veteran of cannabis journalism, having delved into every aspect of the subject. His particular interests lie in cannabis culture, the emerging science of cannabis, and how it is shaping the legal landscape across the globe.