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Learn | 11.07.2022

High Culture: The First U.S. President George Washington Grew Hemp On Five Farms

Presidential hemp. Did Washington really prefer a pipeful of hemp over alcohol?

You might have heard the phrase, “Make the most of the hemp seed, sow it everywhere,” the words of President George Washington. Yes, the first U.S. president was a proud hemp grower, but he likely didn’t do the grunt work.

Before we get to the anecdote that Washington smoked the plant, let’s examine if he grew it in the first place. Some claim that Washington began cultivating the plant in 1765, 24 years before he became president.

He began growing hemp on his Mount Vernon plantation, and he did so throughout his life. The main reason for growing the plant was for industrial uses, as hemp fibers were great for making rope or a sail canvas. They were also used for threading clothes or repairing large fishing nets.

Where Was It Grown?

Photo courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon grounds consisted of five large farms:

  • Mansion House
  • River Farm
  • Dogue Run Farm
  • Muddy Hole Farm
  • Union Farm

Washington inherited his father’s love of farming. Before he became president, hemp was planted as a cash crop, gradually replacing tobacco plantations.

George Washington recognized the agricultural value of hemp and began growing it successfully in 1765.

Did He Smoke The Plant?

Now that we know the first U.S. president was an avid hemp grower, the question remains…. did he smoke the plant?

We regret to inform you that no one knows for sure, but there seem to be different anecdotes that claim the former president preferred hemp leaves over liquor.

One such anecdote is from an article written in 1971 titled “Seven Presidents Smoked It!” by the president of the American Historical Society of Reference, Dr. Frank Burke, who explained that “the early letters of our founding fathers often refer to the pleasures of smoking hemp.”

We should note that others have debunked that story, explaining that Dr. Burke never existed, nor did the American Historical Reference Society. Honestly, we don’t know what to believe, but for the sake of cannabis culture, here’s what Dr. Burke said.

“Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson all grew weed on their plantations,” and “Washington preferred a good hemp-leaf pipe to any alcoholic beverage.”

In addition, Burke stated that other presidents such as James Monore, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce were “all military men [who] smoked with their troops.”

There were also letters and diary entries that might shed some light on the first president’s cannabis use. One of his most famous quotes – a diary entry from August 7, 1765 – reads, “they began to separate the male from the female hemp plants…”

Perhaps they sensed —or knew—that feminized plants have greater potency. We’ll never be entirely sure, but it’s fun to imagine.

What About Other Presidents?

Well, knowing which presidents lit up a joint in the Oval Office will probably be a White House secret for a long time.

We do know that some presidents have stated, or there are records of their support for, using the green plant for its many benefits.

History doesn’t lie. Whether for medicinal reasons or simply for the pleasure of consuming it, several presidents have had a relationship with cannabis. These are just some of them.

Thomas Jefferson

Photo by GraphicaArtis / Getty Images

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, was a hemp farmer, as was George Washington.

It’s worth noting that the first couple of drafts of the Declaration were written on hemp paper, although this was common practice then.

Some say that Thomas Jefferson probably smoked hemp, as his aversion to alcohol and tobacco was well known, but we have no way of knowing for sure.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Photo courtesy of White House Collection

The thirty-fifth president of the United States supposedly consumed cannabis to treat severe back pain.

Some historical books mention the night of July 16, 1962, in which Kennedy, Jim Truitt, and Mary Meyer gathered together and smoked cannabis in the White House while chatting.

Of course, we can’t confirm this, but it’s just food for thought.

Barack Obama

Photo by Pete Souza / Official White House Photo

Barack Obama is another president who publicly acknowledged smoking cannabis when he was young, he may not still do it today, but he’s definitely held a joint at one point or another.

He made his most famous statement regarding cannabis during the 2008 presidential campaign: “When I was young, I inhaled often. That’s what it was all about.” We love you, Obama.

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