“Early letters from our founding fathers often refer to the pleasures of hemp smoking,” said Dr. Burke. There are even references to it in the Congressional Records. Marijuana never became a commercial industry because the plant was too easy to grow.
Thomas Jefferson and George Washington often corresponded about the virtues of smoking hemp and are said to have traded parcels of it as gestures of friendship.
George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson all cultivated weed on their plantations. George Washington is said to have preferred a good pipeful of the “leaves of hemp” to any alcoholic drink.
Dr. Burke, president of the American Historical Reference Society and consultant for the Smithsonian Institute, included the following U. S. presidents as marijuana users:
Marijuana smoking is quite popular in the U.S. today, but few people realize that grass was once so popular in the country that 7 U.S. presidents used it.
Weed was common among tobacco growers, for when it was mixed with tobacco, it gave a mild intoxicating effect. The leaves and resins (hashish) were used to season food and as medicine.
Dress made from hemp
George Washington’s initial interest in hemp was as a cash crop. After deciding not to cultivate it as a cash crop, Washington grew it to meet the needs of his own plantation. Hemp was used at Mount Vernon for rope, thread for sewing sacks, canvas, and for repairing the seine nets used at the fisheries. Washington’s diaries and farm reports indicate that hemp grew at all five farms which made up Mount Vernon, (Mansion House, River Farm, Dogue Run Farm, Muddy Hole Farm, and Union Farm).
Since the spring of 2018, Mount Vernon has planted an industrial cultivar of hemp on the four-acre Farm site. Under the 2015 Industrial Hemp Law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly and working with the industrial hemp research program of the University of Virginia, Mount Vernon planted hemp to expand its interpretation of George Washington’s role as an enterprising farmer. As the first historic home of the founding fathers to plant hemp, Mount Vernon will use the plant as an interpretative tool to help better tell the story of Washington’s role as a farmer.
Hemp sack with hemp threading
At one point in the 1760’s Washington considered whether hemp would be a more lucrative cash crop than tobacco but determined wheat was a better alternative.
Hemp Rope – The American encyclopædia of commerce, manufactures, commercial law, and finance et. 1886
Washington’s Use of Hemp
Dean Norton, Director of Horticulture at Mount Vernon, planting industrial hemp. MVLA.
Separated stalk of hemp exposing the fibers
As both sides go back and forth, many different strategies are utilized to make their points effectively. One method, sometimes used by marijuana supporters, is to bring the Founding Fathers into the debate. After all, many people claim George Washington himself used marijuana and didn’t he also grow hemp?
Great U.S. Presidents quotes
These bounties were what initially interested George Washington in growing hemp as a cash crop. The term cash crop means he was intending to sell the plants harvested instead of using them for his own self.
On top of that, the British, still seeing hemp as a necessity for their own naval strength, offered lucrative bounty programs in the hopes of gaining exports from American hemp farmers.