One of the biggest stories of the past few weeks, apart from the Olympics and Donald Trump, has been the revelation of the Obama children being caught smoking marijuana. In a country where pot smoking is a decisive issue, having a child of the First Family smoking pot can be a serious issue for some. The question is though, is the Obama Family the first to start smoking marijuana in the White House? With pot use something that has been done for decades, isn’t it possible that another presidential family member smoked pot before Obama and his family?
History of Cannabis in the Oval Office
Cannabis, from hemp to the joint itself, has a long and interesting history in the Oval Office, going right back to the Founding Fathers themselves.
Going to the Founding Fathers, we don’t so much have presidents lighting up a joint, but presidents growing hemp itself. Benjamin Franklin, not a president but a founding father, was a regular farmer of hemp throughout his entire life. James Madison also farmed hemp, as did the first President himself, George Washington. Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the Constitution, also farmed hemp.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
Marijuana Toking Presidents (And One Founding Father)
George Washington gave indications that the hemp he grew would go into his body in the form of a chew that helped relieve the toothaches he often had. Thomas Jefferson not only farmed it, but he also smuggled hemp seeds from China to America. James Madison once said that the hemp gave him the insight to create a new democratic nation. Sounds like someone was smoking it.
What about other presidents? Well as it turns out, there are a lot. Let’s go through some of the list:
- Andrew Jackson claimed to smoke marijuana with his troops, as did Zachary Taylor.
- Franklin Pierce also smoked marijuana with the troops during the Mexican-American War. He once wrote a letter that stated the only good thing about the war was the smoking of marijuana.
- Interestingly, Jimmy Carter stated that he never smoked pot in his life but he did say that he was sure his son Chip did, while on the roof of the White House hanging out with Willie Nelson. Let just ask Willie Nelson himself, shall we.
- John F. Kennedy smoked marijuana because of the severe back pain he had. He would smoke pot with a couple other trusted people, and as often as three joints per day but never more than that.
- Bill Clinton openly said he smoked marijuana once in England but didn’t inhale it. That being said, he may not have inhaled, but he enjoyed pot brownies and was rumored to enjoy them on a regular basis while he was at Oxford.
- Known for using cocaine, George W. Bush confirmed to his biographer that he had, in fact, tried marijuana, despite denying such throughout his presidency.
- Barack Obama, the subject of this whole debate now, wrote in his book that he did not only ingest marijuana but cocaine in his youth in Hawaii. Contrasting Bill Clinton, he stated that when he was a kid, he inhaled the marijuana, frequently, because that was the point.
Cannabis Laws Under Various Presidents
It is interesting to note that any time marijuana has become banned, or ruled to be bad for society, it happens while a president who doesn’t smoke is in power. When the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 came into place when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in power. He didn’t smoke pot, but he did drink, which led to the end of Prohibition when he came to power.
Things began to change in the 1960s when Kennedy came to power and the counter-culture movement began. By the end of the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter was in power, many states decriminalized marijuana while others weakened their laws on it.
In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were in power, the war on drugs was accelerated and marijuana was something you could actually spend time in jail for. Ronald Reagan once said that he has evidence to state that smoking just one marijuana cigarette was equal to the brain damage from witnesses a nearby H-bomb test. George H.W. Bush also served as the president who closed the experimental federal medical marijuana program that AIDS patients were using. No marijuana to use during that decade.
By the 1990s and 2000s, with a string of pot smoking presidents, things began to change and the laws on marijuana have lessened immensely and many think it will soon be federally legal in the United States.
Is Obama and His Family, Stoners?
President Obama has long been an advocate of legalizing marijuana. In 2014 with an interview with the New Yorker, he stated that marijuana was no more dangerous for the human body than alcohol. While he has felt that marijuana should be legal, he has left it to the states themselves to decide if they want to legalize it, rather than issuing a federal decree that allows marijuana use. This doesn’t mean that he is against marijuana use, but that he is a president who knows it is a decisive issue best left to states, not his office. He has ensured that the Justice Department doesn’t get in the way of states legalizing pot either.
He has done what he can, though. In August of 2016, he began removing a major barrier to marijuana research, which will allow for a huge amount of study into how marijuana is being used to treat diseases across the country. This will also increase the supply of marijuana that is available to researchers.
In his book, Dreams of my Father, Obama said that he would smoke with his classmates in their van, with a friend at the gym, or on the beach with a bunch of Hawaiian kids. One friend once said:
“Barry also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouting “Intercepted!” and took an extra hit. No one seemed to mind.” He was rumored to be a member of the Choom Gang, a group of pot smokers that hung around with him.
All reports state that he has not smoked marijuana in many years though, and it stopped long before he met his wife, and well before he began his political career.
“I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” he once said to The New Yorker.
This brings us to the report that Malia Obama was filmed smoking marijuana at a music festival. In the video, she is handed something that looks like a slim cigarette that many have identified as marijuana, and she takes one hit off of it. It also appears that she held it for one minute before handing it back.
Interestingly enough, the outcry from the public was essentially, “so what?” with many getting mad at the media for getting on her case for having a good time. One person said to just let her be a teen. Many brought up the point that she was having a good time after finishing high school and before she starts studying at Harvard. In addition, she smoked the marijuana, allegedly, at a music festival in Illinois, a place where small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized. So, she wasn’t even breaking the law.
So What Do We Make of This?
Smoking marijuana is not a new thing and going back to our Founding Fathers, pot use has been something people not only do, but enjoy. It has become much more socially acceptable to smoke marijuana these days, and it has become something that many people do. In a Quinnipiac poll done earlier this year, it was found that 90 per cent of voters in the United States want doctors to prescribe marijuana for pain medication, while 54 per cent want it legalized compared to 41 per cent who don’t. A total of 60 per cent of men want it legalized.
So, the thing is that many presidents have smoked it, many more are going to, and most people want it legalized. Will it be legal nationwide one day? Yes, it will. Is it bad that Malia smoked it? No it isn’t. Does anyone care she smoked it? No one cares.
Is Obama and his family the first stoner family in the White House? Not by a long shot. In fact, Obama and his family may be the last family of stoners in the White House who were there when it wasn’t legal.