Sure you know today’s the 4th of July, the day Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, but did you know Thomas Jefferson drafted both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution on hemp paper?
Yep, our great nation has a history of encouraging marijuana production and use. And prior to the prohibition of it, many of our Founding Fathers were STONERS. George Washington famously said: “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!” Back in the day, Washington saw weed as a kick-ass super crop and by 1762, in his hometown of Virginia, he awarded bounties for growing weed.
Thomas Jefferson said “Some of my finest hours have been spent sitting on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. This cat was an aficionado of weed and grew massive amounts of it on his plantation. He is credited with the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and probably came up with the idea while he was high on weed. He was known to smoke and supposedly hated tobacco. While on envoy to France, this dude went to great expense and took a huge risk to himself and his secret agents to procure particularly good weed seeds smuggled illegally into Turkey from China.
Several of our early Presidents were also STONERS. James Madison grew the herb on his plantation and was such a stoner that while he was stoned one day he conceived the idea to create a new and democratic nation! President number five, James Monroe, grew hemp on his plantation and began smoking weed as an Ambassador to France. He allegedly continued smoking for the rest of his life! According to the American Historical Reference Society and the Smithsonian, there’s evidence that Andrew Jackson grew hemp on his plantation. Its also well-known Jackson got stoned with his troops to alleviate the aches and pains associated with being shot at.
Known as “Old Rough and Ready,” Zachary Taylor had a forty-year military career in the United States Army and it was alleged that he also smoked out with his troops. He achieved fame leading American troops to victory in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican–American War and marijuana probably played a huge role. Alexander the Great used Aloe to heal his wounded troops after battle, looks like Taylor used a different herb.
Franklin Pierce was also a military dude, a brigadier general in fact, that blazed with his troops. It’s well-known that he wrote marijuana was “about the only good thing” to come out of the Mexican-American war. Years later, this “good thing” became a weapon used to discriminate against Mexican-Americans.
And of course, who could forget ol’ Abe. Abraham Lincoln once famously said “Prohibition…goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” Man, that’s exactly what we’ve been saying about marijuana prohibition for days! If honest Abe were still alive today, we bet he’d be REALLY pissed off about marijuana prohibition.
Okay so, there’s this letter Abe sent to the Hohner Harmonica Company that’s often disputed. It seems as if Abe was lookin’ to score himself some free schwag like a harmonica, or a cleaning kit, or some shit…in exchange for his endorsement. Some say he sent it just after the company was founded in 1857 and right before his 1865 assassination. The letter says: “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” It was allegedly on display at the Hohner museum, but curators have long insisted its not there. It is possible the letter never existed and it’s entirely possible there was some foul play involved.
The first American marijuana law wasn’t to prohibit it’s use but to encourage its proliferation. In 1619 the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that actually required every household to grow hemp since it was viewed as a “strategic necessity”. Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other colonies later used hemp as legal tender. Hemp production continued until the Civil War and by that time marijuana was a typical ingredient in medicine and sold openly in pharmacies as cures for migraines, rheumatism and insomnia. It wasn’t until the Mexican Revolution, when Mexican immigrants began pouring into the American Southwest, that marijuana was viewed in a negative manner. Prejudices towards the immigrants were extended to their “traditional source of intoxication: smoking marijuana.” And once pot-smoking reached New Orleans, newspapers associated the drug with “African Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and under world whites.”
Eventually El Paso enacted a local ordinance banning the sale or possession of marijuana in 1914, and by 1931, marijuana was banned in 29 U.S. states. Unfortunately, in many states marijuana is still banned, despite its rich history as the healing of our nation, but don’t let that stop you from celebrating today!