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Did George Washington Really Smoke Cannabis?

George Washington - who was born 284 years ago today - was known for many firsts. "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen," read a eulogy for Washington written by Henry Lee, himself a major general in the Continental Army who was also the father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee.

But was George also among the first in America's first to grow and smoke marijuana? Some people think so.

The story goes that Washington's old-timey dentures (made of hippo ivory, gold springs and brass screws) caused so much pain that he turned to cannabis for relief. You can read about it on The Daily Beast and High Times. Or you can watch Slater's - ahem, unique - take on America's first "commander-in-leaf" from Dazed and Confused:

Sadly, the theory that Washington consumed cannabis is about as credible as Slater's musings on aliens and the occult. (Although he's probably right about Martha Washington being a "hip, hip, hip lady.")

The evidence suggesting George Washington grew and smoked cannabis comes from these passages from his diary: "Began to separate the male from female plants rather too late….Pulling up the (male) hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month."

Clearly Washington was talking about cultivating cannabis. But was he growing it to get high? Yes, according to Russ Belville in a 2014 High Times article in which he wrote that Washington's remarks indicate that the founding father was trying to grow "female plants with higher THC content."

But there's a more plausible answer: he was talking about actual hemp. It's well known that the Washingtons cultivated the non-psychoactive cannabis plant at Mount Vernon. So did Thomas Jefferson and many other colonial Americans. Hemp was a versatile crop used for making rope, sails, clothes and many other things.

So what was George complaining about in his diary then? According to, the passage "was an acknowledgment of an agricultural slip-up, as hemp gone to seed (after the male pollen fertilizes the female flower) produces coarser, less valuable fibers."

So the first president certainly grew hemp, but there's no proof that he smoked it. Of course that doesn't mean he didn't. It's just that history hasn't provided us with a smoking gun - or pipe - to make that conclusion.

And without that evidence, we might as well speculate that General Washington crossed the Delaware mainly because he got the munchies and the only cure was a slice of tomato pie from Trenton, New Jersey.

If you put your ear up to the screen, you might hear "Lowrider" echoing in the waves.

h/t High Times, The Daily Beast, History


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