Hemp and the founding fathers


As we mentioned in our last blog post, humans have been growing cannabis for thousands of years. More recently in human history, the founding fathers of the United States grew hemp for many purposes. These purposes include both industry and consumption. Let’s take a look at a few of the key figures in our history and see how they came to know and use hemp.

Table of ContentsThomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Hemp is a necessity for the wealth and defense of the country.” He was referring specifically to the high quality ropes, sails and textiles made from hemp used to sustain the colonial navy.

Jefferson was ambassador to France during the poppy era. Risking imprisonment if caught, Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds from China to America, which were known to be potent.

However, as far as research allows us to know, he never said or wrote, “Some of my finest hours were spent sitting on my back porch smoking hemp and watching as far as the eye could see.”

George Washington

George Washington grew hemp at his Mount Vernon estate. Like Jefferson, Washington grew industrial hemp for ropes and sails used in sailing ships. In addition, hemp fibers could be spun into thread for clothing or, as Mount Vernon records show, used to repair the large fishing nets Washington used in his fishing activities on the Potomac River.

The revolutionary general and father of our country detailed each of his farming decisions. “I planted hemp in a mud hole in the swamp,” he noted in a journal entry, away from the hemp he grew for fiber. “He started separating the males from the females too late” and “pulled the (male) hemp. Three weeks or a month was too late for the hemp to flower”, providing further evidence that this founding father knew that separating females from male plants yielded the flower with the highest THC content. Other evidence suggests that George Washington may have brewed cannabis to deal with chronic toothaches.

James Madison

Unlike the other founding fathers, James Madison directly states his personal cannabis consumption. He states that the creative properties of cannabis gave him insight into the structuring of our democracy.

President Madison greatly influenced the constitution and also wrote many of the Federalist Papers, which helped shape the foundational documents interpreting the constitution.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that cannabis played a major role in the early formation of the United States. Due to both its industrial and medicinal benefits, hemp continues to influence the direction in which our country moves forward.

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