from Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, by Chris Conrad, 1994, pp. 192-193, part of Chapter 16, "A World of Cannabis Cultures." Creative Xpressions Publications, Los Angeles, ISBN 0-9639754-1-2, $12.95 from FS Book Company, Sacramento, 1-800-635-8883 credit cards, 916-771-4203 customer service.
American High Society
The extent of cannabis smoking during the Colonial era is still subject to debate. President George Washington wrote a letter that contained an oblique reference to what may have been hashish. "The artificial preparation of hemp, from Silesia, is really a curiosity." 38 Washington made specific written references to Indian hemp, or cannabis indica, and hoped to "have disseminated the seed to others. " 39 His August 7, 1765 diary entry, "began to separate the male from the female (hemp) plants," describes a harvesting technique favored to enhance the potency of smoking cannabis, among other reasons. 40 Hemp farmer Thomas Jefferson and paper maker Ben Franklin were ambassadors to France during the initial surge of the hashish vogue. Their celebrity status and progressive revolutionary image afforded them ample opportunities to try new experiences. Jefferson smuggled Chinese hemp seeds to America and is credited with the phrase in the Declaration of Independence, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Did the Founding Fathers of the United States of America smoke cannabis? Some researchers think so. Dr. Burke, president of the American Historical Reference Society and a consultant for the Smithsonian Institute, counted seven early presidents as cannabis smokers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce. 41 "Early letters from our founding fathers refer to the pleasures of hemp smoking," said Burke. Pierce, Taylor and Jackson, all military men, smoked it with their troops. Cannabis was twice as popular among American soldiers in the Mexican War as in Vietnam: Pierce wrote to his family that it was "about the only good thing" about that war.
Central and Western African natives were farming and harvesting cannabis sativa in North America as slaves. If they did smoke on the plantations, that would be kept secret. 42 By the time of the Louisiana purchase in 1803, New Orleans had a mixed Spanish, French, Creole, Cajun, Mexican and Black population. The city teemed with adventurers and sailors, wise to the ways of cannabis. It was mixed with tobacco or smoked alone, used to season food 43, to treat insomnia and impotence, and so on.
Cannabis was mentioned as a medicinal agent in a formal American medical text as early as 1843. 44
38 A region now shared by Germany & Poland. Letter to Dr. James Anderson, May 26, 1794. in Writings of George Washington. Washington DC. vol. 33. p. 384.
39 Ibid. vol. 35. p. 72
40 Such as creating more space for females to flower for seed production, or to take advantage of the male fiber before it overmatures in the field.
41 Burke asserted that Washington & Jefferson were said to exchange smoking blends as personal gifts. Washington reportedly preferred a pipe full of "the leaves of hemp" to alcohol, & wrote in his diaries that he enjoyed the fragrance of hemp flowers. Madison once remarked that hemp gave him insight to create a new & democratic nation. Monroe, creator of the Monroe Doctrine, began smoking it as Ambassador to France & continued to the age of 73. Burke. "Pot & Presidents." in Green Egg. CA. June 21, 1975
42 "That might explain some cultural differences." Aldrich, Michael, Ph.D. 'On use of marijuana by slaves in colonial times.' in Best of High Times. vol. 10. 1991. p. 61
43 Hakluyt, Divers voyages touching the discoverie of America. London 1582
44 Pereira, J. Elements of Materia Medica & Therapeutics. Lea & Blanchard. Philadelphia PA. 1843