Cannabis Ruderalis

A painting of a man with white hair wearing a white ruffled shirt and dark coat
First President of the United States George Washington, one of the Founding Fathers known to have grown hemp prior to prohibition

Cannabis is a plant and, as hemp, a source for fibers, oil, and seed. Prior to its prohibition, U.S. politicians known for growing hemp include some of the nation's Founding Fathers and presidents. Politicians who have admitted to recreational use of the drug during prohibition include mayors, governors, members of the House of Representatives, Senators, vice presidents and presidents.

List of politicians who farmed hemp[edit]

Name Lifetime Highest position Party Ref.
Benjamin Franklin 1706–1790 President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania Independent [1]
Thomas Jefferson 1743–1826 President of the United States Democratic-Republican [2]
James Madison 1751–1836 President of the United States Democratic-Republican [3]
George Washington 1732–1799 President of the United States Independent [2]
Henry Clay 1777–1852 United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Democratic-Republican, National Republican and Whig [4]

  Democratic-Republican   Whig   Democratic   Republican   Independent

During prohibition[edit]

In the U.S., cannabis was initially grown for industrial reasons, though it quickly became a staple medicinal product in the early 19th century and recreational use became more prevalent during the 20th century.[5] Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, responded to political pressure to ban marijuana at a nationwide level. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 created an expensive excise tax, and included penalty provisions and elaborate rules of enforcement to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers, were subject. Mandatory sentencing and increased punishment were enacted when the United States Congress passed the Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956.[6]

During the counterculture of the 1960s, attitudes towards marijuana and drug abuse policy changed as marijuana use among "white middle-class college students" became widespread.[7] In Leary v. United States (1969), the Supreme Court held the Marihuana Tax Act to be unconstitutional since it violated the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, privilege against self-incrimination. In response, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which repealed the Marihuana Tax Act.[8] In 1972, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse concluded that marijuana should be decriminalized, but that public use and driving while intoxicated should remain illegal. By the end of the decade, several states had decriminalized the drug, while many others weakened their laws against cannabis use.

However, a wave of conservatism during the 1980s allowed president Ronald Reagan to accelerate the War on Drugs during his presidency, prompting anti-drug campaigns such as the "Just Say No" campaign of First Lady Nancy Reagan. Federal penalties for cultivation, possession, or transfer of marijuana were increased by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act (1984), the Anti-Drug Abuse Act (1986), and the Anti-Drug Abuse Amendment Act (1988).[9] Since California voters passed the Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical cannabis, several states have followed suit. However, United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (2001) rejected the common-law medical necessity defense to crimes enacted under the Controlled Substances Act because Congress concluded that cannabis has "no currently accepted medical use" and Gonzales v. Raich (2005) concluded that the Commerce Clause of the Article I of the Constitution allowed the federal government to ban the use of cannabis, including medical use. Today, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, and possession is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction.[10]

Use by politicians during prohibition[edit]

Politicians who have reported using cannabis during prohibition include mayors, governors, members of the House of Representatives and Senate, and U.S. presidents and vice presidents.

Name Lifetime Highest position Party Ref.
Rob Astorino b. 1967 Westchester County Executive Republican [11]
Bruce Babbitt b. 1938 Governor of Arizona, Secretary of the Interior Democratic [12]
Michael Bloomberg b. 1942 Mayor of New York City Democratic [13]
Bill Bradley b. 1943 Senator from New Jersey Democratic [14]
George W. Bush b. 1946 President of the United States Republican [15]
Jeb Bush b. 1953 Governor of Florida Republican [16]
Pete Buttigieg b. 1982 United States Secretary of Transportation Democratic [17]
Paul Cellucci 1948–2013 Governor of Massachusetts Republican [18]
Lincoln Chafee b. 1953 Senator from Rhode Island, Governor of Rhode Island Libertarian [19]
Lawton Chiles 1930–1998 Senator from Florida, Governor of Florida Democratic [20]
Bill Clinton b. 1946 President of the United States Democratic [21]
Steve Cohen b. 1949 Representative from Tennessee Democratic [22]
Jack Conway b. 1969 Attorney General of Kentucky Democratic [23]
Ted Cruz b. 1970 Senator from Texas Republican [24]
Andrew Cuomo b. 1957 Governor of New York Democratic [25]
Bill de Blasio b. 1961 Mayor of New York City Democratic [26]
Howard Dean b. 1948 Governor of Vermont, Chair of the Democratic National Committee Democratic [27]
Joseph DeNucci b. 1939 Auditor of Massachusetts Democratic [18]
Mary Donohue b. 1947 Lieutenant Governor of New York Republican [28]
Shaun Donovan b. 1966 United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Democratic [29]
John Edwards b. 1953 Senator from North Carolina Democratic [27]
Newt Gingrich b. 1943 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Republican [12]
Al Gore b. 1948 Vice President of the United States Democratic [30]
Kamala Harris b. 1964 Vice President of the United States Democratic [31]
Maggie Hassan b. 1958 Governor of New Hampshire, Senator from New Hampshire Democratic [32]
Eric Holcomb b. 1968 Governor of Indiana Republican [33]
Gary Johnson b. 1953 Governor of New Mexico Libertarian [34]
Mondaire Jones b. 1987 Representative from New York Democratic [35]
John Kasich b. 1952 Governor of Ohio Republican [36]
Joseph P. Kennedy II b. 1952 Representative from Massachusetts Democratic [18]
John Kerry b. 1943 Secretary of State Democratic [27]
Ed Koch 1924–2013 Mayor of New York City Democratic [37]
Richard Lamm 1935–2021 Governor of Colorado Democratic [38]
Connie Mack III b. 1940 Senator from Florida Republican [20]
Kyle E. McSlarrow b. 1960 Deputy Secretary of Energy Republican [39]
John Miller 1938–2017 Representative from Washington Republican [40]
Susan Molinari b. 1958 Representative from New York Republican [41]
Jim Moran b. 1945 Representative from Virginia Democratic [39]
Seth Moulton b. 1978 Representative from Massachusetts Democratic [42]
Evelyn Murphy b. 1940 Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Democratic [18]
Phil Murphy b. 1957 Governor of New Jersey Democratic [43]
Richard Neal b. 1949 Representative from Massachusetts Democratic [18]
Barack Obama b. 1961 President of the United States Democratic [44]
Sarah Palin b. 1964 Governor of Alaska Republican [45]
George Pataki b. 1945 Governor of New York Republican [25]
David Paterson b. 1954 Governor of New York Democratic [46]
Edward W. Pattison 1932–1990 Representative from New York Democratic [47]
Claiborne Pell 1918–2009 Senator from Rhode Island Democratic [12]
Rob Portman b. 1955 Senator from Ohio, U.S. Trade Representative Republican [48]
J. B. Pritzker b. 1965 Governor of Illinois Democratic [49]
Dana Rohrabacher b. 1947 Representative from California Republican [50]
Bernie Sanders b. 1941 Senator from Vermont Independent[a] [51]
Rick Santorum b. 1958 Senator from Pennsylvania Republican [52]
Arnold Schwarzenegger b. 1947 Governor of California Republican [53]
William Scranton III b. 1947 Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Republican [54]
Scott Stringer b. 1960 New York City Comptroller Democratic [29]
Bill Thompson b. 1953 New York City Comptroller Democratic [55]
Peter G. Torkildsen b. 1958 Representative from Massachusetts Republican [18]
Jesse Ventura b. 1951 Governor of Minnesota Green [56]

  Democratic   Republican   Independent   Libertarian

Use by judges during prohibition[edit]

In the United States, judges and justices are traditionally considered to be of a separate class distinct from politicians.[57][58][59] However, at least two have admitted to cannabis use.

Name Lifetime Highest position Party Ref.
Douglas Ginsburg b. 1946 Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Independent [60]
Clarence Thomas b. 1948 Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Independent [61]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Congressional affiliation


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