Happy President’s Day!

And here’s to Early American President’s support of hemp!!!

There’s a rather storied history with Hemp and early American Presidents. What may surprise you is that the British required hemp be grown in several colonies, including many of our own. Hemp has enormous industrial utility. It can be used for making thread, textiles, and rope. Perhaps most importantly to the British of the day, it could also be used for making sails for the British Navy and Mercantile fleets.

This same utility led George Washington to grow hemp at his Mount Vernon estate. He did this before and after the US gained independence from Britain. He compared it to “king tobacco” and several food crops as his primary cash crop. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both also farmed hemp during our founding period (as did Benjamin Franklin). Washington refers to hemp 90 times in his diaries. In the 1760s, when the price of tobacco plummeted, he considered diversifying his farm and looked into hemp growing. While he ultimately decided to focus on wheat, he did grow hemp for domestic use.

There is no evidence that the Founding Fathers ever smoked hemp or used it for medicinal purposes (remember it wasn’t until the late 1830’s when William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician and pharmacologist working with the East India Company began his ground breaking research). O'Shaughnessy stands out on account of what was, arguably, his most significant contribution to medicine: the claim that cannabis could be used as a medicinal drug. As an intoxicant, cannabis was fairly common in India as O'Shaughnessy noted, but he demonstrated its potential use in a medical context, particularly as an anesthetic. The papers on his experiments with the plant were published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in late 1839 — and were also read in front of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta in October of that year.

But all of that aside, it’s still fascinating that there is a long, historical connection with American Presidents and Hemp. And as hemp begins its very significant comeback in America, I’m sure, on a day like this, our early presidents are smiling.

with all our best,

Tom