American Politicians and Cannabis Use

In our recent “Cannabis and Creativity” blog post, we ran through a list of writers, artists, and business figures who have used cannabis for inspiration.  Today, we’ll take a look at prominent American politicians and their history with cannabis.  In the past, many political officeholders were vague and coy about their past when asked whether or not they had used cannabis.  But as progress towards decriminalization and legalization moves forward, political figures have become more direct and honest about cannabis use, and have shown more willingness to consider future alternatives to prohibition.

History professor Michael O’Brien alleged in his biography of President John F. Kennedy that the President smoked cannabis on at least once in the company his mistress, Mary Meyer.  It appears that Kennedy may have calmly discussed elements of relations with the Soviet Union on this occasion.

“The president smoked three of the six joints Mary brought to him. At first he felt no effects. Then he closed his eyes and refused a fourth joint.

‘Suppose the Russians did something now,’ he said.”

Whether or not Kennedy used cannabis more frequently as a means of alleviating the stress of his numerous health issues is unclear.

Decades later, former President Bill Clinton would admit to using cannabis as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in the late 1960’s.  

“When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn’t like it.”

However, his admission came with a bizarre cop-out, which would forever make his claim a target for political satirists.

“I didn’t inhale, and I didn’t try it again.”

We’ll never know for sure if Clinton’s alibi was sincere, or a thinly-veiled excuse to keep his public image as unblemished as possible. Current President Barack Obama has been more blunt about his experiences, and took a slight dig at Clinton’s statement with his own admission.

“When I was a kid, I inhaled.  That was the point.”

It’s unclear whether Jill Stein, the foremost candidate for the Green Party’s presidential nomination, has ever used cannabis before, but her comments regarding cannabis use in general reflect a stance geared towards legalization and regulation.  In her own words,  “Marijuana is a drug that is dangerous because it’s illegal. It isn’t illegal because it’s dangerous.”

Meanwhile, Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson has been briefly honest about his past use of Nevada medical cannabis dispensary, and his political opinions on the matter of cannabis (favoring legalization) are very much in line with that experience.

“I don’t smoke pot today. I don’t drink alcohol. But I’ve done both of them and I can speak with authority over the fact that there’s a big difference between marijuana and alcohol. And the difference is that medical marijuana is a lot safer.”

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has been outspoken in his belief in the merits of cannabis legalization, and he has admitted to very limited cannabis use in the past, although he says he did not enjoy it,

“Because I coughed a lot. I smoked marijuana twice, didn’t quite work for me. It’s not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people.”

It seems as though his past experience caused him to “Feel the Bern” in his throat more than he cared for. (Sorry, we couldn’t help it!)

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has stated interest in moving cannabis off of Schedule I of the DEA’s list of controlled substances, down to Schedule II, but she believes that full legalization power should rest with individual states.  Despite her liberal activism in the late 1960’s, she firmly states that she has never used cannabis.

“I didn’t do it when I was young, I’m not going to start now.”

While Clinton denies having ever used cannabis, Republican party nominee Donald Trump takes the same stance a few steps further, claiming that he’s always tried to keep his body clear of any and all mind-altering substances.  

“I’ve never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol. Never had a cigarette, never had a cup of coffee.”

Lastly, Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, very recently made his recent experience with medical cannabis public, after turning to a topical cannabis product in order to deal with his chronic back pain.

“I tried it two weeks ago, and it’s the first time in a year and a half that I had a decent night’s sleep because the arthritis pain was gone.”

Rohrabacher has been one of the more visible members of Congress proposing relaxation of drug policies in recent years, and he clearly knows firsthand the benefits of such actions.

Obviously, there is much, much more to consider in politicians before forming opinions than what we’ve just presented, and candidates’ histories should always be well-researched before filling in a ballot.  But as always, we’re happy to provide information that relates to the cannabis community, and to give patients a look at the social factors that both advance and hinder the progress of medical cannabis.


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