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Would the Founding Fathers Be Pro Cannabis Legalization?

founding fathers cannabis
Written by Joseph Mcqueen
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America, land of the free and the home of the brave. A country that was founded through revolution and one which prides itself on its progressive approach to liberty so much so that it is one of the leading countries when it comes to the legalization of cannabis (though only in some states). Even at the founding of the United States in 1776, the country had a strong sense of freedom and respected the rights of its citizens to express these freedoms.

So how would the founding fathers, who fought to create the USA, feel about the way cannabis is still illegal in some of the US states? Would they be pro the legalization of cannabis, or is it something they might feel strongly against owing to any traditionalist values. It isn’t hard to search the internet and find supposed quotes from George Washington such as: “Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.” But these quotes are often misattributed and false. In this article, I will talk through some of the actual evidence that the founding fathers themselves were supporters of the growing of Cannabis plants, using the bill of rights and a historical perspective to speculate how they might have felt about the changing laws on the drug. 

Cannabis has an incredible history in the United States and continues to be exciting and controversial to this day. Whether the founding fathers would support legalization or not, that’s up for debate, but definitely interesting to think about. In the meantime, make sure to check out our newsletter, The Delta 8 Weekly, where you can find more articles like this one and exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and many other products.


Who are the Founding Fathers?

Before delving into their potential views on the legalization of Cannabis, let’s have a little history lesson first. The founding fathers were a group of revolutionaries who were pivotal in the establishment of the United States of America, fighting against the United Kingdom and uniting the states and their settlers in the revolutionary war. The founding fathers is a term that often denotes the seven key members who were involved in the establishment of the states: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

Though the term has applied to other key players in the history of the US, it will be these seven that we will talk about. Each member committed so much to their country and the group includes four of the first presidents. They fought for freedom, so what would they think of Cannabis and what would their attitude be towards its legalisation? It’s easy to imagine that they would be keen for people to keep their own privacy (we will investigate what the Bill of rights has to say on this) and would encourage citizens to exercise their liberties, but would they even know what Cannabis was?

History of Cannabis in America

Amazingly, the United States of America was almost founded on an empire of Hemp. Hemp is in the same species of plant as the Cannabis used recreationally today, but has a lower level of THC, the psychoactive chemical in Cannabis associated with the feelings of being high, but it actually may have higher levels of CBD a cannabinoid associated with pain relief and feelings of calm. Hemp was being cultivated by Native Americans even before the arrival of Columbus and any European settlers as the US had fertile ground for the crop.

Then, even when the first settlements were established, such as Jamestown in 1619, a law was passed to make the growth of Hemp mandatory for all farmers, as King James aimed to increase the productivity of the colony. From this point on, hemp and its production was seen as vital to the productivity of the United States. Each of the founding fathers knew how important the crop was and it was only in the 20th century that hemp became illegal as it was lumped in with Marijuana in the slowly forming war on drugs. This happened a hundred years after the founding fathers had even set up the United States, it feels like a matter that they would have avoided and probably not have even been interested in.

The founding fathers were key in advocating the growth of the crop and knew the many different uses of the plant including for the construction of fibers and materials as well as the medical uses. Even from a simple exploration of the history of Cannabis plants and even of the history of criminalization we can safely assume that the founding fathers would have laughed at the idea of making it illegal.

George Washington and Hemp

George Washington is one of the most well known of the founding fathers, becoming the first president of the United States, but what might be less well known about the man is his strong connection to the Cannabis plant, in particular in its Hemp form. Washington was very keen on using Hemp as a key crop as he believed it would make even more money than tobacco. He even wrote a letter addressed to … stating how important he thought the crop was: “on my farming plantation(s), I want you to make the most of hemp and plant it everywhere on my farmlands that haven’t been previously reserved for other things”.

After this, he even dedicated part of his farmland in Mount Vernon, Virginia to Hemp growth. A man this dedicated to the plant would have most likely been dedicated to all forms of it. He will have known of its benefits, both for the economy but also medically and perhaps recreationally. Again a suggestion that the founding fathers would have been pretty pro legalization. But what is the current state of cannabis law and how can we use evidence from the bill of rights to offer more light on what the founding fathers could have thought.

What are the Current State Laws on Legalization?

At current, in 2022, the recreational use of cannabis and cannabis based products is completely legal in specific states. However, in the rest of the states this isn’t the case. Whilst some have decriminalized Cannabis, others still view it as a totally illegal drug which is classified as a Schedule I drug and can be prosecuted. In Arkansas being caught with cannabis twice can lead to a $10,000 fine and up to 6 years in prison. Would the founding fathers have agreed with this, it’s hard to tell but I believe based on their views of freedom and individual liberties, they may have found this a hard sentence to get behind.

Of course these laws are changing and many states are beginning to realize that Cannabis, CBD and THC products are far from harmful and in many cases extremely useful. As mentioned when we discussed the history of Cannabis in the US, its clear to see that the criminalization of Cannabis was very much ‘of a time’. A plant that had been legal for so long and in fact integral to the country suddenly became illegal when it could be used for political gains. Times are changing again, and it’s not absurd to suggest that we are merely returning to the attitudes on cannabis that the founding fathers held hundreds of years ago.

The Bill of Rights

Evidence that the Founding Fathers could have been pro legalization could be found when we examine some of the amendments in the bill of rights. These amendments were made to protect the freedoms of the American citizens and still do. The fourth amendment may be our starting point. The fourth amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”. It’s hard not to see the words “searches” and “seizures” and not think about the possession of drugs. If this amendment doesn’t show that those who wrote it were keen for the protection of privacy of objects which may include drugs, it at least shows us that they were not ones for meddling in others business. 

Another amendment that may offer us insight into the attitudes of the Founding Fathers towards drugs is the 10th: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. The legalization of Cannabis is a power that can be decided at a state level and clearly has been with many states choosing to legalize it. At a federal level, Cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug, but with this divide between state and federal opinions, it’s clear that a change will come. This Amendment still clearly shows us that the Founding Fathers are of the opinion that if it isn’t a government issue, the federal government shouldn’t get involved and it should be left to the state to decide. This has led to the 10th amendment being frequently used in state battles to legalize cannabis. 

Conclusion

Cannabis and America have a long history. The country was founded with the profitability of Hemp clearly in view. The Founding Fathers were pro the crop, they were pro liberties that the government couldn’t intervene with, they were pro the privacy that each of the countries citizens were owed, it is exceptionally easy to accept that they were probably pro the legalization of Cannabis across the entire country. Attitudes to drugs change and the conservatism of the 20th century is beginning to melt into a new shape with the attitude to drugs completely changing. The benefits of Cannabis are being talked about more, CBD, THC and all of the cannabinoids are being studied. The founding fathers would have seen this as an optimistic step towards a freer, healthier country.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.

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