Thomas Jefferson, architect of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, also happened to own a massive hemp plantation. Most people know about the Founding Fathers’ cultivation of cannabis for hemp. But what about flowering, THC-rich strains of cannabis? Did Thomas Jefferson grow weed?
Did Thomas Jefferson Grow Weed?
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the federal prohibition on cannabis, which became illegal back in 1937. And while laws banning weed continue to fall around the country, it seems the federal ban won’t be changing anytime soon.
But if the federal government ever does legalize cannabis, it’ll mark a return to a way of life the Founding Fathers knew well.
Most people know that hemp was cash crop in early America, grown by Presidents from Washington to Jefferson. But if they grew hemp, did they grow weed? More specifically, did Thomas Jefferson grow weed?
Examining The Evidence
Answering this question is a bit tricky, and involves consulting the historical record.
We know that Jefferson didn’t just grow a small patch of hemp for personal use. To the contrary, Jefferson was an industrial hemp cultivator. He ordered hundreds of slaves to grow and harvest acres of cannabis on his plantation, Monticello.
And Jefferson was an innovator in producing massive yields. In his diaries and journals, Jefferson wrote quite a lot about the best ways to cultivate hemp. He even invented a tool to improve hemp harvesting.
And according to Huffington Post, Jefferson was a vocal advocate of the importance of growing hemp. Indeed, he believed it was a fundamental component of national security for the young republic.
According to records, Jefferson said that “hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.” And this was no hyperbole. Crucial to the manufacture of rope, sails, and textiles, hemp was an essential crop used in all kinds of important commodities.
So He Grew Hemp, But Did Thomas Jefferson Grow Weed?
It’s tough to say for sure. By definition, hemp comes from a variety of cannabis sativa with extremely low levels of THC. In other words, hemp isn’t psychoactive, and smoking it won’t get you high.
However, hemp can be rich in another prominent cannabinoid called cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD won’t get you stoned, but studies show it does offer a variety of medicinal and therapeutic effects.
So it’s totally possible Jefferson smoked some of the hemp leaves he grew. But it’s not likely.
Some people point to the fact that George Washington, also a hemp cultivator, wrote about separating male and female plants. Folks eager to say that the first President got ripped point to that as evidence that he knew how to grow weed.
Jefferson never wrote about separating male from female plants, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t familiar with the practice.
Unfortunately, the point is moot. With flowering strains of cannabis bred and grown for psychoactivity, you want to separate male from female because only the female plants will produce giant buds.
But with hemp, both male and female plants lack THC. Their differences relate to their thickness and coarseness, making male plants better for some things and female plants better for others.
Any industrial hemp cultivator worth their salt would know about these difference and take care to keep them separated for harvest.
The Final Hit: Did Thomas Jefferson Grow Weed?
If Thomas Jefferson did grow weed, he didn’t do so on purpose, and he probably never smoked it. Jefferson wasn’t a man to smoke his own stash. In fact, there isn’t much evidence to suggest he even enjoyed smoking tobacco. Therefore it seems safe to say that Thomas Jefferson never grew weed for that purpose. But he did grow hemp, or more accurately, his slaves did, and a lot of it.