Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants with species that have long been used for fiber (hemp), for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber and minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive molecule that produces the "high" associated with marijuana. For more than half of the history of the United States cannabis was used primarily for industrial purposes, and at times was even required by law to be grown out of "strategic necessity". Domestic production continued until after the Civil War, while marijuana remained a common ingredient in medicines up to the 20th century. Following immigration caused by the Mexican Revolution, recreational use of marijuana became widespread, resulting in political pressure to enact a federal ban of cannabis. While the attitude of the general public towards marijuana has changed throughout the history of the nation, 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.
Prior to prohibition, U.S. politicians known for growing cannabis include some of the nation's Founding Fathers and Presidents. Politicians that have admitted to recreational use following prohibition include mayors, Governors, members of the House of Representatives, Senators, and Presidents.
First cultivated more than 5,000 years ago, marijuana is one of the oldest agricultural commodities not grown for food, as its stalks contain fibers that can be used for industrial purposes. The psychoactive effects of cannabis were first recorded by the Emperor of China Shennong in the 28th century BC. The first American law concerning cannabis was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1619, which required every household to grow hemp since it was viewed as a "strategic necessity". Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other colonies later allowed hemp to be used as legal tender, increasing production by farmers. Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew hemp, though there is no evidence that they knew of the plant's psychoactive properties.
Domestic production of hemp continued until the Civil War, when Russia began importing hemp products. Hinting at recreational use of cannabis, Abraham Lincoln admitted in a letter written during his presidency that one of his "favorite things" was "sitting on [his] front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp". Marijuana became a common ingredient in medicine during the second half of the 19th century, sold openly in pharmacies as cures for migraines, rheumatism and insomnia. It was not until the Mexican Revolution, when waves of Mexican immigrants reached the American Southwest, that marijuana was viewed in a negative manner. Prejudices towards the immigrants were extended to their "traditional source of intoxication: smoking marijuana." Once marijuana reached New Orleans, newspapers associated the drug with "African Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and under world whites." El Paso enacted a local ordinance banning the sale or possession of marijuana in 1914, and by 1931 the drug was illegal in 29 U.S. states.
|Benjamin Franklin||1706–1790||President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania||Independent|||
|Andrew Jackson||1767–1845||President of the United States||Democratic|||
|Thomas Jefferson||1743–1826||President of the United States||Democratic-Republican|||
|Abraham Lincoln||1809–1865||President of the United States||Republican[I]|||
|James Madison||1751–1836||President of the United States||Democratic-Republican|||
|James Monroe||1758–1831||President of the United States||Democratic-Republican|||
|Franklin Pierce||1804–1869||President of the United States||Democratic|||
|Zachary Taylor||1784–1850||President of the United States||Whig|||
|George Washington||1732–1799||President of the United States||Independent|||
In the U.S., cannabis was initially grown for industrial reasons, though recreational use spread quickly during the 20th century. 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.
During the counterculture of the 1960s, attitudes towards marijuana and drug abuse policy changed as use became widespread among "white middle-class college students". 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. 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). 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 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.
Politicians that have admitted to recreational use following prohibition include mayors, Governors, members of the House of Representatives, Senators, and Presidents.
|Bruce Babbitt||b. 1938||Secretary of the Interior||Democratic|||
|Michael Bloomberg||b. 1942||Mayor of New York City||Independent|||
|Bill Bradley||b. 1943||Senator from New Jersey||Democratic|||
|Paul Cellucci||b. 1948||Governor of Massachusetts||Republican|||
|Lincoln Chafee||b. 1953||Senator from Rhode Island||Republican|||
|Lawton Chiles||1930–1998||Senator from Florida||Democratic|||
|Bill Clinton||b. 1946||President of the United States||Democratic|||
|Steve Cohen||b. 1949||Member of the House of Representatives||Democratic|||
|Andrew Cuomo||b. 1957||New York State Attorney General||Democratic|||
|Howard Dean||b. 1948||Chairman of the Democratic National Committee||Democratic|||
|Joseph DeNucci||b. 1939||Massachusetts Auditor||Democratic|||
|Mary Donohue||b. ?||Lieutenant Governor of New York||Republican|||
|John Edwards||b. 1953||Senator from North Carolina||Democratic|||
|Newt Gingrich||b. 1943||Speaker of the House of Representatives||Republican|||
|Al Gore||b. 1948||Vice President of the United States||Democratic|||
|Gary E. Johnson||b. 1953||Governor of New Mexico||Republican|||
|Joseph Patrick Kennedy II||b. 1952||Member of the House of Representatives||Democratic|||
|John Kerry||b. 1943||Senator from Massachusetts||Democratic|||
|Ed Koch||b. 1924||Member of the House of Representatives||Democratic|||
|Connie Mack III||b. 1940||Senator from Florida||Republican|||
|Kyle E. McSlarrow||b. 1960||Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy||Republican|||
|John Miller||b. 1938||Member of the House of Representatives||Republican|||
|Susan Molinari||b. 1958||Member of the House of Representatives||Republican|||
|Jim Moran||b. 1945||Member of the House of Representatives||Democratic|||
|Evelyn Murphy||b. 1940||Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts||Democratic|||
|Richard Neal||b. 1949||Member of the House of Representatives||Democratic|||
|Barack Obama||b. 1961||President of the United States||Democratic|||
|Sarah Palin||b. 1964||Governor of Alaska||Republican|||
|George Pataki||b. 1945||Governor of New York||Republican|||
|David Paterson||b. 1954||Governor of New York||Democratic|||
|Edward W. Pattison||1932–1990||Member of the House of Representatives||Democratic|||
|Claiborne Pell||1918–2009||Senator from Rhode Island||Democratic|||
|Arnold Schwarzenegger||b. 1947||Governor of California||Republican|||
|William Scranton||b. 1917||Ambassador to the United Nations||Republican|||
|Bill Thompson||b. 1953||New York City Comptroller||Democratic|||
|Peter G. Torkildsen||b. 1958||Member of the House of Representatives||Republican|||
|Jesse Ventura||b. 1951||Governor of Minnesota||Independent|||