Article by Gooey Rabinski
Urban legends of all stripes have gained renewed vigor in recent years. Fueled by pervasive social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, we’re surrounded by a vague pseudoscientific moat of sometimes cray cray stories thinly disguised as facts.
The urban legend du jour in the cannabis industry is the belief that America’s founding fathers grew and consumed cannabis (more commonly known as marijuana or pot in many areas of North America). Most manifestations of this legend embrace the consumption avenue of smoking.
Here’s how this trendy urban legend recently manifested itself on LinkedIn:
“Did you know? George Washington grew pot. Washington wrote in letters on more than one occasion that he grew marijuana. Many today suspect he smoked weed.” — Ellis Smith
Vernacular is a Bitch
“Grew pot” is one of those tainted phrases that begs the reader to exit a realistic thinking process and associate definitions and frameworks borrowed from modern life that simply did not exist in the time of Washington or Thomas Jefferson.
This is one of those issues that is defined within shades of grey, not ignorant bantering or flag waving fantasy. A simple binary “yes” or “no” doesn’t suffice the depth of the science or the reality of the situation more than 250 years ago. That’s a quarter millennium back in time in the Wayback Machine, peeps.
I know, the notion that someone like Franklin or Jefferson smoked hand rolled joints or hit a primitive wooden pipe full of the kind herb is quaintly delicious. It’s also an innocent form of misguided countercultural patriotism. We all want to reboot the originals at some point to match the values of contemporary society or our own self image.
In the case of the cannabis culture, this impulse is manifested when we begin to add a Cheech & Chong 1970s veneer to the relatively prudish workaholism that infused the culture of the founders of the United States in the mid-18th century.
But could it actually be true? Could revolutionary OGs like Washington and Jefferson really have sparked up joints of cannabis after a hard day of managing their slaves and hanging out in libraries and pubs?
Washington experimented with growing hemp (not to be confused with cannabis) in the course of his farming business. He even considered replacing his profitable tobacco cultivation business with hemp and wanted to make Great Britain one of his best customers. Unfortunately, Washington was never successful. The British market rejected his hemp for a variety of reasons, one of which was purportedly low quality (this obviously could have been a political response).
Digging Deeper: Hemp vs. Cannabis
Let’s dig deeper into the difference between hemp and cannabis to get more insight into this charged and largely misunderstood topic. Allow this article to drop some science on you:
“The international definition of hemp as opposed to marijuana was developed by a Canadian researcher in 1971. That was the year that Canadian scientist Ernest Small published a little-known but very influential book called The Species Problem in Cannabis.
“Small acknowledged there was not any natural point at which the cannabinoid content could be used to distinguish strains of hemp and marijuana, but despite this he ‘drew an arbitrary line on the continuum of cannabis types, and decided that 0.3 percent THC in a sifted batch of cannabis flowers was the difference between hemp and marijuana.”