Even with three and a half more years left to go until the next presidential election, cannabis remains on the top priorities for American voters. The US has a not-so-friendly relationship with cannabis, as seen in the fact that it has not yet been federally legalized. Reports claim federal legalization is a matter of when versus if at this point…but none of us are holding our breaths. Here’s a closer look at which US Presidents supported cannabis (and which ones even partook in the plant).
Where Do US Presidents Stand on Cannabis?
We’ll start with current president Joe Biden—the 46th president of the United States. In November 2021, the Biden administration stated they will pursue cannabis decriminalization and seek expungements for people with prior cannabis convictions. Notably, Biden made it clear that he will leave legalization decisions at the state level, meaning respective lawmakers have the final say in whether or not a state will allow recreational cannabis use.
Like many Republicans, Donald Trump frowned upon federal legalization and progressive cannabis laws altogether. Even though his administration initially said they’d leave legalization up to the states, they subsequently upheld the federal prohibition of cannabis. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Trump’s 2021 fiscal budget proposal included removing protections for state medical marijuana laws.
Out of all the modern-day US Presidents, Barack Obama might have been the most pro-cannabis. Obama called for re-thinking the federal government’s stance on marijuana and said that the drug should be treated as a “public health” issue, in an interview with The Rolling Stone. The fact that you can receive a “20-year prison sentence” for cannabis was unacceptable in his eyes. That being said, cannabis remained a Schedule 1 drug during Obama’s presidency.
Fun fact: Obama actually admitted to smoking cannabis during his 2008 run. “When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” In his autobiography, he also wrote that he experimented with cocaine while living in Hawaii.
George W. Bush
The later we get in the list of US Presidents, the less urgency we see in cannabis-related topics. It wasn’t nearly as much of a “hot topic” or pressing issue during Bush’s era, possibly because of the 9/11 tragedy. On paper, however, Bush believed, like most presidents, that cannabis legalization should be left up to the states. “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose.”
And wouldn’t you know it, Bush also came clean about his drug use in his younger years. He partook in cocaine and cannabis, though hesitated for years to answer any questions about it. “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”
At the time of Clinton’s presidency, cannabis was very much marketed as a harmful and dangerous drug. The public was convinced that cannabis was “the Devil’s lettuce,” and, therefore, wasn’t much push for legalization. People were generally content with cannabis remaining illegal. That said, Clinton is one of 11 US Presidents who admitted to smoking cannabis. “When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.”
Other US Presidents Who’ve Admitted to Cannabis Use
- George H.W Bush
- Ronald Reagen
- Jimmy Carter
- Richard Nixon
- John F. Kennedy
- Abraham Lincoln
- Franklin Pierce
- Thomas Jefferson