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Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp... (Spurious Quotation)

Quotation: "Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see."

Variations: None known.

Sources consulted: (searching on "hemp" and "smoking")

  1. Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition
  2. Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers
  3. Ford Edition
  4. Lipscomb-Bergh Edition (via Google Books)

Status: This statement has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It appears to be of extremely recent vintage (first noticed online in 2008), and only made its way into print sources as of 2013.1

Thomas Jefferson did grow hemp, but there is no evidence to suggest that Jefferson was a habitual smoker of hemp, tobacco, or any other substance. Some have pointed to a supposed reference in Jefferson's farm book to separating male and female hemp plants as evidence that he was cultivating it for purposes of recreational smoking; no such reference exists in Jefferson's farm book or any other document.

George Washington did record the practice of separating hemp in his own diary: "Began to seperate the Male from the Female hemp at Do.&—rather too late."2 Arthur Young, well-known English agricultural writer, explained the separation of hemp as follows: "This may arise from their [the male] hemp being coarser, and the stalks larger."3

- Anna Berkes, 7/23/10

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jeffburris's picture
I'm afraid TJ's Disciple's "THC percentages per dry weight" are as rampantly viral and false as the quote. You see these laughable %'s everywhere but trust me: initiate a credible discourse with an actual lab that measures cannabinoids and you'll see 0.5% THC per dry plant matter would be amazing weed. Police propagate this type of falsehood, alleging "yesteryear's 3% has been bred into 30% THC superweed" -- another falsehood. The closest foljks educated on this matter can guess is these bastardized figures come from misinterpretaions of THC (and other cannabinoids that actually effect you far more when combined) percentages published in relation to %'s within of each the entire cannabinoid resin profile. NSaying 0.5% THC plant matter wouldn't get you high is highly misinformed. It would be spectacular. Plus, prohibition has led to THC having been bred out of sativas and/or ruderalis and this had not ALL happened yet in the days of the founding fathers. Talk of exotic party favors from Asia was very common with these guys, and the main setback to getting high would have been the only part of the plant getting you high being the buds, which could be scarce on pure sativa before selective drug breeding. But on average you could have walked through the founding fathers' fields of hemp in, say, October and found PLENTY of wee, stick buds with plenty of THC in it, even though it would have been like picking occasional popcorn-sized buds every 6 feet at the very conservative least, instead of huge heavy colas everywhere like domesticated drug sativa. Now THAT is scientific fact regarding that time period's hemp if you do enough research and even grow the closest survivor of that pre-prohibition help strain out yourself, which folks do,like adding a wolf back into a domesticated dog bloodline to fuel getic diversity. Everyone above stating you can't get high off hemp is talking about after THC got bred out much later than Jefferson! There were only ever three species in the genus: sativa, ruderalis, and indica! They can ALL get you high just fine before breeding out THC decades later, if you know what part/when to harvest/smoke! They had plenty of sticky buds seeing as how they had so much!
Jeff the Bowyer
geography_king's picture
First of all, hemp IS marijuana. Two words for the same thing. Secondly, the plant can have various strains cultivated for both industrial and recreational use. The same plant. For industrial hemp, plants that produce the most fibers can be separated for clothing. It can also be cultivated for separating out the plants that produce the "high". It is widely known as fact that Native Americans grew and used cannibis for recreational, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes. And since the nation's founders encountered the Native Americans and gained their agricultural knowledge, it seems preposterous to think that they only taught the founders how to cultivate corn and squash. The Jefferson quote in question may very well be (and likely is) untrue, but that doesn't change history. The founders don't mention getting drunk and getting wild in their writings either. Are we to assume that they never did? It is also of note to point out that the official line from the folks in charge of keeping James Buchanan's legacy alive is that he was not gay, when it is widely known by historians that he was in fact gay. Trying to make a Presidential legacy look more "virtuous" by leaving out stuff they think people don't want to hear is sad.
Geography King
WilliamM's picture
This is reply to Anna; you are very welcome. I notice this quote has received some media attention lately. It is easiest to debunk a spurious quote when its origin is known. I trace oral traditions and Revolutionary War stories in an attempt to elucidate their origins, and thus determine their validity. Along these lines, some of Parson Weems' Washington stories originated in oral traditions repeated in an Alexandria tavern. I posted a detailed history of a spurious Benjamin Rush quote in the Yahoo Group "Revlist," a spurious quote which originated during the debate over the Owen Bill to establish a Dept. of Public Health and revitalized during the Obamacare debates. (William Myers, independant historian).
Chris Ducat's picture
I don't think it was even well-known as a smokable plant at the time, at least in America. Real hemp would have been quite harsh to smoke, and would have had a very weak high. I thought this quote was bunk and I'm happy to learn that it, in fact, is.
Chris Ducat
WilliamM's picture
I believe the origin of this quote was a 2007 "stoner" movie entitled "Totally Baked." There is a black screen with the quote and a voiceover 7 minutes into the movie. The quote was facetious and obviously not authentic, but evidently a few people may not have made this distinction. It is reminiscent of the fictional Jefferson execution told in the movie Swordfish.
aberkes's picture
Thanks for the lead! I always like to know how these get started. I originally saw that someone had posted this quote on Facebook, and decided to take the step of compiling a "debunk" page because there seemed to be some folks who thought it was authentic.
Anna Berkes
dmal's picture
wrong! TJ'sDisciple and sandyT and jclass74 You would do well to hear recounts of kids smoking hemp rope during the 1950's in the US. Perhaps the THC count is low, but if you smoke enough hemp, you'll get the benefits of it. Lastly, in Amsterdam, I doubt that civic minded squares will be able to overcome the money influence of the drug-tourist economy. Consider the number of jobs that would be lost. Money always wins. Consider the lethality of tobacco and alcohol. Will they soon be outlawed in the US? No. The tobacco and alcohol companies own half the companies that produce food for your local grocery store. Good, bad, evil, ... money always wins. Will marijuana laws in the US be reversed? See the above paragraph. Alcohol and tobacco will kill you, but nobody in 10,000 years of history, has ever died from the cellular effects of marijuana. That's an incontrovertible fact that even tobacco-funded marijuana research propaganda cannot counter. Cut military spending, and legalize marijuana, in my dreams.
War on a vegetable
jclass's picture
Industrial hemp is but one strain, and like all other plants Jefferson aquired, he had numerous strains of cannabis growing at Monticello. The word "hemp" was used synonymously for what we call cannabis or marijuana today. Jefferson has written records of storing cannabis in his basement with his other foods and vegetables for preservation. To think that this man, genius that he was, understood all of the properties of the cannabis plant, except its medicinal and recreational properties, is a reflection of a by-now ingrained "reefer madness" mindset, which will dissipate with time and further generations.
sandyT's picture
Absolutely no member of the vegetable kingdom has ever been more misunderstood than hemp. It is always associated to marijuana. The truth is the THC levels in industrial hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. Furthermore , hemp contains a relatively high proportion of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. Therefore, it is an "anti-marijuana". In connection with marijuana, a hot issue hit Amsterdam. The city allures over 3.5 million foreign tourists every year, several of whom are attracted to the java shop culture and assurance of being able to easily and lawfully obtain marijuana. But this will soon change, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Dutch authorities plan to stop drug tourism by forcing coffee stores to become private clubs that only sell to Dutch citizens that present proof of identification. I found this here: <a title="Selling pot to visitors soon illegal in The Netherlands" href="">Law bans marijuana sale to foreigners from other countries in Dutch coffee shops,</a>. Oh well! I just hope that the misconception about hemp will be cleared.
TJdisciple's picture
No need in even trying to defend if he was a habitual smoker of it it's a scientific fact While marijuana has a potency range of 3% to 20% by dry weight of THC, industrial hemp is generally defined as having less than 1.0% THC, and the normal range is under 0.5%. These THC levels are so low that no one could get high from smoking it.


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