The White House, the emblem of American leadership and a symbol of the nation’s resilience has borne witness to numerous historical events since its inception. However, its storied walls have also served as the backdrop for some less publicized episodes – including instances of drug use that range from the medicinal to the decidedly recreational.
One of the earliest reported incidents of drug use in the White House harks back to a day seared into American history: December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces launched their infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Historical records reveal that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, known to suffer from a chronic sinus infection, sought relief from his symptoms on that very evening with the aid of Dr. Ross McIntyre, a leading ear, nose, and throat specialist of the time.
According to Steve Gillon, history professor and author of “Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War,” it’s possible that the president’s treatment may have included a small dose of diluted cocaine solution, a common remedy for sinus infections in the 1930s and 40s. Of course, the social and medical norms of the time wouldn’t have blinked at such a prescription, though in our modern age, it does sound quite shocking.
However, not all drug-related escapades within the White House’s stately confines were for medicinal purposes. Country singer Willie Nelson made headlines when he admitted to sharing a marijuana joint on the roof with President Jimmy Carter’s son, James Earl “Chip” Carter III, in 1980. Talk about being high in high places!
In another incident, Gary McClain, the point guard for the 1985 NCAA men’s basketball national champion Villanova Wildcats, confessed to being “wired” on cocaine during the team’s celebratory visit to the White House.
Yet, as in any walk of life, some tales need to be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, British teen actor Erkan Mustafa once boasted about smoking pot at the White House, a claim he later retracted. Similarly, rapper Snoop Dogg’s anecdote of smoking weed in the White House bathroom is a tad dubious, given he appeared quite high when sharing his story.
The White House, it seems, is not merely a monument to the gravitas of American governance but also a witness to the nation’s eccentricities. From receiving a 1,230-pound “Mammoth Cheese” as a gift in the early 1800s to hosting the ghostly apparitions of Abraham Lincoln (if British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands are to be believed), the venerable building has seen it all.
So, while we certainly don’t condone drug use, it’s worth noting that these stories serve as a stark reminder of the very human flaws that exist even in the halls of power. And if history teaches us anything, it’s that human nature remains constant, regardless of the stature of the institution or the individuals within it. Now, isn’t that a sobering thought?