Marijuana and myth have long gone hand-in-hand.
Some of the rumors one hears about cannabis are simply the nature of shifting stories shared over time. The origins of 4/20, for instance, have, over the years, been attributed to everything from the police code for a cannabis arrest to the number of “chemicals” found in weed. The actual answer is that a group of Northern California high schoolers coined the lingo in the 1970s, but to this day, some still firmly swear by alternate explanations.
In other cases, the myth is intentionally inflicted into the public consciousness for nefarious purposes.
Depending on how one chooses to define the term, it can be argued that the United States underwrote a dangerous myth by classifying cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance despite having valid knowledge, at the time, that marijuana had genuine medical properties. That decision, solidified with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1971, has given generations of Americans a reason to question cannabis from the get-go.
While it will likely take an act of Congress to fix that falsehood, not all myths in the cannabis sphere come with such heavy baggage.
In fact, a vast swath of weed legend concerns iconic smoke-outs shared between famous friends. One of the most popular examples centers on Bob Dylan and the Beatles. In a 2014 story published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the fateful meeting, the Guardian recapped what supposedly transpired between two of the biggest forces in modern music.
“On Friday 28 August 1964,” Andrew Harrison writes, “in a room in the Delmonico hotel at Park Avenue and 59th in New York City — at a rendezvous brokered with a keen eye to a story by journalist, mutual friend and assiduous self-publicist Al Aronowitz — the Beatles encountered Bob Dylan for the first time. Here the folk-singing scarecrow-prophet introduced the excitable Scousers to marijuana for (allegedly) the first time.”
Just as the details for that gathering of musical juggernauts remain somewhat under debate, so too have questions persisted about the night Willie Nelson allegedly smoked a joint on the roof of the White House with a co-conspirator. Now known as a leader of the cannabis activist movement as well as a major player in the industry, it was stories like this that helped make the “On the Road Again” rocker synonymous with weed.
The country legend first put the story into the public sphere in his 1988 biography, in which he wrote of “sitting on the roof of the White House in Washington, DC, late at night with a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other.”
The passage is purposefully vague in describing Nelson’s White House companion, leading to decades of speculation as to who his company was the night he burned one above the Oval Office. Only recently has it come to light that Nelson’s partner in crime that night was none other than Carter’s son, Chip Carter.
Now, in a trailer for an upcoming documentary on President Carter that focuses on his ties to the musical community, a clip of him discussing the story in question has all but solidified this myth into fact.
As first reported by CelebStoner, a trailer released last week for “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President,” includes the former president addressing the topic and confirming it did happen.
“When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot in the White House and he says that his companion was one of the servants of the White House,” Carter says. “It actually was one of my sons.”
Of all the myths to actually be true, it’s incredible that the one that involves an outlaw country legend getting stoned on the roof of the White House is not just a bunch of smoke. If nothing else, the revelation once again reaffirms that truth remains stranger — and in this case, far more delightful — than fiction.
“Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President” is currently slated to begin a limited theatrical showing on September 9, followed by a physical release in October. The program will also air on CNN on January 3, 2021.