Fact or Fiction: Was JFK a Stoner?

On the 59th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, readers want to know if the 35th president of the United States ever used marijuana.

Consider the timeframe: JFK was elected in 1960 and served until that awful day in Dallas in 1963. Marijuana had yet to catch on in a big way. Jazz musicians and beatniks were its biggest users from the '30s to the '50s. By the '60s, only the coolest cats smoked pot. That doesn't mean Kennedy wasn't cool. He was just 43 when he became president. So it's possible.

The main story that confirms this involves Mary Pinchot Meyer whom Kennedy allegedly had an affair with right in the White House, which had been reported by the National Inquirer in 1976 and repeated in Peter Collier and David Horowitz's 1984 book The Kennedys: An American Drama.

JFK and Mary Meyer at right, Jackie Kennedy and unidentified man at left (image via Chris Rice)

Meyer reportedly smoked marijuana with JFK in a White House bedroom and "joked with him about being high when it was time to push the nuclear button." Newsweek and New Times also confirmed this.

An associate of Meyer, former Washington Post reporter James Truitt, subsequently told the authors:

"On one occasion after JFK and Meyer had smoked marijuana, President Kennedy remarked that its effect was different from that of cocaine, which he had apparently tried and which he offered to bring to a future tryst. They smoked three of the joints before he (JFK) told her: ‘No more. Suppose the Russians did something now.'”

According to Truitt, on Apr. 16, 1962, Meyer "offered marijuana cigarettes to Kennedy." Their affair lasted from early 1962 to Kennedy's death on Nov. 22, 1963. A painter and writer from New York, Meyer met Kennedy through his brother Robert. Her husband Cord Meyer worked for the CIA and they lived in Washington, DC. After the Meyers divorced, she became involved with Kennedy. They would see each other when Jackie was away. 

Meyer had a wide circle of friends that included Timothy Leary. “Mary’s visits to Timothy Leary during the time she was also Kennedy’s lover suggest that Kennedy knew more about hallucinogenic drugs than the CIA might have been telling him," says author NIna Burleigh. "No one has ever confirmed that Kennedy tried LSD with Mary. But the timing of her visits to Timothy Leary do coincide with her known private meetings with the president.”

Burleigh's 1998 book, A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Mary Meyer, explores Meyer's mysterious death at age 43 on Oct. 12, 1964.

Though JFK had a number of health issues, the conjecture that he also used marijuana for medicinal purposes is unproven.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.