Correction: In paragraph three of this column, Kevin W. McCarty failed to cite his source for the following information:

“Pierce, Taylor and Jackson, all military men, got high with their troops. Cannabis was twice as popular in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War as it was during Vietnam; Pierce wrote to his family that it was “the only good thing” about that war.”

These sentences come from Hemp: Lifeline to the Future, by Chris Conrad. The Nexus regrets this error.

There is a common myth going around that cannabis makes a person less productive. People are affected by substances in different ways; to say that smoking pot lessens enthusiasm and vigor for life is nonsense.

I think the United States was founded on some pretty cool ideas. The revolutionaries who founded this country were earthmovers who dedicated each day to production on an unprecedented scale. And many of them enjoyed a good toke of weed.

Seven early U.S. Presidents have been identified by creditable sources as having smoked marijuana: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce and Andrew Jackson. Pierce, Taylor and Jackson, all military men, got high with their troops. Cannabis was twice as popular in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War as it was during Vietnam; Pierce wrote to his family that it was “the only good thing” about that war.

Hemp farmer Thomas Jefferson and paper maker Ben Franklin became ambassadors to France during the rise of the country’s hashish craze. Such international celebrities probably had several opportunities to try the drug. Jefferson smuggled Chinese hemp seeds into America, and he reportedly exchanged gifts of smoking blends with Washington. Indeed, our Declaration of Independence was penned by a stoner, and it was written on hemp paper.

Abraham Lincoln, often argued as the greatest American president, once said, “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” And yet television ads will show you melting children to get you to avoid such sweetness like disease.

Even in our times, it is clear that appreciation of cannabis is no inhibitor to success. Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin business empire, has openly professed his moderate use of the drug, and even went so far as to say he would sell it in his record stores if it were ever to become legal to do so.

Captain of industry Henry Ford saw a greater strategic value to the plant: “Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” He made cannabis gasoline to fuel his hemp car, and I think at that point it’s irrelevant whether he smoked or not.

President Obama admitted smoking and inhaling pleasant cannabis vapors, and has made mild concessions to the advancing states’ legalization movements. Bill Clinton blazed, despite his shifty answers, and George Bush, Jr. did cocaine while he was a male cheerleader in his college days, so he must have passed through the “gateway,” right? Our own Governor Schwarzenegger said of cannabis, “That’s not a drug, it’s a leaf.” Technically, it’s a flower, not a leaf, but I like Arnold’s spirit. What a lazy lot of stoners.

Renowned scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan is widely regarded as a genius. Yet Mr. Sagan called cannabis prohibition “outrageous” and praised the plant’s ability to “produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” Albert Einstein, another renowned thinker, astutely observed the significant rise in crime associated with prohibition laws, which he said were “destructive of respect for the government” because the laws cannot be enforced.

My tune resonates marvelously to the choice words of John Adams: “We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.” I enjoy what I deem to be an acceptably safe freedom, and I do not consent to masochists or hypocrites governing the contents of my bloodstream. A person who is inspired to act productively encounters no major obstacle to occasional cannabis consumption… unless they are a math major or something (that can get a little dicey).

There was never a supreme mind in history that took the words of others to be true authority without first considering the issue for themselves. If the great thinkers of the past hadn’t dared to think for themselves, they never would have challenged traditional understandings of the way things work. If these men hadn’t thought outside the box, our modern society would be lacking all sorts of valuable objects and ideas. This pattern suggests that conventional wisdom is always false in some way — and a rational human would do well to accept the reality that the forbidden fruit is the one guaranteed to be tasted.