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A brief history of illicit drug use at the White House


Snoop Dogg at the Orange Warsaw Festival in Poland in June.(Leszek Szymanski/EPA)

Earlier this week, Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion aka Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog) said that he smoked weed last year in a White House bathroom. As it turns out, this grants him membership to an elite club of White House visitors who have, by their accounts, managed to use illicit drugs there.

Below is a short history of those who say they joined a different sort of mile-high club during their White House visits. And since none of these claims are verified anyway (Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan has not responded to a request for comment about Snoop's story), we've thrown in some of the most persistent rumors of drug use by the White House's most famous residents.

Willie Nelson: Smoked a joint on the White House roof?

Nelson says he rolled and smoked a joint at the White House during the Carter administration. When asked in an interview whether he was afraid of getting caught, the country outlaw shrugged and said: "I should have been."

Grace Slick: Tried to spike White House tea with acid?

Jefferson Airplane's Slick has a story about her (failed) plan to "spike Richard Nixon's tea with acid" after receiving an invitation to the White House. She recounted the incident in a 2011 interview with the Wall Street Journal:

"Tricia Nixon went to the same New York girls' finishing school [Finch College, now defunct] that I did, but 10 years later. When I attended, my maiden name was Wing. Tricia invited all the graduates, including me, to a White House tea party. Her people didn't know that Grace Wing was Grace Slick [her first husband was Jerry Slick]. So I called Abbie Hoffman and said, "Guess where we're going." I had planned to spike Richard Nixon's tea with acid. But when Abbie and I were on line, a security guard wouldn't let me in. He said, "We checked and you're a security risk."

Gary McLain: “wired on cocaine” in the Rose Garden?

Like many NCAA basketball champs, former Villanova Wildcat McLain got to meet the president in 1985. However, by his telling, the athlete’s White House visit was, well, a bit enhanced. McLain wrote about the experience in a first-person Sports Illustrated story a few years later, claiming that he was "wired on cocaine” just feet from President Reagan in the Rose Garden as the Commander In Chief praised his performance on the court. He wrote:

''President Reagan was welcoming my teammates and me at the White House and giving his little speech about how inspirational our victory was. And the cocaine had me floating in my own private world…I was standing a couple of feet behind him, looking in his hair, thinking, this guy has more dandruff than your average man. Thinking thoughts like, I could push him in the head, just a little tap, and make news across the world. That's how high I was.''

Erkan Mustafa: Did drugs while promoting Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" effort?

There's a persistent but unreliable rumor that Mustafa, at the time a young British TV star, smoked up in the Reagan White House while visiting the United States to help bring the First Lady's "Just Say No" campaign across the pond. The story, reported here by the New York Post in 1998, generally goes as follows:

"The cast of a popular British TV show, 'Grange Hill,' was flown to Washington to prepare for the launch of an English version of Nancy's self-help formula to combat drug use. One of the show's stars, the now-28-year-old Erkan Mustafa, says the whole thing was a real trip.

Mustafa, just busted for allegedly dealing drugs, claims he and the other kids from the hit show were high as kites when they went to the White House. He says they did grass and coke in the mansion.

Worse, he boasts they got their stash past customs because they were wearing "Just Say No" T-shirts. "Everyone thought we were these cute kids with a wholesome message," he says. "We were secretly thumbing our noses at the whole Establishment."

John F. Kennedy: Oh man, so many theories!


President John F. Kennedy in Tampa on Nov. 18, 1963. (Tony Zappone/AP)

There's the tabloid rumor that JFK smoked pot with Mary Pinchot Meyer in the White House bedroom. Or, there's the one about a doctor named "Dr. Feelgood" who prescribed amphetamines (or, if you want to level up the rumor, meth) for both the president and the first lady. We do know that Kennedy's medical records show that he used more drugs than the public was aware of at the time -- however, those drugs were administered to treat a series of ailments and anxieties.

The History Channel: Maybe FDR did cocaine, too?

A historian working for the History Channel believes that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did cocaine during his time at the White House, possibly even during Pearl Harbor. The self-admitted speculation relies entirely on the fact that the historical record shows the president receiving treatment for a chronic sinus infection  Dec. 7, 1941. Steven Gillon writes that "it was also common for physicians to use cocaine as part of these treatments." However, he adds, if this scenario is  true, Roosevelt "almost certainly did not know it. The medical literature at the time instructed physicians not to tell their patients that they were using the drug."

Bonus! David Cross: Cocaine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner?

(Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Comedian David Cross, who you probably know from either "Mr. Show" or "Arrested Development" (depending on how old you are), says he did cocaine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2009. The event is not actually at the White House, but Cross said he snorted "a tiny granule" in close proximity to a sitting president. Here's what he told Playboy:

"It wasn't even that much cocaine. It was literally the size of, I don't know, a tick. It was a tiny granule of coke that I put on my wrist and said, 'Watch this. I need a witness ... And then I ducked under the table and did it. It wasn't like I got high. The jolt was similar to licking an empty espresso cup. It wasn't about that. It was just about being able to say that I did it, that I did cocaine in the same room as the president."

[Update: This post has been updated to add information on Gary McLain.]

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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