10 Surprising People Who Used Marijuana
Most of us know that marijuana was not always considered taboo. Evidence suggests that cannabis was used medicinally as far back as 2900 BC and it played an enormous role in shaping both eastern culture and the early American economy. What you might not know is that some of the greatest minds in history used cannabis for medication, inspiration and more. Here are a few interesting facts about some of our most celebrated thinkers and artists.
It’s possible that the United States Declaration of Independence was written by a pot-smoker. In addition to being one of our country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson served as the US ambassador to France during a time period when hashish was prevalent. He is also well known for growing hemp and for smuggling high-potency cannabis seeds out of Europe.
Joan Of Arc
There is no way of knowing if Joan of Arc actually used marijuana, but we do know she was accused of using herbs for witchcraft. During the 15th century, marijuana was considered a “witch herb” and those caught in possession of it could be burned at the stake. It is very likely that Joan of Arc used marijuana along with other psychotropic herbs to induce visions and help her achieve victory for France before her capture and execution in 1430.
Shakespeare is known for creating some of the greatest literary works in the English language, but analysis of clay pipes found in his home at Stratford-upon-Avon suggest that he may also have smoked marijuana. The pipe fragments contain traces of cannabis and other drugs. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76 includes references to a “noted weed” and “compounds strange”, which might suggest that some of his genius was influenced by marijuana use.
History gets foggier the further back we travel, but some scholars believe that cannabis was used as a primary ingredient in Holy Anointing oil during biblical times. The recipe for this oil is included in the Old Testament book of Exodus and calls for the extraction of over nine pounds of flowering cannabis tops and a number of other ingredients into 6.5 liters of olive oil. During the traditional anointing ceremony, priests and kings were quite literally drenched in this oil in order to receive revelations from the Lord. Other biblical kings like David, Saul and Solomon were most likely anointed with the same Holy Oil.
In addition to being our nation’s first president, George Washington also grew both tobacco and hemp. He kept extensive diaries, many of which include references to marijuana cultivation. One noted diary entry states that he “Began to separate the male from female plants rather too late…” indicating that he isolated female plants based on higher THC content. He may have been using marijuana to manage pain associated with tooth decay. He wore dentures which reportedly caused him a great deal of discomfort. It is important to note that during George Washington’s time, hemp was a valuable crop used to make textiles and paper. In fact, both the US Constitution and The Declaration of Independence were written on paper made from hemp.
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I ruled England from 1558 to 1603 and during her reign, she passed laws that required any farmer with over 60 acres of land to grow marijuana. Failure to comply with her laws resulted in a £5 fine. Her father, King Henry VIII, was also a well known supporter of hemp and marijuana farming.
Columbus brought Cannabis Sativa seeds with him on his very first journey across the Atlantic. In fact, he is responsible for introducing the crop to North America. It is very likely that Columbus and his fellow sailors smoked marijuana during their voyage to treat nausea and the emotional turmoil of life at sea. Sailors carried hemp seeds with them in case of a ship wreck- the plant could be used to repair sails and rigging. It also provided a valuable food source if the crew was stranded.
John F Kennedy
One of our nation’s most popular presidents not only smoked weed, but did so inside the White House. Kennedy suffered from a rare condition known as Addison’s disease, which can cause severe abdominal pain and dramatic drops in blood pressure resulting in a coma. Although marijuana was helpful to him, President Kennedy still worried about the effects it had on his ability to protect the country. The following is a quote from John F. Kennedy: A Biography, about one evening at the White House:
“On the evening of July 16, 1962, according to [Washington Post executive] Jim Truitt, Kennedy and Mary Meyer smoked marijuana together. … The president smoked three of the six joints Mary brought to him. At first he felt no effects. Then he closed his eyes and refused a fourth joint. ‘Suppose the Russians did something now,’ he said.”
This genius is proof that cannabis doesn’t fry your brain. In addition to having one of the most brilliant minds in history, Carl Sagan was also a supporter and regular user of Marijuana. In 1969, he wrote an essay under the pseudonym ‘Mr. X’, which was published 2 years later in Marijuana Reconsidered. He believed that marijuana helped him to better understand art and humanity. He was a supporter of legalizing cannabis and wrote that, “the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” You can read his entire essay here. Later in life, he became an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana.
She was one of only two poets to ever read her work aloud at a presidential inauguration and she openly admits to being a regular pot-smoker. Maya Angelou writes about her marijuana use in part two of her autobiography, Gather Together. “Smoking grass eased the strain for me.” she writes. Maya first discovered weed when she was living and working in San Diego at the age of 18.
It’s possible that marijuana has played a more significant role in history than we’ve imagined. In fact, cannabis and hemp have been illegal in the US for less than 100 years. Poets, presidents and geniuses have used it for it’s medicinal benefits and it’s soothing properties. Perhaps we should examine the historical evidence in favor of marijuana a bit more closely. It may help us understand how to integrate cannabis into our modern world, much like these amazing personalities did in the past.
- Books: John F. Kennedy: A Biography (Michael O’Brien), Gather Together (Maya Angelou)