10 famous people from history that you didn't know were stoners
Whether they promoted growing weed, or simply took a few puffs and soared to new heights, these illustrious figures and cultures have all had an important green connection.
Marijuana has been around for a long, long time. It was here before us humans and will probably continue to exist long after we’re gone. The herb has been used for ritualistic, medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. We all know about the mythical ganja from India, and the weed from Jamaica, and we've memorized a list of countries and states that have legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana use. But there are some significant historical figures and cultures who made important contributions to the development of common cannabis usage.
Whether they promoted growing weed, or simply took a few puffs and soared to new heights, these illustrious figures and cultures have all had an important green connection. From ancient civilizations, to queens, to presidents, to emperors, this list of 10 historical figures that used marijuana will shock and intrigue you:
1. Pharoah Ramesses II
When the mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II was uncovered, traces of cannabis were found in the remains. Similar traces of the plant have been found in a number of other mummies, which confirms that marijuana was a regular part of Egyptian culture during ancient times. One of their gods, Seshat, the goddess of wisdom, is even often depicted with a marijuana leaf above her head in ancient paintings. Maybe this explains the intricate designs of pyramids and the crazy hieroglyphs!
2. William Shakespeare
Known as one of the best writers and playwrights in the world, and also for ruining the life of every middle school student for 400 years, Shakespeare’s creativity may have sparked from something a little more natural than you might have expected. Researchers found traces of cannabis in clay pipes uncovered in the garden of his home. We can't be certain that those pipes belonged to Shakespeare himself, but we know they were made in the 17th century (Shakespeare died in 1616), and they were found on his property. Shakespeare also wrote about a "noted weed" in one of his sonnets. I think we can all guess what he was talking about!
3. Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was an extremely powerful woman, and, like all women, was visited each month by her pesky Aunt Flo. Unlike most women, however, Queen Victoria had a bevy of physicians at her beck and call, all of whom wanted to make their queen comfortable, which is why her private physician, Sir J Russell Reynolds, prescribed marijuana for her menstrual cramps. In an 1890 issue of The Lancet, one of the world's oldest medical journals, Reynolds wrote that marijuana is "one of the most valuable medicines we possess." This means that Queen Victoria might be the first internationally known medical marijuana patient! Who knows, if she were alive today she might have had a word or two for Jeff Sessions and the Trump government's stance on marijuana laws!
The shock factor of this is lost without some prior context. Queen Vicroria is the one who lends her name to the era called 'The Victorian Age' — yes, the same era where everything was dull, morbid and severely sexually repressed. This is the woman who embodied that repressed time period, during which it was considered scandalous to even show ankles in public. So it is awesome to think that the woman who led a nation in wearing corsets and eschewing all mention of bodily functions was secretly smoking a doob in order to cope with her PMS.
4. George Washington
George Washington, like Queen Victoria, used marijuana to alleviate pain. Of course, unlike the Queen, he didn’t have to worry about menstrual cramping, but instead used marijuana to alleviate pains from toothaches. The “Father of the United States” in fact kept a journal in which he wrote about growing and cultivating marijuana and hemp. Maybe it's time for the country to go back to the ideals of its founding fathers after all.
5. Christopher Columbus
In 1492, Columbus sailed to America becoming the first European to find this land. Among his assortment of plants and herbs, Columbus brought marijuana seeds. In the event of a shipwreck, the sailors would be able to use the seeds to grow for supplies and food. Luckily, Columbus successfully made it to America without a shipwreck, so the marijuana seeds might, quite possibly, have been used for more “recreational” purposes. Or raided by the ancient Aztec version of the Mexican drug cartels. We may never know!
6. Emperor Shen Nung
The origin of the Chinese pharmacological book The Herbal (also known by various other names) has been lost in history and is now the subject of numerous myths and legends. One apocryphal tale holds that sometime around 2500 BC the Red Emperor Shen Nung, through some divine inspiration wrote the 'Pen Ts’ao' or 'The Herbal', still in use today by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Shen Nung found marijuana to be effective in treating gout and rheumatoid pain. Marijuana was not only used for medical purposes. There are also several written records of cultivation practices for hemp on industrial levels.
7. James Monroe
James Monroe was the 5th president of the United States. He was a representative at the Continental Congress, and before becoming president, he served as minister to both France and Britain. In his book, The Great Book of Hemp, Rowan Robinson wrote that Monroe "was introduced to hashish while he was serving as ambassador to France, and he continued to enjoy the smoke until he was seventy-three years old." Rumors abound that many of our Founding Fathers used marijuana, but most lack definitive proof. Robinson's account of Monroe smoking hashish when he went to France is the most solid source for any of these claims. If it's true, this would mean that Monroe would have continued smoking marijuana while he was in the White House.
8. Francis Crick
Francis Crick was one of two scientists (the other was James Watson) who earned the Nobel Prize for discovering DNA and its now ubiquitous double-helix structure in 1962. This discovery lay the ground work modern genetics. Though he never openly admitted to marijuana use, Crick's biographer wrote that the scientist experimented both with marijuana and even LSD. In fact, there are even stories that he saw the structure of the DNA molecule under the influence of LSD. Crick was one of the most important scientists in modern history. Saying he owes his genius to his drug use might be going too far, but lighting up once in a while certainly didn't do him any damage.
9. Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist and astrophysicist who wrote a ton of scientific papers and books. He is most famous for his theories about extraterrestrial life, and for writing and narrating the TV series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. When he was 35 years old, in 1969, Sagan wrote an essay under a pen name talking about the insights he got when he smoked marijuana, and advocating for marijuana legalization. Later in life, Sagan openly advocated for the legalization of medical marijuana. It wasn't until three years after Sagan's death that the public learned he was the author of that 1969 essay.
10. John F Kennedy
John F. Kennedy had the highest approval rating of any American president after World War II. He was probably the 'highest' president to take office after WWII too! Several written accounts of JFK's life claim that the president used marijuana to cope with his severe back pain. He also may have used it recreationally. John F Kennedy: A Biography contains a story about JFK smoking three joints with a woman named Mary Meyer. He allegedly said, after the third joint, "Suppose the Russians did something now!"
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