Anti-marijuana campaigners have been unable to conjure up new myths for decades. Even to this day, they fall back on the tried, trusted, and utterly false claims that weed turns everyone into lazy ‘stoners’ incapable of doing anything other than watching Cheech & Chong in their underpants.
In reality, the world is full of inspirational, hardworking, intelligent, and successful individuals who regularly use cannabis. People such as Oliver Stone, Rihanna, Hugh Hefner, Johnny Depp, and Madonna, have all admitted to using weed. Would you call any of the above lazy? Even former President of the United States, Barack Obama, admitted using it in college.
In truth, these individuals are only continuing a rich history of successful marijuana users. In this article, I look at 10 legendary historical figures known to have used cannabis.
1 – Alexandre Dumas (1802 – 1870)
Dumas is a legendary French writer best known for writing books such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas urged people to “taste the hashish,” and he apparently co-founded the Club des Hashishchins, which means the ‘club of hashish eaters.’
It was his opinion that weed expanded the minds of writers and could help them achieve literary greatness. His fondness for the herb didn’t prevent him from writing an enormous number of novels and articles. Dumas’ published works total over 100,000 pages; not bad for a layabout!
2 – Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603)
The Virgin Queen was not a lady to mess with. She ruled the kingdom of England and Ireland for almost half a century, and had no issue executing rivals or one-time court favorites that displeased her; just ask the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots! In 1563, she ordered landowners to grow cannabis (if they had over 60 acres of land) or else they would receive a £5 fine; a fortune at the time. The idea was to provide enough fiber to help expand the navy.
However, there is evidence that Good Queen Bess liked to use marijuana for pleasure, too. It is widely believed that she kept weed at her palace for parties, and she was allegedly a proponent of it for medicinal use too.
3 – Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431)
The Maid of Orleans certainly made the most of her brief time on Earth. Jeanne d’Arc, better known as Joan of Arc, was born in Domremy, France, to a peasant family. She claimed to have received visions from the Archangel Michael and began a remarkable rise to prominence. She helped raise the Siege of Orleans in the Hundred Years’ War, and this event helped France achieve final victory after a succession of smaller victories.
Joan was captured by French nobles allied with the English and handed over to the enemy. She was burned at the stake in 1431. It is extremely likely that she used marijuana, because her village was renowned for the use of medicinal strains. There’s a possibility that the vision she had happened when she was high!
4 – William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Shakespeare is arguably the best writer in the English language and is certainly the most famous. The English bard wrote at least 39 plays, over 150 sonnets, and several other verses. All told, his works have sold more than four billion copies, significantly more than any other author.
Historians found traces of cannabis on clay pipes at his estate in Stratford Upon Avon. The pipes were dated to the early part of the 17th century which is when he lived. Shakespeare wrote about ‘a noted weed’ in one of his sonnets, and frankly, it isn’t hard to imagine him being high when he wrote certain plays!
5 – John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)
Kennedy is the second youngest American president and is also the subject of one of the world’s greatest conspiracy theories. On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, or so the official story goes. A majority of the public believe there is more to the story than a simple case of a crazed lone gunman. Kennedy was also embroiled in a scandal with Marilyn Monroe, faced down the Soviet Union in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and oversaw a nation in turmoil at the height of the Civil Rights era.
Kennedy is known to have suffered from chronic back pain, and he regularly smoked marijuana to help alleviate the agony he felt. It should be noted that he also used it recreationally. In all, at least 11 American presidents have experimented with weed.
6 – Sultan Abdulaziz (1830 – 1876)
Abdulaziz was the 32nd Ottoman Sultan and ruled for almost 15 years. Although he received a traditional Ottoman education, he was fascinated by the West and became the first Ottoman leader to travel to Western Europe where he visited Vienna, London, Paris, and several other major cities. As well as being a talented composer of classical music, Abdulaziz built up the Ottoman navy, which was the third largest in the world at the time.
It seems as if marijuana was another one of the sultan’s passions. He also visited the World’s Fair in 1876, the first one ever held in the United States. Abdulaziz set up an exhibit which informed visitors about the long history of the Ottoman Empire and included a range of cannabis gifts which he distributed to guests. He even demonstrated the fine art of smoking a hookah!
7 – Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)
Picasso co-founded the ‘Cubist’ movement and is regarded as one of the most important figures in art in the 20th century. Guernica, a painting he created in 1937, is arguably his most famous work as it depicts the horrors caused during the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
Picasso was a long way from being the lazy marijuana user of lore. He was a remarkably prolific painter and created hundreds of works. He is known to have used cannabis regularly, and it is possible that the entire Cubist movement is born out of his perceptions of art when high.
8 – Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901)
Victoria reigned as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for over 63 years. She was the longest reigning monarch in British history until late 2015, when she was surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II. Victoria presided over a significant period of cultural, industrial, scientific, political, and military change.
What many people don’t know is that Victoria was also a big fan of marijuana. As was common at the time, the queen used it to ease the severe pain of menstrual cramps. In fact, the royal physician, Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribed it to her and he is supposed to have said that weed was “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” It is a shame that this wisdom continues to fall on deaf ears in the political sphere in the modern era.
9 – Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996)
The next time someone tries to tell you that marijuana makes you dumb, try to explain, using simple words, phrases, and signals, that Carl Sagan was a staunch proponent and regular user of the herb. Sagan is regarded as one of the most intelligent people of all time and published in excess of 600 scientific papers while finding time to edit, author, or co-author over 20 books.
Like all scientists, Sagan loved to experiment, and did so with weed. In 1969, he wrote an essay on the benefits of pot along with details of how it felt to be high. Because cannabis was illegal all over the United States at that time, Sagan wrote the essay as ‘Mr. X’. He also admitted that marijuana helped improve his appreciation of art.
10 – James Monroe (1758 – 1831)
Monroe was the fifth President of the United States and was in office from 1817 to 1825. He fought in the War of Independence despite his youth and was injured during the Battle of Trenton. Monroe was one of the Founding Fathers and is probably best known for the Monroe Doctrine (implemented in 1823), a policy that ensured European colonization of the Americas was forbidden.
It is theorized that Founding Fathers such as Washington and Jefferson used weed, but there is a lack of definite proof. The same can’t be said for Monroe. In the Great Book of Hemp, Rowan Robinson wrote about how Monroe was introduced to marijuana while he was an ambassador in France. According to Robinson, Monroe continued to use cannabis until his death, which means he was using it while serving as president!
Weed Smokers Throughout History
We are not saying that using marijuana will definitely make you a success in life, although it would be less preposterous than the oft-repeated claims that it will lead to certain failure. The truth is this: Using cannabis probably won’t affect your ability to succeed one way or the other.
If you are a highly motivated, talented, and hardworking individual, marijuana won’t suddenly take that away from you. Likewise, using the herb won’t immediately transform a no-hoper into a champion!