History is littered with marijuana. The drug has been with us for more than 5,000 years, and there’s no telling how many billions have smoked the stuff over the millennia.
But certain historical figures stand out for their consumption of cannabis. Here, then, are five of the most important people who have sparked up through history. They range from the recently deceased to the truly historic, and in each case there’s evidence to back up the claim.
Don’t trust other lists. They’re full of outrageous inaccuracies – and no, there’s no proof Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, or Charles Dickens ever smoked weed.
But there is evidence the greatest writer in the English language toked. In the early 2000s, scientists discovered two 17th century smoking pipes buried near William Shakespeare’s garden. The broken pipes contained residue of cannabis and coca leaves.
The cocaine was the bigger mystery, since the drug wasn’t thought to be widely available until hundreds of years later. The Spanish had access to the coca plant in South America, but it wasn’t known to have spread so far so early.
Whatever the drug, it clearly didn’t cause Shakespeare any major problems. In fact, it may have made him even more creative than he already was.
As with Jefferson, there’s no proof our first president smoked up, ever. But George Washington did grow hemp at Mount Vernon. It was a cash crop at the time and was widely used for its industrial qualities.
If colonial Americans smoked it, there’s no evidence. A few false quotes are widely attributed to Washington within the stoner community, but he never said any of it.
Still, Washington grew weed at a time when it was central to the American economy. The hemp plant has a long history, both as a drug and as a source of paper, rope, fabric, and other goods.
Bob Marley may be the quintessential stoner. He belonged to the Rastafari movement, which uses marijuana in its religious ceremonies, and he lived in Jamaica, where pot grows like grass.
Marley believed weed is a powerful medication, a view supported by most research in the years since his death in 1981. He also saw cannabis as a sacred tool to expand consciousness and find deeper meaning in faith.
Is there a drug Jerry Garcia didn’t try? He was best known for his frequent use of psychedelics, and that’s the audience The Grateful Dead aimed their music at. But weed was a central part of the Deadhead experience.
How appropriate, then, that he has his own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, Cherry Garcia – the perfect antidote for the munchies.
Louis Armstrong picked up the pot habit in the 1920s, early in his unparalleled career. He never stopped. He was busted once, in the early 1930s, and convicted of possession. But he got a suspended sentence, and the experience changed nothing about his marijuana use.
Armstrong wrote extensively about his use of cannabis, as he did most aspects of his life. “It really puzzles me to see marijuana connected with narcotics,” he said. “It’s a thousand times better than whiskey. It’s an assistant, a friend.”