We all know the common perception of marijuana users as glassy-eyed couch potatoes glued to the TV, giggling for no good reason and eating everything in sight. But not everyone who smokes reefer ends up lazy and absent-minded.
The psychoactive properties of cannabis have tremendous potential to stimulate creativity, imagination and ingenuity. The herb has been a source of inspiration to artists, philosophers, scientists, inventors, and visionaries in nearly every field of human endeavor.
Here is a list of such visionaries-under-the-influence, whose life and work has been so revolutionary as to profoundly shape the world we live in today.
1. Steve Jobs. Jobs is famous for experimenting with LSD in the 70’s, claiming that his drug experimentation opened his mind and enabled him to see the world in a different light. He also admitted to smoking marijuana during the same period, saying that it helped him relax and made him more creative. His open mind gave us the first personal computer, the first laser printer, and the iPhone, among other things. It’s difficult to imagine a world without his contributions.
2. Bill Gates. Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, along with Paul Allen, and built and guided the company for more than 30 years. He developed the code for the Windows operating system, which still dominates the PC world, and was at one time the richest person in the world. The billionaire software mogul also admitted to dropping acid in an interview with Playboy. And while he hasn’t openly admitted to marijuana use, he did say that while attending Harvard university in the 70’s, he was “not unusual” with regard to the drugs and music popular at the time. And according to his college roommate Sam Znaimer, “marijuana was the pharmaceutical of choice.”
3. Francis Crick. Crick was awarded the Nobel prize, along with James Watson, for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA molecules in 1953. His later years were devoted to the scientific study of human consciousness. He was a founding member of the Soma Research Association in the 60’s, which conducted cannabis trials and advocated for the reform of marijuana laws. Crick freely admits that he smoked weed himself, and claimed that it enhanced his capacity for abstract thought.
4. Richard Feynman. A brilliant theoretical physicist and one of the developers of the atomic bomb, Feynman later won the Nobel Prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics. He was also the first to conceive of nano-technology. Feynman admitted to using cannabis and psychedelics while immersed in a sensory deprivation tank, to induce hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.
5. John Lennon. Not all earth-shaking ideas have to do with science and technology. The Beatles changed the world with their music – turning Western culture on to psychedelics, meditation and Eastern philosophy. And more than any of the Fab Four, John was a tireless advocate for peace, non-violence, individual freedom and universal human rights. His music and his message lives on in the hearts of millions.
6. Louis Armstrong. You can’t talk about musicians changing the world without paying homage to the great Louis Armstrong. Affectionately known as “Satchmo,” Armstrong essentially invented the jazz solo, and his style influenced every one of the great musicians to follow in his footsteps, from Ella Fitzgerald to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Like many musicians, then and since, Armstrong loved to partake in marijuana. He payed tribute to the herb with his instrumental composition “Muggles” (a 1920’s slang term for weed).
7. Maya Angelou. The recent passing of Maya Angelou clearly revealed just how much of an impact she has had on the world. She was a phenomenally popular author, poet, playwright, dancer and musician, a leading figure in the American civil rights movement and a powerful voice speaking out on behalf of women and minorities. She wrote freely and openly about her marijuana use in her autobiographies, saying “I lost myself in a sensual haze of pleasure.” Her work has empowered generations of oppressed and marginalized artists, and inspired some of the most influential women in the world today – including Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Marianne Williamson.
8. William Shakespeare. Arguably the most influential artist of all time, Shakespeare has shaped the use of the English language for the last four centuries. His work has influenced not only poetry and literature but theater, film, storytelling and performance art. In 2001, a team of researchers led by Professor Francis Thackeray found traces of cannabis and other drugs in clay pipes dug up at Shakespeare’s home, Stratford-upon-Avon. Does this prove that the bard smoked weed? No. But it shows that pot was smoked by his contemporaries at least – and perhaps by the master himself.
9. George Washington. Often hailed as the “father of his country,” Washington commanded the Continental Army and led them to victory in the Revolutionary War, winning the American colonies independence from British rule. He presided over the convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution, and he established many of the forms and traditions of government still in place today.
He also grew acres of hemp on his farm in Virginia – presumably for it’s durable fibers, which were made into rope and cloth. But an entry in his diary states that he separated the male plants from the female, which has led to speculation that Washington did intend smoke his crop (as male plants have the best fiber, and female plants have high concentrations of THC).
Here again, we are dealing with possibility more so than proof. But marijuana’s intoxicating qualities were well known by this time, and it is not so far-fetched that America’s first president did indeed smoke the sweet leaf on occasion. That’s yet another presidential tradition that continues to this day, carried on by fellow smokers Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama.
10. Benjamin Franklin. World renowned philosopher, inventor, statesman and social scientist, Ben Franklin was crucial to the framing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the formation of the new American nation, and the developing ideal of the egalitarian republic. He was also the first to understand the basic properties of electricity. He served as ambassador to France from 1776 – 1785, and according to his letters and correspondence he enjoyed visiting the hash parlors that were then so common in Paris.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Countless authors, artists, musicians and great thinkers have turned to marijuana as a source of inspiration and creativity. The symbiotic relationship between humans and cannabis is powerful indeed, and these remarkable people truly demonstrate the plants potential to uplift and advance the individual and society as a whole.