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  • Hammond Lewis

5 Brilliant People Who Used Cannabis

Cannabis has a long and rich history woven into the fabric of society, dating back thousands of years. It’s no surprise then, that some of history’s most brilliant minds have indulged in cannabis once or twice.

While the medical marijuana program is the modern-day face of the industry, some of our earliest doctors and scientists maintained cannabis use as a lifestyle choice as well as medicine, integrating it regularly into their daily lives.

Aside from the casual “I did not inhale” or the “I tried it once and didn’t like it”, few modern public figures openly admit to consuming cannabis on a regular basis, and even fewer advocate for it.

But in fact, there have been several impressive chronic cannabis users, or those who incorporated it either as a medication or as a lifestyle choice for more than just one night at a party.

Here are five of the smartest and hardworking cannabis users of all time:

#5. William Brooke O'Shaughnessy

William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was born to a family of mostly clergymen in Limerick, Ireland in 1809. Instead of a career in the family business, O’Shaughnessy went to school to study forensic toxicology and chemistry and graduated in 1820 as a Medical Doctor.

In 1831, at only 22 years old, O’Shaughnessy was studying the blood of cholera victims. In his analysis of the choleric blood, O’Shaughnessy helped invent a new medical technology that would soon become one of the most common practices in medicine worldwide, intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy, or the IV.

Later, over the course of multiple travels to India, O’Shaughnessy would study galvanic electricity, botanical pharmacology, and even underwater conduction. He helped design and implement over 3,500 miles of telegraph wire in India, invented an independent design of an electrical motor, and published his first of several papers on the medical efficacy of cannabis.

Treating muscle spasms, seizures in children, and even relieving the symptoms of rabies and tetanus, although obviously not curing the diseases, O’Shaughnessy believed cannabis was a powerful and important medical tool. He brought cannabis indica back to Europe, where he would introduce it to Western medicine and continue to write about its impressive medical properties.

William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1843 for his accolades described as "distinguished for his acquaintance with the science of Medicine and Chemistry, eminent as a Physician and as a promoter of education among the natives of Bengal".

#4. Stephen Jay Gould

Although his name might not immediately ring a bell either, Stephen Jay Gould was an incredibly bright evolutionary biologist who is known for one of the most important breakthrough theories in biology, the theory of punctuated equilibrium. The theory described an evolutionary process called stasis, or long periods of time where species do not evolve.

In contrast to previous ideas of evolution that postulated species evolved over long periods of time, Gould’s theory changed how biologists look at species.

Diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma & 8 months to live in 1982, Gould became a medical marijuana smoker and ended up living 20 years beyond his 8-month life expectancy. He was quoted saying he could not understand how "any humane person would withhold such a beneficial substance from people in such great need simply because others use it for different purposes." Later in 1988, his testimony in a trial against the Canadian government would lead to the right for patients to cultivate, possess, and use cannabis for medical purposes.

#3. Steve Jobs

Although probably more famous for the Mac, iPhone, and psychedelics, Steve Jobs was also a frequent cannabis user and supporter.

In 1988 Jobs filled out a questionnaire for a security clearance which was later obtained by Wired through the Freedom of Information Act. In the questionnaire, Jobs noted that he used LSD 10-15 times between 1972 and 1974, after which he claims to have stopped using it altogether.

He also mentions smoking marijuana once or twice a week from 1973 to 1977 and smoking hashish about five times in total, claiming it helped him relax and made him more creative.

That’s right, the father of the iPhone smoked hash.

#2. Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou made one of the greatest impacts on earth you can make as a human, contributing to innumerable fields such as theater, music, written and spoken word, Civil rights, minority rights, American rights, women’s rights, it would be tough to have a conversation about American history without mentioning Maya Angelou.

And she was no stranger to cannabis, writing in Gather Together in My Name about her excitement surrounding her first time trying cannabis.

Angelou wrote about her relationship with cannabis with romanticism and wonder, writing “Smoking grass eased the strain for me. I made a connection at a restaurant nearby. People called it Mary Jane, hash, grass, gauge, weed, pot, and I had absolutely no fear of using it.”.

#1. Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was one of the most prolific scientists of our lifetime, with his work Cosmos securing the spot for best-selling science book published in English.

As a consultant for NASA, he briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flight to the moon and was an experimenter with numerous expeditions to other planets. Authoring more than 600 scientific papers and over a dozen books, he edited the esteemed scientific journal Icarus, was responsible for the Pale Blue Dot, and even wrote and starred in the popular 1980s TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Sagan’s contributions to science and space are immeasurable, as was his love of cannabis. Sagan even wrote an anonymous essay concerning cannabis, where he details his experiences and wrote “Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.”.

To say that Carl Sagan was a life-long cannabis user and supporter would be an understatement of his profound experiences and thoughts surrounding cannabis.

So, there you have it, five brilliant people who used cannabis more than just once.

To be fair, there are probably a lot of other influential cannabis users who kept their cannabis use private due to societal concerns or other reasons, but those will likely be lost in history until further evidence is uncovered.

For those reasons, we decided to keep this list as accurate as possible by only including historical figures that could be confidently determined to have used cannabis regularly at some point.

While there are many anecdotal reports concerning certain political and industrial figureheads, often the surrounding evidence is either inconclusive to determine their participation, or in some cases it can’t even be determined whether they are referring to hemp cannabis or cannabis sativa, based on context or lack of information.

But there is conclusive evidence that the people on this list, who have contributed to society and history in immeasurable ways, were lovers of the cannabis plant and supported its use in many applications.

So, the next time someone tells you stoners are dumb or lazy, have them try and calculate the total IQ of this list, they likely won’t be able to without a calculator.


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