Like any other drug, marijuana has its proponents and its detractors, those who’ve experienced its life-changing benefits and those who just don’t see the point.
It’s safe to say that its longevity in human history has everything to do with its genuine usefulness, but a long line of well-known advocates certainly hasn’t hurt! Though many of these champions felt the need for maintaining anonymity for fear of censure (or worse), their thoughts on marijuana stand the test of time, and they shine an intriguing, useful, and often entertaining light on this diverse, fascinating and powerful plant.
Marijuana and Presidents
Since its prohibition in the 1930s, even the whiff of cannabis-friendliness has been toxic for politicians. Back in 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton admitted to trying marijuana but insisted he had “never inhaled,” a verbal sidestep of epic proportions. Since then, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have admitted—with varying amounts of willingness—to having used cannabis. John F. Kennedy didn’t publically admit using it, but it appears that he used it both for therapeutic and recreational purposes.
As should be evident from the above list, cannabis itself has no political leanings. Consumers from all ends of the spectrum, ranging from Rush Limbaugh, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to John Kerry, Bill Gates and George Soros are just a few of the famous people who use marijuana and have used it for everything from relieving chronic pain, sparking creativity, or simple relaxation and enjoyment.
A History of Weed
Cannabis is hardly a new discovery; tests on 17th-century clay pipes found in William Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-Upon-Avon reveal traces of cannabis. Though it can’t be proven he owned or used them, the circumstantial evidence—including a reference to a “noted weed” in a sonnet—is compelling.
Looking even farther back reveals further hints of its deep appreciation. Cannabis pollen has been detected on the mummy of the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II, who died in 1213 BCE. Concurrent medical texts list cannabis as a cure for hemorrhoids and glaucoma, among other conditions.
And this was hardly the first recorded use of cannabis. It enjoys a long and well-documented history in ancient China, Greece, and Persia, among other places. There’s compelling evidence that cannabis was, in fact, the very first plant cultivated by humans.
Cannabis’ Secret Advocate
By the time of his untimely death in 1996, Carl Sagan was perhaps the most famous scientist in the world, a passionate advocate for the scientific method, skeptical inquiry, and exobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, and future of life in the universe. It’s nearly impossible to overstate his impact on several generations of future scientists, politicians, policy-makers and more.
He was also an early, enthusiastic and eloquent proponent of cannabis, though his public stature made it risky for him to go public. In an anonymous essay in the book “Marihuana Reconsidered,” he laid out a passionate argument for cannabis legalization and propagation. Now, when cannabis is finally gaining mainstream acceptance, his words are more appropriate than ever:
“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”