11 Historical Smokers

Need validation for your marijuana habit from someone who’s been dead for centuries? Here ya go.

1. Nietzsche

Nietzsche wasn’t what you would call a pothead. Records show that he smoked hashish a few times in his life but experimented with other chemicals — including opium, potassium bromide, chloral hydrate — more extensively. Of course, Nietzsche ultimately went mad from either syphilis or another condition — the exact cause of his changed mental condition remains a topic of some debate.

2. Joan of Arc

While reading this list, you might feel the urge to call bullshit at least a couple times. Was I there? Do I know that Joan of Arc smoked or otherwise used marijuana, or that her use contributed to the visions and voices she saw and heard? N, no and no. In fact, I would feel like an idiot claiming something like that. What I can and will say is that Joan was apparently accused of using marijuana and other herbs for witchcraft (i.e. her accusers claimed she used the herb to hear voices from an entity she claimed to be God). So think of Joan more as a potential historical herbivore.

3-5. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama

G.W. and T.J cultivated a shit ton of hemp — and probably smoked some of it too. Washington even commented in a journal that he had waited too long to separate the male from the female hemp plants. And since marijuana’s medicinal properties had been fairly well known for, say, the last 5,000 years, it seems unlikely that our founding fathers didn’t dabble. I know I’m cheating a bit with Barack Obama. Everyone knows he smoked weed and blew down, and his status as a historical figure, while assured for the future, has not yet materialized. I mean, he’s still alive and in power. Still, I think it’s important to see his smoking habits as only the latest in a long line of presidential cannabis experimentation.

6. Scythians

The Greek historian Herodotus reports that the Scythians, a nomadic people of ancient times, used weed in ceremonies celebrating fallen leaders. After constructing makeshift tents from sticks and animal skins, the scythians would light up absolute oodles of marijuana inside the tent, creating an early and extreme hotbox designed to cleanse all those who entered. Imagine this, only more religious and less dumb.

7. Oscar Wilde

The wittiest man ever to live seemingly preferred opium to cannabis, but Wilde did, according to at least one source of questionable veracity smoked weed or hashish on a trip to Egypt.

8-9. Alexander Dumas, Baudelaire

Two of the greatest French writers of the 19th Century smoked a whole lot of hashish, and even started a club to celebrate the substance. For a fascinating selection about the two and their smoking habits, read this selection from Cannabis by Jonathon Green.

10. Andre Breton

French surrealists were into altered mental states. Andre Breton, in particular, advocated hashish use, comparing it to surrealism by saying that “surrealism occurs as a new vice which does not necessarily seem to be restricted to the happy few; like hashish, it has the ability to satisfy all manner of tastes.” For the full Surrealist Manifesto — definitely worth a read or two — click here.

11. Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria’s doctor, one J.R. Reynolds, prescribed marijuana to the Queen for relief of menstrual cramps. The Queen, though, kept it classy, drinking a canna-concoction rather than smoking. Just a few decades later, in 1928, cannabis would become illegal in Great Britain.

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