9 Famous Figures in History used Cannabis

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
January 28, 2021
Cannabis nad Famous
Cannabis nad Famous

Some of the Most Famous Figures in History used Cannabis

Yes, some of our favorite figures from the past can be considered historic weed fans.

It is hard to imagine your average American founding father, British Royalty or even Saints lighting up a blunt and getting high.  But the reality is that cannabis has been with us for centuries and was generally considered in most cultures where it was available and war only really criminalized in the earlier part of the 20th century.

In fact historically cannabis has (in our opinion rightly) considered a gentle, natural indulgence, much like alcohol but with less negative side-effects.  Furthermore, hemp cultivation was once a booming industry in the United States and around the world, due to its exceptionally durable fibers, which meant that many of our founding fathers were, in fact, cultivating cannabis in their very own backyards, and encouraging fellow Americans to join in as part of a patriotic duty.

Now, the reality is that we cannot know if Alexander the Great used the plant when he was near the Kush mountains but it is highly likely that many more prominent figures throughout history were fans of cannabis and we will never know. We give you, 9 Historical Weed Fans.

#1: Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc continues to be a mystifying creature and feminist icon, widely misunderstood but beloved by many at the same time.  She was born in France in 1412, into a village that was known for using herbs ceremoniously and medicinally, cannabis included.  She quickly developed notoriety for being a psychic, reportedly receiving messages from beyond that instructed her to join the army to fight for her country against the British.  She fought for King Charles VII before being burned at the stake by enemies, while being accused of being a witch.  Her cannabis use played a big role, as it was believed that she had special favoritism for the herb, which led to her being accused of being under satanic influence.

#2: Queen Elizabeth I

We may not have access to any first-hand accounts of Queen Elizabeth getting high, but we do know that this 16th century monarch loved cannabis so much that she ordered her servants to grow it, subjecting them to a fine if they failed to follow her orders.  Up to a quarter of royal agricultural space was taken up by hemp plants, and rumors are that she enjoyed the psychoactive benefits of cannabis as well.  She finally made hemp farming a law among her subjects who owned land, which tells you that she was, in fact, an early advocate.

#3: William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s legacy continues as his works are still influencing literature and films to this day.  And, he may not have been so different from us after all.  Archaeologists have uncovered his smoking pipes, which he was known to enjoy on a daily basis and have found that they contained trace amounts of cannabis, which would lead us to believe that he was quite a fan of herb.  Some literary scholars also believe that much of his work contains innuendos relating to weed, and if there’s one thing that the man is known for, it’s his clever double-meanings.  Shakespeare could very well have written his finest works while under the influence, which would explain some of the loftier ideas that he has come up with, rooted in fantasy, including fairies and spells cast against characters.

#4: Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was one of the most prolific British monarchs of all time, who practically saved the British empire from collapsing with her unifying spirit and imperialistic tendencies.  She grew Britain’s territory throughout her lengthy time spent as a monarch, back when monarchs had more power than they do today.

The queen wrote in a diary throughout much of her life, and historians know very well that she suffered from severe menstrual cramps, which may have played a role in her decision to birth so many children during her life.  To keep the cramps at bay, she took marijuana in the form of a tincture.  She was actually prescribed it and swore by it to keep the pain under control.  She also had other health issues that seemed to be treated with cannabis, and this was long before it was criminalized in the United Kingdom.

#5: George Washington

George Washington was an early proponent of hemp cultivation, and he along with the other founding fathers pushed early settlers to grow as much as possible.  He believed that it had enormous economic value due to its ability to be used to produce so many important materials and hoped that America would become the world’s greatest hemp exporter.  He was outspoken about its benefits and uses, and grew quite a bit himself, overseeing each harvest with his own eyes.  As for whether or not he ever smoked his stash, we will never know.

#6: James Monroe

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States, and he was, in fact, an avid marijuana smoker.  In fact, he first tried hashish during a stint as an ambassador when he was in France, and picked up a lifelong habit as a result, smoking it well into his old age.  Monroe supposedly found it relaxing, and if there is one thing that a president can use more of, it’s that.

#7: Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy

Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was a prolific chemist and physician from Ireland who developed many practices that we continue to use today, including intravenous therapy, which saves lives in a multitude of ways.  He was one of the first to discover the importance of electrolytes against dehydration and spent a considerable length of time studying medicine in India.  He was eventually knighted by Queen Victoria, who, as we said, was a big marijuana fan herself.

While in India, he came across cannabis, which was being used for medicinal purposes.  In 1840s, marijuana was a booming industry for medicinal purposes in the United Kingdom thanks to his discoveries that it could help with pain, nausea, appetite, and other common issues.  He spent much of his life studying it and can largely be credited with being one of the first to bring its therapeutic value to the western world.

#8: John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was one of the most popular presidents of all time, and he managed to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, which is no easy feat.  His agreeable, relatable nature may partially come from his love for marijuana, which was given to him for back pain.  However, biographers have found that he seemed to have enjoyed its recreational effects as well, which he definitely took advantage of while sitting in the White House.

#9: Carl Sagan

Although not a part of distant history we thought to add astrophysicist and astronomer Carl Sagan who was known for being a genius who has provided us with some of the most fascinating theories regarding space and alien life.  He was also a gifted writer who won awards for his work.  In 1969, under a pseudonym, Sagan wrote a public essay about his personal experiences with marijuana, advocating for its legalization due to the positive effects it had on his life.  After his death, it was discovered that it was him who wrote the essay.  One must wonder how many of his work was inspired by the plant.

Final Thoughts

Historical figures of all walks of life have at least dabbled in cannabis use, with some of them advocating for its legalization, and others supporting theories that it may offer unique medicinal benefits.  The list goes on, as it has been a popular plant for thousands of years, dating back to ancient times.  But, as you can see, with monarchs and presidents of the past being avid users, cannabis offers universal appeal to people from all walks of life.