historical figures who smoked weed

12 Ways Important Historical Figures Used Marijuana

Marijuana use has a long history that predates the modern-day “stoners” we’ve grown accustomed to. We all know about the ganja from India and the weed from Jamaica, and we’ve memorized a list of countries and states that have legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana use. But, there are some significant historical figures and cultures who’ve made important contributions to the development of common cannabis usage.

Whether they promoted growing weed, or simply took a few puffs and soared to new heights, these illustrious figures and cultures have all had an important green connection. From ancient civilizations to queens to presidents to artists to scientists, this list of historical figures and cultures who used marijuana will surprise and intrigue you.

They aren’t your average skateboarding stoner bros. Some of these historic icons contributed in major ways to both world culture and history. Weed has definitely been known to get the creative juices flowing, and these prominent historical figures are no exception.

Are you surprised that some of these people smoked that wacky tobaccy? Let us know what you think about these instrumental pot smokers in the comment section below!

William Shakespeare

Place in History
William Shakespeare was a 16th-century English playwright who is widely considered to be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, dramatists of all time. His plays, which include such classics as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear , and Hamlet , are still performed, adapted, and swooned over today.

Place in Marijuana History

Researchers discovered traces of cannabis on clay pipes found at Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. We can’t be certain that those pipes belonged to Shakespeare himself, but we know they were made in the 17th century (Shakespeare passed in 1616), and that they were found on his property. Shakespeare also wrote about a “noted weed” in one of his sonnets. We can all venture to guess what he was talking about.

Why It’s Awesome
Remember those plays listed above? Those aren’t the only ones: Shakespeare also penned A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello , and Macbeth (and many more) . If smoking a bit of grass helped inspire Shakespeare to create masterpieces, then stoners everywhere have another reason to support their proclivity.

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Queen Victoria

Place in History
Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire from 1837 until 1901. She is Britain’s second longest-ruling monarch after Elizabeth II, and she helped guide the country through the changes that came along with industrialization and modernization.

Place in Marijuana History
Queen Victoria was an extremely powerful woman and, like all women, was visited each month by her pesky Aunt Flo. Unlike most women, however, Queen Victoria had a bevy of physicians at her beck and call, all of whom wanted to make their queen comfortable. To this end, her private physician, Sir J. Russell Reynolds, prescribed marijuana for her menstrual cramps. In an 1890 issue of The Lancet , one of the world’s oldest medical journals, Reynolds wrote that marijuana is “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.”

Why It’s Awesome
Ever hear of the Victorian era? This is the woman who embodied that time period, during which the rules of social etiquette were quite extensive and exacting. So it’s awesome to think that the woman who led a nation in wearing corsets and eschewing all mention of bodily functions was secretly self-medicating in order to cope with her PMS.

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James Monroe

Place in History

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States. He was a representative at the Continental Congress, and before becoming president, he served as minister to both France and Britain.

Place in Marijuana History

In his book, The Great Book of Hemp , Rowan Robinson wrote that Monroe “was introduced to hashish while he was serving as ambassador to France, and he continued to enjoy the smoke until he was seventy-three years old.”

Why It’s Awesome

Rumors abound that many of our Founding Fathers used marijuana, but most lack definitive proof. Robinson’s account of Monroe smoking hashish when he went to France is the most solid source for any of these claims. If it’s true, this would mean that Monroe continued smoking marijuana while he was in the White House.

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Egyptian Pharaohs

Place in History
Before there was a United States of America, a British Empire, or even a Roman one, there were the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. These rulers presided over a great civilization on the banks of the Nile River in northeastern Africa, first rising to power in 3100 BC and continuing, in varying lines and kingdoms, until 322 BC.

Place in Marijuana History
Egyptologists have confirmed that ancient Egyptians used marijuana in a variety of ways, including for religious purposes, to treat various ailments, and in everyday life to create things like textiles. Traces of cannabis have been found in the remains of numerous mummies, including that of the famous Pharaoh Ramesses II. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest known medical texts, mentions a variety of cannabis uses for ailments, including glaucoma, hemorrhoids, and depression.

Why It’s Awesome
This civilization built the pyramids! These days, most people still don’t fully understand how ancient Egyptians accomplished building the massive stone pyramids that still stand today. So if the ancient Egyptian pharaohs felt that using marijuana was a good idea, maybe we should listen to them.

Marijuana use has a long history that predates the modern-day "stoners" we've grown accustomed to. We all know about the ganja from India and …

Historical figures who smoked weed

For too many dark decades, anti-pot propaganda promoted the lie that marijuana made its users lazy, lethargic, and unable to make any kind of impact on their own lives, let alone billions of others on the planet.

The reality, of course, is that weed provides positive inspiration and instills an ability to help act on it. As laws change and old taboos die off, certain cannabis strains have even become specifically known for their ability to spark creativity and generate energy.

Weed lovers have always recognized and cherished the power of pot to help seize the day, shake things up, and get massive things done. It’s been true since time immemorial, as evidenced by the fact that some of the most earth-shaking figures throughout human history have grown weed and gotten high.

What historical figures smoked weed? The list is long and lit. Some historical figures who toked absolutely made the world a better place. Others maybe should have smoked a bit more so that their kind bud might have prompted some more kind deeds. Regardless, check out our roundup of some of the most iconic history-makers who loved cannabis.

Pharaoh Ramesses II: High as the Sphinx

Lording over ancient Egypt from 1279 to 1213 BCE, Pharaoh Ramesses II is so revered for his wisdom and leadership that Egyptians, to this day, call him “the Great Ancestor.” Ramesses the Great also valued weed so much he took some with him to the grave.

Centuries after being interred, scientists unearthed Ramesses’ mummy and discovered cannabis pollen among the remains. Historians have also confirmed that marijuana regularly figured into medical and religious practices of ancient Egypt. So, was pot the X factor when it came to building the pyramids? Smoke up, and think about it!

Joan of Arc: Baked at the Stake

In 1412, sainted mystic and battlefield conqueror Joan d’Arc was born into a peasant village known for using cannabis and other psychoactive healing herbs.

At 15, Joan reported receiving divine messages that instructed her to get Charles VII crowned the King of France by leading his forces into war against the British. Armor-clad and amped up enough to communicate with angels, Joan did just that and became a national hero.

Under the command of King Charles, then, Joan kept on fighting until she fell prey at age 19 to enemy combatants and, we presume, could no longer access her stash.

Anglo-Burgundi authorities charged Joan of Arc with crimes that included the use of “witching herbs” and burned her at the stake. Where there was fire, then, there apparently had been smoke.

William Shakespeare: The Bard of Bud

Based solely on A Midsummer Night’s Dream — with its fairies, imps, and donkey-head spells — playwright William Shakespeare seems a likely candidate to have consulted with cannabis for inspiration. Many Shakespeare scholars have also pondered whether the Bard dropped hints about using weed throughout his other works.

In 2015, a scientific study suggested that Shakespeare may well have puffed away while penning his sonnets and plays. The study analyzed tobacco pipe fragments from Stratford-on-Avon, where Shakespeare lived, including four confirmed to have come from the writer’s own garden — each of which contained traces of cannabis.

“To blaze or not to blaze?” We think we know how Shakespeare himself would answer that question.

Queen Elizabeth I: Reefer by Royal Decree

Queen Elizabeth I, England’s predominant ruler during Shakespeare’s lifetime, not only publicly endorsed the cultivation of cannabis, she fined farmers who failed to grow it!

In 1533, Elizabeth’s father, King Henry VIII (who, yes, definitely appeared to be inclined toward munchies), initially ordered his land-owning subjects to reserve a quarter of their fields for hemp.

Thirty years later, Elizabeth reinstated the law and added a £5 fine, which in 2020 dollars is a cool $5,000. Queen Liz wasn’t messing around when it came to marijuana.

Christopher Columbus: New World, New Weed

After being touted for centuries as the brave explorer who “discovered America,” Christopher Columbus rightly gets a bad wrap these days. Colonization and genocide, which Columbus both practiced and inspired, are definitely not what a world properly enlightened by weed should continue to contain.

Still, even the devil has to get his due: Christopher Columbus actually did transport literal boatloads of weed from Europe to North America. The Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria reportedly got loaded with enough green for the captain and crew to happily sail the ocean blue, and then plant fresh crops once they hit land.

Cannabis and Columbus are so intertwined, in fact, that the base of a Columbus statue in Madrid is decorated with what hand-carved pot leaves.

George Washington: Father of His Country, Cultivator of Cannabis

It’s an established fact that the Founding Fathers of the United States shared a passion for partying. It’s also known that at least four of them grew hemp — Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and, yes, our very first president, George Washington.

At the time, hemp ruled as an outstanding cash crop, being used for rope, paper, and other non-intoxicating uses. Washington grew vast amounts of hemp and praised it enthusiastically, and the plant continued to be cultivated until its use was prohibited by the enemies of fun and freedom.

Fortunately, in 2018, Mount Vernon caught up with our cannabis-friendly times, and the crop returned to the very fields managed by George Washington himself.

Still, we have to wonder, did George Washington smoke weed? On that topic, we like this quote from the website Great Hemp: “There is absolutely no evidence that George Washington smoked marijuana or hemp. However, there is no evidence that he didn’t smoke some of it either.”

Queen Victoria: The Regal Remedy of Medical Marijuana

While reigning over Great Britain from 1837 until her death in 1901, Queen Victoria unknowingly pioneered modern medicine by being one of the very first patients on record to be officially prescribed marijuana to combat menstruation-related pain and other issues.

As with many contemporary users, Queen Victoria took her cannabis in tincture form. Alas, at present, recreational marijuana remains illegal in England. Somebody in charge needs to look at their own history!

Walter Benjamin: The Philosopher’s Stoned

The writings and teachings of Nazi-defying German philosopher Walter Benjamin have profoundly influenced modern ideas and ideology regarding history, economics, religion, public policy, and — oh, yes — getting high.

Benjamin came by his elevated perceptions and fueled his prolific academic output by consuming massive amounts of cannabis, jotting down his thoughts, and then reworking them into the classics that continue to be taught and studied all over the world.

Although he committed suicide in 1948 by overdosing on morphine — you should have stuck with weed, Walter! — the title of a book by Benjamin published in 2006 perfectly sums up his relationship with smokable plant life. It’s called, simply, On Hashish.

JFK: Ich Bin Ein Stoner

When we think of John F. Kennedy carrying out “extra-presidential” duties of his Executive Office, what usually comes to mind is smuggled-in movie starlets like Marilyn Monroe.

However, in his 2005 book, John F. Kennedy: A Biography, author Michael O’Brien asserts that on July 16, 1962, JFK blazed no less than three joints in the White House provided by highly connected socialite Mary Meyer.

O’Brien writes that pot made the president paranoid, prompting him to turn down a fourth joint and say to Meyer, “Suppose the Russians did something now.” The book also alleges that JFK compared pot unfavorably to cocaine and offered to hook up Meyer with some blow in the future. All that just makes it seem even more tragic JFK didn’t live to see the truly psychedelic end of the ‘60s.

Today’s cannabis industry gets a lot of love from celebrities and even some politicians, but since the beginning of recorded history, many of the world’s most famous figures have gotten lit.