Learning history can be a strange and fascinating journey down the rabbit hole. It can even be surprising at times. Especially where cannabis is concerned. More people than you might think were fans of weed, and they were stoners even way back when. Here are seven surprising stoners throughout history. Some were even massive cannabis advocates!
7. Queen Victoria
This super powerful woman ruled over Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to her death in 1901. Famous for an era of great change known as “the Victorian era,” she reportedly was given cannabis indica to help relieve her menstrual cramps. It’s pretty impressive stuff, since researchers have recently found that cannabis does indeed help with pelvic pain, PMS, and cramps. Queen Victoria’s private physician, Sir J. Russell Reynolds, wrote about the royal weed in a 1890 issue of The Lancet. That’s one of the oldest medical journals in history. He even said that cannabis “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Jolly good, sir.
6. Maya Angelou
A celebrated poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou was no stranger to the joys of good bud. She even writes about getting high at a dinner party in the second installment of her autobiography, Gather Together in May Name. It details the first time she ever smoked cannabis, and how afterward, the food was the best she’d ever tasted. She ended up dancing for her hostess, lost in a haze of pure bliss. “Smoking grass eased the strain for me,” writes Maya. “People called it Mary Jane, hash, grass, gauge, weed, pot, and I had absolutely no fear of using it.”
5. John F. Kennedy
The handsome JFK was apparently a big fan of weed. Several accounts have been written about his love affair with the plant. Rumor has it that he smoked it while in office to alleviate back pain and symptoms of Addison’s Disease. Tabloids like The National Enquirer loved to run stories about him smoking up with his mistresses. A respected historian named Herbert Parmet even corroborated the story.
4. Margaret Mead
This famous American anthropologist was a big cannabis advocate. She even directly told the Senate that it should be legalized, according to an old 1969 article from The Chicago Tribune. Margaret was big on ending the Second Prohibition. She argued that is damaging our country, and that you can “get damage from any kind of overuse.” Amen, sister!
3. Louisa May Alcott
One of history’s most famous women was likely a big fan of cannabis. A beloved 19th century author best known for her novel, Little Women, Louisa was also a badass abolitionist and a suffragette. In her short story, “Perlious Play,” she writes about two lovers smoking hashish together. The story even ends with the awesome slogan: “Heaven bless hashish.”
2. James Monroe
Even though our current presidential administration isn’t exactly pro-weed, the fifth president of the United States certainly joins our list of stoners. If alive today, James Monroe would likely have been a big cannabis advocate. Rowan Robinson wrote an awesome book called The Great Book of Hemp. In it, he claims that Monroe was first introduced to hashish while he was the ambassador of France. The president also “continued to enjoy the smoke until he was seventy-three years old.” You go, James.
1. William Shakespeare
Here’s another one of the surprising stoners: the most talented writer of his time and possibly in existence was apparently a fan of cannabis. Back in 2015, scientists dug up centuries-old clay pipes in what used to be his garden, and they found traces of weed. There wasn’t just some weed, either. Researchers found eight fragments in the pipes, four of which were from Willy Shakespeare’s garden himself. Keep in mind though that the results of the study are merely suggestive, not conclusive. And if you believe what some historians claim, Shakespeare makes vague references to the plant throughout his works (“a noted weed”). It is hard to imagine anyone other than a stoner penning A Midsummer Night’s Dream…