Of all the nasty stereotypes surrounding marijuana enthusiasts, none is so pernicious as the idea of the 'dumb stoner'. Despite scientific evidence that memory loss, the most commonly associated side effect of marijuana smoking, isn't necessarily permanent, the idea that stoners are forgetful, unserious, and incapable of complex thought pervades. Pop culture has done nothing to alleviate this problem. Movies like Pineapple Express and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle serve up the same bland representation of pot smokers– boring, spacey wastoids with little ambition and exactly zero intelligent thoughts. It's strange though. So many of our favorite musicians and artists, people who aren't just intelligent but supremely ambitious, smoke regularly, and even talk about it in their work. It's almost as if smoking pot were a hobby, one that can be enjoyed by a multitude of people and not some ambiguous, motivation-sapping habit of the mediocre or unemployed.
If you're still not convinced that the 'dumb stoner' stereotype is bogus, ask yourself this: If someone enjoys a glass of scotch two to three nights a week, does anyone say anything about his ambition? Of course not, because having a nightcap is a socially acceptable behavior, despite the fact that alcohol is much worse for your brain than marijuana is. That said, the best way to refute a stereotype, is to give examples proving it wrong. In that vein, we've listed out six incredibly influential people who enjoyed or still enjoy toking up.
If this picture looks old, grainy, and out of focus, that's because it is. It's one of the only existing photos of reclusive author Thomas Pynchon, writer of weighty tomes such as Gravity's Rainbow, V., and Mason and Dixon. His work is challenging, full of symbolism and winding, often-times confusing plot lines that blend paranoia and conspiracy with hilarious hi-jinx. In a lot of ways, Pynchon embodies the bold irreverence 1960s, daring to poke fun at any and everything. On top of this, he was also an avid pot smoker, and his characters, like Tyrone Slothrop of Gravity's Rainbow, reflect this. At 81 years, Pynchon is still plugging away, occasionally releasing things while keeping out of the public eye. No one alive or dead could ever blend highbrow literature and stoner comedy quite like this man.
As reported in several libelous Fox News stories, Barack Obama, our 44th president, turned out to be a bit of stoner in his youth. There are even several unconfirmed Internet rumors that his nickname used to be Barack Oganja. Crazier still, is that there are reports that since he's left the White House, Barry O has started sparking up again. Since weed is legal in Washington D.C., it's no problem. Others have suggested that he only eats edibles, as to keep the marijuana from smelling up his house.
Abraham Lincoln, the man who led us through the Civil War and abolished slavery apparently had a bit of smoking habit. While the proof is a bit spurious, this quote from a letter to the Hohner Harmonica company in 1855 is illuminating: "Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner Harmonica." There's no hard evidence that this letter ever really existed, but it sure is pretty think so.
Alexander Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers was one of the great potheads of the romantic era. He along with Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, and Honoré de Balzac founded Le Club des Hashishins, a 19th century social group dedicated to exploring the possibilities of drug-induced experiences. Located in Paris, Dumas and his crew soon found themselves in charge of Europe's premier pot smoking club during the 1840s.
The famous astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan was a huge pothead and smoked throughout much of his life. This didn't stop him from being one of the 20th century's most prominent scientists. Sagan's belief was that marijuana had the potential to insight curiosity and increase creativity. He also regularly spoke out against the war on drugs and mass incarceration. Sure, he was a pothead, but he was also the first person to suggest that Venus doesn't have a climate similar to Earth's and he acted as a consultant to NASA on their Mariner expeditions to the planet. He also wrote several works of fiction and hosted Cosmos, one of the most widely-viewed scientific programs of all time. Pot didn't define him. He just really enjoyed it.
According to a study in 2015, the Bard himself may have been smoking while he wrote his plays. South African archeologists found fragments of pipes from the early 17th century that still contained traces of cannabis on them, at Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon. In fact, these pipes were found right in Shakespeare's garden. Love is the smoke made with the fumes of sighs. We know what kinds of smoke "smoke" and "fumes" he's talking about.