What do Pablo Picasso, George Carlin, and Snoop Dogg have in common? Yes, they were all creative geniuses who had an immense impact on pop culture, but they also smoked weed (Snoop still does).
Cannabis and art have gone hand-in-hand with one another for centuries, if not millennia. Archaeologists have found a prehistoric cave painting in Japan depicting tall fibrous plants with distinctly cannabis-like leaves. There’s even fringe debate on whether the seven-pointed leaf depicted above the head of Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of wisdom and knowledge, could pass as weed.
This plant, which is as old as human civilization itself, has a reputation for sparking creativity and allowing our thoughts and feelings to move more freely. Some scientists suggest that as cannabis intake increases, so does cerebral blood flow to parts of our brain associated with creativity.
Whether cannabis use is directly linked to creativity remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that many artists of different cultures and crafts, from musicians to painters and poets, have turned to weed while creating their art. Some of them have shaped our culture as we know it. Read on to find out who might have gotten their inspiration from weed!
1. Oscar Wilde
Although the famed British writer was apparently more of an absinthe kind of person, he also had a positive experience with cannabis. Wilde described trying hashish while in Algiers in a letter to Rober Ross in 1895: “Bosie and I have taken to hashish: it is quite exquisite: three puffs of smoke and then peace and love.”
2. Charles Baudelaire
French poet Charles Baudelaire, an influential figure of the 19th-century Symbolist movement, was a member of the infamous Club of the Hashish-Eaters. This literary group explored altered states of mind – principally through the use of hashish, as you may have gathered from its name. Baudelaire celebrated the drug in The Poem of Hashish (1850), which is more like an essay reflecting on the experiences he had with this substance.
3. Pablo Picasso
If you have any doubts that Picasso smoked pot, just look at his paintings. In fact, some theorize that the Cubist artwork he created was inspired by the influence of marijuana. Picasso never publicly admitted to lighting up, but he apparently used hashish pills.
Patrick O’Brian recounts in his biography Picasso (1976) that the iconic artist had gotten himself into a bad trip and felt like he was “painting the same thing over and over again.” We know for sure that even if Picasso wasn’t drawing while high, he still drew inspiration from marijuana – namely, in his 1966 piece titled Men Smoking Pot.
4. Louis Armstrong
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The relationship between marijuana and music didn’t start in the 1960s. Some trace it back to as far as the times of Louis Armstrong. The jazz legend started smoking pot in the 1920s and used it throughout his decades-long career, including before performances and recordings. It wasn’t without trouble for him: he was busted a couple of times, most notably in 1930 when he served nine days in jail for possession. Armstrong said that weed “makes you feel wanted, and when you’re with another tea smoker, it makes you feel a special kinship.”
5. Bob Marley
This list would be incomplete without the man whose very name is associated with smoking weed. Bob Marley was one of the biggest stoner artists for a reason: he smoked marijuana because he practiced the Rastafarian religion, which has very liberal views on the use of pot as a religious sacrament. The king of reggae once said: “Music and herb go together. It’s been a long time now I smoke herb. From the 1960s, when I first start singing.” Is this love? Guess so.
6. Brian Wilson
Marijuana was the force behind one of the greatest albums in the history of rock music. We’re talking about Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, which single-handedly jump-started a number of genres. The architect of this experimental record’s sound, Brian Wilson, said: “Marijuana helped me write Pet Sounds.”
Notably, the band’s most popular song, Good Vibrations, was also written under the influence. “Some people say it was written on acid. But I don’t accredit it to LSD, I accredit it to marijuana,” Wilson said. “I smoked marijuana just before I wrote it. I was playing at the piano and began singing about good vibrations, just fooling around.”
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7. Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone is one of the most accomplished screenwriters and film directors Hollywood has ever produced. It turns out that he’s also a big fan of marijuana. He has been a regular toker since his days in Vietnam in the 1960s, and he narrowly escaped jail later in life for smuggling marijuana into the U.S.
“I’ve found it very enlightening,” Stones said of his experience with marijuana. “Some people don’t—they find paranoia and worry. I think if you can control your mind, if you contain it, you can make marijuana be a friend, an ally.”
8. Snoop Dogg
The West Coast legend turned cannabis entrepreneur is one of the biggest stoner rappers in the game. Snoop Dogg, who publicly advocates for legalizing marijuana federally, started his own brand of cannabis products, Leafs, in 2015.
In his words, Mr. Dogg rolls as many as 81 blunts a day, or almost 4 blunts per hour! And as shocking as it sounds, he once spent a whopping 164 days ganja-free. Fortunately, those days are long gone.
9. Lady Gaga
Pop legend Lady Gaga has been outspoken about her close relationship with weed. At one point, she was having 15 to 20 joints a day to help relieve the pain of a hip fracture. Eventually, her habit became so intense that she couldn't stop smoking until her friend and artist Marina Abramovic forced her to cut back on it. Lady Gaga now says that she has a more healthy approach to weed, but that doesn’t prevent her from sparking one onstage once in a while.
10. George Carlin
A social engineer, a free thinker, a regular marijuana user for 30 years – George Carlin has influenced stand-up as much as cannabis influenced himself. He admitted that pot probably saved him from becoming “an alcoholic and a complete f**king brainless idiot by the time I was 25.”
In the early 1970s, Carlin was arrested for possession and cultivation of marijuana, but it was only in the mid-1980s that he quit using it. He recalled: “Grass probably helped me as much as it hurt me. When you’re high, it’s easy to kid yourself about how clever certain mediocre pieces of material are. But, on the other hand, pot opens windows and doors that you may not be able to get through any other way.”
Bonus Entry: William Shakespeare
Believe it or not, there is evidence to suggest that the Bard of Avon may have relied on a little bit more than just imagination to create his plays. In 2001, a team of scientists ran tests on fragments of pipes unearthed in Shakespeare's home and found cannabis residue there.
Although there’s no proof that it was the playwright himself who used it, some point to his Sonnet 76, which references a “noted weed” and “newfound methods and compounds strange.”
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