Top 10 Historical Potheads
3 min

Top 10 Historical Potheads

3 min

Cannabis use dates back all the way to the dawn of civilisation. The plant was admired and valued as recreational drug, medicine and as a precious resource by many famous figures throughout history.

Cannabis use dates back all the way to the dawn of civilisation. The plant was admired and valued as recreational drug, medicine and as a precious resource by many famous figures throughout history.

Many of the powerful and influential throughout history have used cannabis. Before the times of prohibition, marijuana was not seen as the devil’s weed, and was certainly not met with the same oppression it is today. Much to the opposite - the hemp plant was held in such high regards, that during certain periods every farmer was obliged to cultivate it. Drug stores used to offer a wide range of cannabis preparations as a treatment for a number of ailments. Indeed, many historical figures we hold with such high regards today used cannabis regularly – a fact that is often glossed over by historians and politicians alike.

Our Top 10 Historical Potheads:

1. George Washington:

George Washington is a monumental figure in North American History. He was one of the founding fathers, the first president of the United States of America, and helped lead the rebellion and war for independence against the British Empire. And he was a large scale cultivator of weed - were he born a few centuries later, Washington might have well spent his time in a prison cell instead of becoming president.

Cannabis was the primary crop grown on George Washington’s Mount Vernon farm. Not only did he grow and use it, he was extremely interested in its properties, and its ability to be used as a medicine. Although he was not exactly aware of the full medicinal potential of cannabis, entries in his diaries show that he was already back then breeding hemp strains for maximum potency. We like George.

2. William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is well one of the most famous writers of all time. Living in England during the 17th Century, he wrote such famous pieces as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet – theatre productions that are still being made to this day.

Evidence has been found during an archaeological dig in what would have been his garden. Clay smoking pipes were found, containing trace amounts of cannabis. He also made reference to a “noted weed” during one of his sonnets. Just imagine, some of the greatest dramas of all time could have been written under the influence of cannabis -certainly good to know for all those who enjoy a bit of weed to get the creative juices going!

3. Queen Victoria of England

Queen Victoria is one of the most iconic British monarchs to date, and quite possibly the last one. She ruled over the British Empire with an iron fist, and led England to be the first country in the world to go through industrial revolution.

So why did Queen Vitoria use cannabis? Well, it was prescribed by her top royal physician to help her cope with severe menstrual cramps. She would take cannabis tincture as part of a tonic, as was quite common those days in Britain. Her royal physician, Sir Russell Reynolds, described cannabis as “one of the most valuable medicines we possess”.

4. Queen Elizabeth I of England

It‘s not just nowadays the brits love weed - they always did. With monarch leading the way, how could they resist? Queen Elizabeth made it law that any landowner who had over 60 acres was obliged to grow hemp, or face the £5 fine - mind you, £5 was a lot of money back then! Consider the average middle-class craftsman would have only earnt £10 a year!

5. William O’Shaughnessy

William O’Shaughnessy was an Irish physician who went to go live in India to work for the British East India Company. It is reported that he was the first westerner to discover the medical properties of cannabis indica and introduce it to the western world as a medicine.

Upon bringing cannabis indica back to the UK, he used the strains he had discovered to treat nausea, muscle spasm and diarrhoea - he was so successful that other doctors began adopting his methods. He spent the next 50 years of his life researching and documenting papers on how cannabis could be applied medicinally.

6. Thomas Jefferson

Another founding father of the USA who loved cannabis for its many uses. He thought of it as a much more favourable crop to tobacco, which he described as a crop that exhausted the soil it was grown in, took too much care to cultivate, and had no use for livestock.

As his time as governor, he even allowed for cannabis to be used as a form of currency when government funds were running out. He also said cannabis “was of the first necessity to commerce and marine, in other words to the wealth and protection of the country.” We do not know if he smoked it, but he certainly understood how it could benefit the nation.

7. Hua Tuo

Hua Tuo was an ancient Chinese Scholar and doctor who was well respected in his time. It is suggested that in 200 A.D. Hua Tuo became the first person to invent and use an anaesthetic for surgery. He is recorded to have used cannabis powder and wine to create the concoction, although the precise recipe has been lost to time.

8. The Egyptian Pharaohs

Archaeological findings suggest that cannabis was used by the ancient Egyptians and their rulers. Traces of hemp were found on the mummy of Ramesses II, and old records describe how marijuana was used to for the treatment of many illnesses, such as glaucoma – as it still is today.

9. Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was a famous Italian explorer who is largely credited with discovering parts of the American continent. It is reported that his ship was carrying cannabis seeds as a crop to be grown when they found land, giving them something that was easy to grow and that could be utilised for both supplies and food. Many believe that this is how cannabis was introduced into the wilds of America, but this is largely debated and there is very little evidence to suggest it – there are many ways cannabis could have found its way to the American continent.

10. Emperor Shennong of China

Emperor Shennong was a Chinese Emperor who lived approximately 4700 years ago. Records indicate that he was one of the first people to introduce the notion of cultivation and agriculture to the Chinese people. He also played a large part in traditional Chinese medicine, using cannabis to treat such ailments as gout, malaria and constipation.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
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