History’s Greatest Potheads

July 29, 2021

And now, a sober, haze-free look at some noble and venerable historical figures who (somewhat surprisingly) partook in cannabis, the favorite pastime of Cheech, Chong, Snoop Dogg, and Willie Nelson.

Queen Victoria. The monarch who reigned over the British empire from 1837 to 1901 was highly influential on many aspects of British life, from food to fashion to medicine, it would seem. When menstrual cramps grew too severe for Her Majesty to bear, her royal physician prescribed marijuana.


William Shakespeare. History’s finest dramatist likely also took great delight in consuming marijuana. According to a 2015 examination by South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, eight of 24 tobacco pipes discovered in Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon in England held 400-year-old traces of marijuana residue. Other evidence the Bard liked cannabis. His Sonnet 76 references a “noted weed” comprised of “compounds strange.”

James Monroe. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, as well as the fifth President. In between those periods, he served as the American ambassador to France in the early 1800s, during which time he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, greatly expanding the U.S.’s borders. France is also where he discovered hashish, an especially potent form of cannabis. He brought it back to the U.S. where he smoked it regularly, up until his death at age 73.

George Washington. Another Founding Father — he was also a Revolutionary War general and the first President of the United States — used marijuana and its botanical cousin hemp, but in different ways than Monroe. George Washington ran a large farm in Virginia, where at one point hemp was his chief crop, because it was so profitable for its many commercial and industrial uses. As far as the inebriating stuff goes, Washington used it for a wide array of medicinal purposes.

Nadar - Alexander Dumas père (1802-1870)

Alexandre Dumas. One of towering luminaries of French literature, Dumas wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers in the 19th century. He was also a cannabis enthusiast. He even started a club that stayed secret (for legal reasons) where hand-picked members met to try different varieties of marijuana.

Hua Tuo. The pioneering physician and early medical practitioner lived and worked in China in about the year 200. One of his breakthroughs: surgical anesthetic. No longer would people have to suffer tremendous pain while getting a limb or organ removed. Well, at least not as much. His initial anesthetic, likely the first in history, was a mixture of wine and something called “cannabis boil powder.”

For a lot more on the subject, blaze up a copy of Encyclo-Weedia by Leda Kapos. Available now from Portable Press, it’s “The Ultimate Stoner Lifestyle Guide,” man.

READ MORE: , , , , , , , , , , ,