While general consensus in the science world is mixed, there’s no denying that smoking marijuana is a catalyst for creativity or the key to unlocking some work of genius for many people.
There are countless studies on the effects of marijuana on the brain, they’ve unveiled some fascinating insights. A 2010 study by Morgan, Rothwell, et al. showed that weed can increase a person’s hyper-priming, allowing the brain to make connections between concepts that, on the surface, can appear unrelated. You see it in TV shows and films all the time; a detective is staring at something seemingly random, but then has an “Aha!” moment and solves the entire crime! Luckily, in most cases they explain it to us later.
Marijuana also releases dopamine into the brain, giving smokers a euphoric feeling that could lead to some major breakthroughs. So, in no particular order, here are ten people that we consider to be geniuses – all of whom produced their very best work when they were smoking weed.
Dr. Maya Angelou
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Celebrated author, poet, dancer, actress, singer and prominent civil rights activist; Dr. Maya Angelou was many things that can be summed up by the word ‘genius’. She was also an avid marijuana supporter.
In her 1974 autobiography ‘Gather Together in My Name’ – one of a series of seven autobiographies that begins with the highly-lauded ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ – Angelou wrote about “Mary Jane, hash, grass, gauge, weed, pot”, and stated she had “absolutely no fear of using it.” After smoking weed and eating, Angelou said: “The food was the best I’d ever tasted. Every morsel was an experience of sheer delight. I lost myself in a haze of sensual pleasure.”
In his Sonnet 76, the great Bard refers to the “noted weed”. Well, it could mean more than first thought, as in 2001 a study of 17th-century smoking pipes discovered traces of cannabis, including several that were found in the garden of Shakespeare’s England home.
Did the greatest playwright to ever live smoke weed? Well, according to those behind the study it was a time that Elizabethans were experimenting, so it’s definitely possible. It could go some way to explain Shakespeare’s genius.
Before film director Oliver Stone made his Vietnam war epic ‘Platoon’ in 1986, he served two stints in Vietnam as a combat soldier, even earning a Bronze Star with “V” device for his heroism in ground combat. His experiences made ‘Platoon’ the visceral, no-holds-barred work of genius for which it’s renowned.
Stone is also a regular weed smoker, having stated that smoking pot saved his life when he was wounded. “[Weed] made the difference between staying human and becoming a beast,” he told USA Today. “A lot of people in my platoon used it, not on front lines, but in the back to relax and stay in touch with themselves. The guys who [smoked] were more conscious of life.”
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Yep, even Bill Gates – one of the world’s richest men and the genius behind Microsoft – smoked weed when first starting out. The billionaire now supports the legalization of marijuana in the USA, telling BuzzFeed that he voted “yes” to pass the Initiative 502.
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If there’s one thing that most music listeners associate with the late, great Bob Marley, it’s that he smoked a lot of marijuana. The devoted Jamaican Rastafarian, known for his songs ‘Jammin’, ‘No woman, No Cry’ and ‘Buffalo Solder’, is one of the world’s best-selling artists and believed that smoking weed was a spiritual act that helped people clear their minds, helping obtain peace and insight.
Dave Chappelle is one of the most heralded American stand-up comedians of the past 20 years, and was even told by legendary comic Richard Pryor before his death that it was to him that Pryor had “passed the torch”. He’s considered a genius by many of the world’s best-known comedians, and Chappelle has been very public about his weed use in the past, even as far as writing and starring in the stoner comedy film ‘Half Baked’.
His two stand-up comedy specials, ‘Killin’ Them Softly’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’, are absolutely hilarious. Check out some of his weed-related stand-up here.
The late Carl Sagan was one of the world’s most celebrated astronomers, cosmologists, astrophysicists and more. He’s arguably best known for his contributions to the scientific research of extra-terrestrial life, but his overall body of work is immense (he published more than 600 scientific papers). Sagan was also a marijuana user and supporter, saying that weed “amplifies torpid sensibilities and produces…more interesting effects.”
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In a 1969 essay penned under the pseudonym ‘Mr X’, Sagan wrote: “The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I’m down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse.”
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Many fans of American comedy consider George Carlin to be one of the trailblazers. Politically aware, provocative, and highly influential, Carlin was placed second in a Comedy Central list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians after an amazing comedy career spanning almost 50 years. His counterculture material naturally leant itself to an appreciation of marijuana. He once said in an interview: “I find that with pot, I’m not a big drug user anymore, but I always have a joint somewhere near me.” He added that when he was writing some comedy, “one hit is all it takes”.
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He’s the author who brought us ‘The Shining’, ‘Misery’, ‘It’, ‘Carrie’, ‘The Green Mile’, ‘Cujo’, ‘Insomnia’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and more. Stephen King has long been the most successful horror writer of his generation, but many people might not know he’s also a big weed fan. King was once quoted as saying “I think that marijuana should not only be legal, I think it should be a cottage industry.”
Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
Anyone in possession of a mind that could write songs as beautiful as ‘God Only Knows’, ‘Surf’s Up’ and ‘Good Vibrations’ simply has to be a genius, and that man was The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. In an interview with heyreverb.com, Wilson described how he began work on arguably one of the greatest albums of all time, 1966’s ‘Pet Sounds’.
“I listened to ‘Rubber Soul’ [by The Beatles] and smoked some marijuana and was so blown away that I went right over to my piano and wrote ‘God Only Knows’ with a friend of mine,” he said.