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Historical Cannabis: Biggest Potheads of History

Biggest potheads history
Written by Sarah Friedman

With all the back and forth about the possible health benefits and detractions of cannabis, its long history is often forgotten, a history that when not ignored, helps us understand many of these issues being fought over in the press. It seems many have forgotten that cannabis has been popular for quite some time, and among people not often associated with the plant. For today, let’s pay homage to stoners of the past with this list of the biggest potheads of history.

When looking at the biggest potheads of history, it become clear that cannabis has been important for a very long time. Back in the day, there were far less options, of course, whereas today, interested users can eat edibles, toke on vapes, apply it in patches or as creams, and even use it as suppositories and nasal spray. Not only this, it’s not just about delta-9 anymore, but a myriad of other compounds like delta-8 THC, a naturally occurring half-brother to delta-9 which comes with the same general health benefits, but without causing the same kind of anxiety or cloudy head. Take a look at our deals for delta-8 THC, delta 10, thcv, thcp, thco, hhc and tons of other compounds, and take advantage of today’s cannabis market.

Cannabis is a pretty ubiquitous plant, and has been for thousands of years. It’s been a crucial part of many time periods and generations, even if we don’t always write it in the history books. In that sense, this list could have thousands of names on it. Since we don’t have time to dig up every semi-popular stoner of history, here are some of the more interesting picks of famous people who have proven to be the biggest potheads of history, or who get that title in the press, whether deserved or not.

William Shakespeare

Cannabis has often been associated with the arts, and was even attached to the burgeoning jazz scene of the 1920s as a way to denigrate both for prohibition purposes. So it’s not that weird to think that one of the most famous writers of history, might also have been one of the biggest potheads of history.

William Shakespeare was alive from 1564-1616, and brought us some of the most well-known classics of today, including Romeo & Juliet, Othello, and Macbeth. His stories are still performed every day in high schools, community theatres, and Broadway, and can be found on stages all around the world, and even in movie theaters. As it happens, while many readers have often thought that Shakespeare made veiled references to drugs, some hard evidence was actually found linking him to them.

William Shakespeare

Apparently, scientists tested 24 pipes found on his property in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where he lived, some of which came from his garden. Scientists went pretty far in this case to establish a dead writer’s possible drug habits, using gas chromatography to detect cannabis on eight pipe pieces. Incidentally, they also found evidence of Peruvian cocaine on two. While this doesn’t mean the weed belonged to Shakespeare, or that he used it frequently, it certainly indicates that someone was toking on some ganja at his house.

Snoop Dogg

Let’s be honest, he might represent recent history more than ancient, but what list of the biggest potheads in history would be complete without giving a mention to the one and only Snoop Dogg? In fact, if there’s any one being who represents cannabis in today’s culture more than anyone or anything else, its this guy.

Ever since Snoop (Calvin Broadus Jr.) came out in 1992, first as a collaborator with Dr. Dre, and then on his own, he’s provided us music rich with cannabis mentions. As an entertainer, Snoop unabashedly brought us weed culture, bringing it further into the mainstream. Whereas other entertainers had made references before, Snoop really blew them out of the water with some of the most pro-pot lyrics and images possible.

But he didn’t stop with entertainment. As the cannabis products industry opened in the US with the recreational legalization of cannabis in different states, Snoop put on his businessman hat, first creating G-pens when vaping really took off, and then after several other moves in the industry, establishing Casa Verde Capital, an aptly named cannabis venture capital investment fund, which specializes in seed investments. Casa Verde has allowed Snoop to take part in many different businesses, going past cannabis to even promote plant based food companies like Outstanding Foods, as well as tech companies like Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies. Not only does Snoop work to put out quality products, but he’s also gravitated toward the general health and wellness space as well. Snoop is a great example of what can be accomplished in the cannabis game without the help of big pharma.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was an Italian sailor born in 1451 and who died in 1506. Columbus is known for his global explorations, making four voyages across the Atlantic in his life. In 1492 Columbus landed in South America for the first time, coming first to the Bahamas which he named San Salvador. Thinking he had come upon India, he called the natives he found there, ‘Indians’, a misused term we still misuse today. The idea of Christopher Columbus has changed over the years. We have a holiday named after him for discovering the Americas, but in recent history, stories of his brutality concerning his treatment of the natives, including beating them, raping them, and killing them, has tarnished his reputation.

While all of this is horrible, the truth is, a lot of history is brutal, and Columbus’s actions aren’t actually different than other explorers, conquerors, or leaders in history. In this sense, he wasn’t out of the ordinary at all, and only by today’s standards do we consider what he did to be horrible. Some say the brutality stories are exaggerated, but since they make perfect sense for the time period, I think it’s better to leave it at an understanding that this is what happened, and not try to change the story to something that sounds better. He likely was that bad, but technically doing what everyone did. Might not make it right, but it does make it expected, so we shouldn’t be surprised. If we want to single him out, we’d have to take a harder look at nearly every other ruler in history, even the ones we like.

hemp sails

None of that has to do with the fact that Columbus went on his voyages with large stocks of cannabis. Some even credit Columbus for introducing the plant to America, but there is evidence that the plant was already there. Either way, he may well have increased usage and growth of it. Columbus brought three ships to the new world, and those ships were built with hemp sails and hemp rope. The cracks in the ships were even filled hemp to ensure the structure was water tight. His ship, the Santa Maria, had a hold filled with hemp seeds, meant to be planted wherever they landed, as well as being a nutrient-rich food source for the sailors.

To give a quick idea as to how much hemp was used back then, not only were the sails and rope of the boats made of hemp, but so were Columbus’s clothes, the lamp oil used in the lamps, and the pages of the books being read. Hemp was essentially everywhere, and being brought with them to ensure that wherever they went, they’d be able to get more. In this way, Columbus truly was one of the biggest potheads of history.

Ramesses II

When getting into articles like this, sometimes it’s not actually about ‘the biggest potheads of history’, but some of the more interesting places that cannabis has shown up. One of the most interesting ones, which opens a wide door to questions, is that cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Ramses II, who reigned in Egypt from 1279-1213 BC. He was the 3rd pharaoh in Egypt’s Nineteenth Dynasty, and is one of the most famous of the ancient Egyptian rulers.

Does finding pollen on a mummy indicate that Ramesses was getting stoned off his headdress every day? No, of course not. I mean, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, but what it does show, is that cannabis was certainly being used for something at that time. There is an opposing belief that the pollen was used as part of a way to conserve things like mummies, and though this is certainly possible, and would make sense for why it ended up on a mummy, it ignores other information that squarely puts cannabis use in ancient Egyptian culture.

Plus, the Egyptians were super big on making sure that mummified leaders would have everything they needed in the after life, and often buried mummies with other ‘things’ ranging from jewels and money, to oils and medicine. The idea that it was on the mummy as a way to send Ramesses off with a medication he needed (or simply liked), would go in line with what we know of ancient Egyptian burying culture. Once again, none of this means that Ramesses was high all the time, but it does create a further link to ancient Egypt, and cannabis use. It has even been indicated that the pollen grains found might not have been from species native to Egypt, which brings up the possibility that different strains of cannabis had been introduced during those times. And this opens up even more questions about what the cannabis trading market was like back then.

Queen Victoria

When it comes to historical figures, there is always some debate, generally because media stories help mold opinions. Often history is molded to sell a particular story, and this can create friction, and make it hard to tell where the truth lies. This is the case with Queen Victoria, one of the most famous rulers of Britain, and in world history. She took the throne in 1837 at the age of 18, and held onto it until her death in 1901, when she was 81 years old. She also may very well have been one of the biggest potheads in history, and not because she was smoking it.

Queen Victoria - biggest potheads in history

As the story goes, Queen Victoria suffered greatly from menstrual cramps, and was prescribed a cannabis remedy by her doctor. Cannabis was reintroduced to Western medicine by William O’Shaughnessy in 1842 with his publication of Bengal Dispensatory and Pharmacopoeia, meaning the Queen, someone who would’ve had access before a common person, could have been using such medicines even before this time. Cannabis for menstrual cramps was mentioned by a Dr. Reynolds in 1890, who was apparently a doctor to the royal family for a number of years, but he never mentioned giving it to Victoria specifically.

For some reason, detractors like to assume that since nothing was formally said before 1890 by that particular doctor, and that because by 1890 Victoria wouldn’t have been in her child bearing years, that Victoria could not have used cannabis prior to that time. However, as stated, it was being used decades before that, when Victoria was still in menstrual ages.

Queen Victoria would have been attended to by more than one physician, and as a queen, would have had access to any doctor of her choosing, and with whatever privacy level she desired. Which makes it silly that its presumed that simply because a doctor who may or may not have treated her at some point, made a statement about cannabis independently of treating her, that this would be related to Victoria’s use, or an indication of whether she used it at all. In fact, cannabis was widely used in England in Victorian times, for both menstrual cramps and childbirth pain, generally as a tinctures or put into tea. Of course she wasn’t smoking it, but to assume she wasn’t using it, would actually make less sense. In either case it can’t be directly proven, but the logic argument is that as a queen who likely experienced both menstrual pain, and pain from childbirth (ten kids), that she probably was prescribed it at some point, and possibly quite frequently.

Honorable mentions to the biggest potheads in history

Not everyone through history was a big smoker, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t contribute to the world of weed in some way. So here are some honorable mentions, that represent the use of cannabis for other purposes.

George Washington

George Washington – There is some debate as to whether George Washington smoked the wacky weed, but what seems to be more settled, is that he did grow hemp. For anyone having difficulty believing this not-difficult piece of information, please remember that in colonial times, there were actual grow laws at points requiring residents with farms to grow cannabis. As such, that George Washington grew industrial hemp makes quite a bit of sense for the time.

A Washington Post article even cited journal entries written by Washington in 1765, in which he talks about the “Muddy Hole”, which he used to reference where he grew hemp, and went into detail about having not separated out female from male plants early enough. Of course, this one point actually brings up the question of why separating them was necessary, as male hemp plants can also be used for fiber. Allowing female plants to be pollinated makes the fiber courser, and its possible he needed separation because of that. But it’s also possible if George Washington was really paying close attention to the sex of his plants, he might well have been ingesting their contents.

George Washington - biggest potheads in history

Joan of Arc

Another possible weed enthusiast, without confirmation, is Joan of Arc. Ms. Arc was born in 1412 to a peasant family in France. At a certain point, she began experiencing visions, though how and why are a subject of debate. Her visions told her to support Charles VII, which she did, helping him regain control of France from English rule. After being sent to the Siege of Orleans as part of a relief army, the siege ended after only nine days, adding to her prominence, and helping France to a final victory not long after.

She was eventually captured by French nobles who were in alliance with England, turned over to England, put on trial where she was found guilty, and hanged on May 30, 1430 at the age of approximately 19. In 1456, when an investigation into the court proceedings was done by Pope Callixtus III, she was found innocent of the crimes, and from that point called a martyr. She was canonized in 1920.

The idea that Joan of Arc was one of the biggest potheads in history is mainly linked to her hallucinations. Though cannabis is capable of causing such hallucinations, they also could have been linked to some kind of psychiatric issue, or some other medicinal herb. In fact, the other explanations generally make more sense, though it can’t be ruled out that she happened to be the kind of person to have such intense reactions, and that her visions and messages could have been cannabis related. Of all the entries here today, she is the most unlikely by far, but it’s still interesting to think about… and is often brought up in the press for this reason.


History gets dicey when it comes to controversial topics, like the biggest potheads in history. This can be seen when looking for information about the names listed here, and whether these figures used cannabis or not. I certainly can’t say that everything here is true, some of it is merely possible at best, but these stories make for interesting research points in understanding the history of cannabis use in the world. Perhaps more information will be uncovered in the future, to help us better understand if and how cannabis was really used by the people mentioned above.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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1 Comment

  • At least this article admits there’s no evidence that Joan of Arc used pot, unlike some articles that just repeat nonsense. The idea has no historical basis whatsoever, and seems to have been made up by the author of “The Emperor Has No Clothes” who falsely claimed that she was supposedly accused of using it at her trial, which isn’t the case : read the transcript and you’ll see there was never any such accusation at her trial. So at least this article is more honest than most.

About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.