Common misconceptions about cannabis are that it will make you lazy or that it is just for “stoners”. These statements are far from the truth, and many successful names throughout history can prove it. Artists, politicians, CEOs, scientists, authors and other professions around the world have their fair share of cannabis users. Included here are only a few names of successful cannabis users, and no doubt with legalization we will see many more accomplished marijuana users in the future.

Musical Artists

Cannabis has beenused by musicians for decades, medicinally, recreationally and sometimes even to act as a muse. Out of the many, a few famous musicians that use marijuana include John Mayer, Lady Gaga, Alanis Morissette, Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake and Rihanna as well as legends Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Outspoken advocates for legalization include Sting, John Legend, Tony Bennett, Santana and of course, Snoop Dogg.

Melissa Etheridge used cannabis ‘every day’ during her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer in 2004. She stated, “It gave me an appetite, so I was able to eat and keep my strength up. It also helped with the depression, and it eased the gastrointestinal pain.”

Country music legend Willie Nelson is on the advisory board of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and has a line of cannabis products in stores called Willie’s Reserve.

Politicians

Lincoln Chafee (former senator and governor of Rhode Island), Clarence Thomas (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court), John Kerry (Former United States Senator and Secretary of the State)., Andrew Cuomo (Current governor of New York) and Sarah Palin (Former governor of Alaska) have admitted to smoking cannabis a time or two (or more). 

Presidents throughout history have even partaken in cannabis, including a few of the founding fathers of the United States. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce all smoked as did more recent presidents John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Actors and Actresses

Many Hollywood stars also are quite familiar with our favorite plant.These names include Matt Damon, Susan Sarandon, Morgan Freeman, George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Jack Black, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Seth MacFarlane, Kirsten Dunst, Johnny Depp, Frances McDormand, Megan Fox, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Smith, Sarah Silverman, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Woody Harrelson, and infamous for their cannabis comedians, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.

Sir Patrick Stewart uses marijuana to help with arthritis pain and has stated that he hopes his openness about using cannabis would help fight the “prejudice and ignorance” that many have about cannabis research.

Television Personalities

Stephen Colbert, John Stewart, Tom Brokaw and David Letterman are just a few of the many television hosts to openly discuss their cannabis use. Montel Williams uses marijuana to help combat Multiple Sclerosis and Bill Maher who is an advocate for legalization said, “Look, I have never made a secret of the fact that I have tried marijuana…about 50,000 times.” Rush Limbaugh stated, “I wouldn’t have been able to make it through hundreds of shows if it weren’t for the benefits of medical marijuana.”

Authors

Author, poet, singer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was known to enjoy smoking cannabis, even writing about her experiences with it in her second autobiography.

Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), Hunter S. Thompson, Danish author Isak Dinensen, King of Horror Stephen King and even William Shakespeare make up a small number of the many cannabis loving authors.

CEOs

Martha Stewart – Television personality, writer, founder of Martha Stewart Living and the how-to master of crafts, home décor, cooking, party hosting and more, famously said, “Of course I know how to roll a joint.” We can hope that maybe one day she could share some amazing recipes for cannabis infused foods!

George Zimmer – Founder and former CEO of Men’s Wearhouse has used cannabis for around 50 years and told CNBC that marijuana prohibition was, “The biggest con that has been perpetrated on this country in the last century.” He has spoken at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo in Los Angeles, calling for full legalization.

Peter Lewis – Former CEO of Progressive Insurance, was a long-time advocate for cannabis legalization up until his passing in November 2013. In an interview with Forbes in 2011, Lewis stated, “Our marijuana laws are outdated, ineffective and stupid.” Spending almost $3 million assisting the passing of marijuana legalization bills in Massachusetts and Washington state in 2012 elections, it was estimated that he spent over $40 million on cannabis legalization since the 1980’s. Lewis used marijuana to aid against pain from a partial amputation on his left leg done at the age of 64.

Ted Turner – Media mogul and founder of television stations TBS, TNT and CNN, among others. He has professed to be a long-standing cannabis user.

Gary Johnson – Politician and CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc. Johnson was governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, even entering the presidential race in 2012 and 2016. He has been an advocate and marijuana user for many years, with Cannabis Sativa Inc. trying to assist people with alternative options for smoking cannabis, such as marijuana derived oils and concentrates.

Sir Richard Branson – Founder of the Virgin business empire, is also a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. He has called for the legalization of cannabis stating, “There are a lot of people doing it for recreational purposes and they enjoy doing it and it’s not doing them any harm.” He believes that cannabis legalization could help protect users from unhealthy ‘skunk’ and, “They can go into a shop and get a mild kind of hashish which is not going to do them any harm and they have got a choice and they can make sure that the quality of the drugs is properly sorted out.”

Rick Steves – Television personality, travel writer, author, activist and CEO of Rick Steve’s’ Europe, Steves is also a long-time board member of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and self-proclaimed occasional cannabis user. Steves once wrote an article discussing Europe’s stance on drugs and how America can learn from countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland.

He also wrote of the failure of alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s, comparing it to marijuana criminalization today stating, “When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, nobody was saying ‘booze is good.’ Society just realized that the laws were counterproductive and impossible to enforce. In our own age, many lawyers, police officers, judges and other concerned citizens are coming to the same conclusion about the current US government-sponsored prohibition against marijuana.”

Hugh Hefner – Late founder of Playboy magazine, Hefner was a cannabis user and continuously supported decriminalization, also donating $5,000 to NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in its beginning. In a 2016 interview, Hefner also compared marijuana criminalization to alcohol prohibition and said, “I don’t think there is any question that marijuana should be legalized because to not legalize it, we’re paying the same price we paid for Prohibition. In other words, it is a medical concern and should be handled that way.”

Steve Jobs – Late Apple and Pixar founder, Jobs was open about his marijuana use in the 1970’s, believing that it helped his creativity and to relax. He stated that he used both marijuana and hashish, eating “pot brownies” and smoking with friends.

Oprah Winfrey – Media executive, talk show host, television producer, actress and philanthropist, Oprah is a famous example of success. Like Steve Jobs, Oprah used marijuana in the past, but stated to David Letterman in 2015 that she hasn’t used cannabis in thirty years

Bill Gates – Electronics legend, co-founder of Microsoft, philanthropist and humanitarian. Gates voted yes to legalize cannabis in his home of Washington State. Quoted from a biography about Gates written by Stephen Manes, “As for drugs – well, Gates was certainly not unusual there. Marijuana was the pharmaceutical of choice”

Athletes

Basketball greats LeBron James and Phil Jackson have openly discussed their marijuana use, and gold medal Olympian Michael Phelps was famously seen taking a bong hit.

Neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN, Sanjay Gupta is very vocal in his belief that marijuana should be fully legalized medicinally, as was famous anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Queen Victoria of England (yes really!) was believed to have taken tincture of cannabis for relieving menstrual cramps. Sir J. Russell Reynolds, her private doctor, wrote in 1890, “When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.”

Astronomer, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, cosmologist, author and beloved television host are just a few titles held by the late Carl Sagan. Sagan first started smoking marijuana as a 25-year old PhD student and was an avid cannabis user until his death in 1996.

In 1969 he wrote an essay using the pseudonym “Mr. X”, about the benefits of marijuana and its effect on his life. In the essay, he described how he felt cannabis gave him a better appreciation of art, music, food and even sex. He commented on how cannabis increased his memories, self-analysis and perception of certain matters.

Sagan also discussed the impact marijuana had on his work, giving one example from a time he was high “One idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I found that I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical and human biological topics.” He continued, “From all external signs such as public reactions and expert commentary, they seem to contain valid insights. I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures and in my books.”

Sagan described his experiences writing, “My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover.”

His final words of the essay spoke of his hopefulness regarding legalization of cannabis in the future. Although Sagan unfortunately did not get to see marijuana legalization in the United States before his passing, we can remember and agree with his words on the matter. “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”