Throughout history, many famous and powerful people have had strong feelings about marijuana but kept it to themselves. Many others have had such gratifying relationships with the plant that they have gone so far as to advocate its use.

From supporting the plant for the manufacturing of merchandise such as laundry detergent and rope (Queen Elizabeth I of England), to consuming it for medicinal and recreational purposes, smart people have always believed in cannabis. In this article, we put our spotlight on ten genius minds who smoke weed and who have famously, and sometimes controversially, advocated its use.

What is different about this list is that many of the folks on it are not your average stoners, musicians, or off-grid poets. Many are successful billionaires, prominent scientists, and wise philosophers. If some of these names don’t ring a bell, we’re willing to bet your mom and dad will know who they are. Drop their names at the next family gathering to make your case on why you smoke pot, “Look Ma, Margaret Mead smoked weed!”

So here, without further ado, are ten Mensa-level geniuses that indulge in the devil’s lettuce and are proud of it.

1. Maya Angelou -American poet, Singer, Memoirist, Civil Rights Activist

Maya Angelou
“Maya Angelou” by Rusty Darbonne is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The late author Maya Angelou wrote about her experiences with marijuana in Gather Together in My Name, the second part of her autobiography following I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).

Angelou publicly addressed her personal life in her books and often wrote about her marijuana use. She was a spokesperson for women and African-Americans whose writings are discussed in schools and universities throughout the world. She challenged the traditional structure of the autobiography by expanding the genre. Her books focus on gender, identity, race, family, and travel.

Angelou one of the first African-American women ready and able to publicly write about her own life. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was criticized by many and removed from schools and libraries because of its depicted premarital cohabitation, lesbianism, pornography, and the author’s relaxed attitude towards marijuana. On her smoking experience, she wrote:

“ I learned new postures and developed new dreams. From a natural stiffness, I melted into a grinning tolerance. Walking on the streets became high adventure, eating my mother’s huge dinners an opulent entertainment, and playing with my son was side-cracking hilarity. For the first time, life amused me.”Gather Together in My Name (1974).

President Barack Obama presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. She died in 2014.

2. Carl Sagan – American Astronomer, Cosmologist, Astrophysicist, Astrobiologist

Carl Sagan photo
10 Genius Minds That Smoke Marijuana 12

Carl Sagan was an author and communicator who brought science to mainstream society. He is best known for his work on extraterrestrial life and his experimental presentation of the formulation of amino acids from chemicals by radiation. He was also a self-professed user of cannabis and was an advocate of the herb.

In 1971, he wrote an essay about smoking marijuana that was published in the book, Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), where he credited marijuana for the incentive of his work and his intellectual experiences. He claimed that cannabis-inspired many of his works and heightened his experiences.

His position on the existence of UFSs, known as Sagan’s Paradox, established a belief that extraterrestrial life does indeed exist, but that it is unrelated to UFOs. This new outlook was detrimental to other UFO investigations. It divided researchers into two groups: one group acknowledged that flying objects exist and another group sought to identify them. Carl Sagan presented scientists with opportunities to scan the universe for signs of intelligent life without the stigma often associated with UFOs and extraterrestrials. Sagan died in 1996.

3.  Margaret Mead – World-Famous Anthropologist

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When Margaret Mead died in 1978, she was perhaps one of the most revered anthropologists in the world. Her works taught the public about anthropology and a holistic approach to the human species. Mead was ahead of her time, writing about topics that focused on women and gender roles in American society. Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) was instrumental in inspiring the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

In 1969, Mead spoke before Congress in support of marijuana legalization and she told Newsweek Magazine that she had tried it. She was then labeled a “dirty old lady” by Florida Governor Claude Kirk, and a “spook” by the wife of the Attorney General. These opinions did little to deter her and seemed to drive her more.

After her death in 1978, President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded Mead the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

4.  Sanjay Gupta, M.D. – Neurosurgeon and Medical Journalist

web.Sanjay Gupta headshot
// Photograph courtesy of Sanjay Gupta

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been instrumental in producing informative television shows that illustrate the benefits of marijuana. As associate chief of the neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, and as an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine, the good doctor has been in the forefront of the cannabis legalization movement and education.

He has produced multiple Emmy Award-winning specials for CNN. In 2013, while working on a documentary about marijuana, Gupta announced that he had changed his mind about the plant. Gupta had previously condoned medical marijuana, but in light of his own findings, he reversed his position. He produced the four-part documentary for CNN, “Weed: The Marijuana Revolution which showed his new findings.

5.  Dalai Lama – World Religious Leader

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“Dalai Lama with Marco Pannella” by dumplife (Mihai Romanciuc) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Five Precepts of Buddhism require all Buddhists to refrain from the following: Harming living things; Taking what is not given; Sexual misconduct; Lying or gossip; Consuming intoxicating drugs and drink.

Looking at No. 5,  it stands to reason that Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama would oppose the use of drugs and alcohol, including marijuana. But in a 2013 conversation with former Mexican president Vicente Fox, the spiritual leader noted that consuming marijuana would be acceptable if it had “pharmaceutical virtues.” and was supportive of allowing science and medical experts to determine if patients should use cannabis for medical reasons.

6.  Snoop Dogg – Rapper, Entrepreneur

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“Snoop Dogg – Hovefestivalen 2012” by NRK P3 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

No list of cannabis influencers would be complete without the mention of rapper and pot entrepreneur Snoop Dogg. Born Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., Snoop has been an outspoken cannabis advocate and “ganjapreneur” for years and has remained at the forefront of the cannabis boom since the very beginning.

In April 2015, Snoop became an investor in Eaze, a California-based cannabis delivery company that delivers legal marijuana to your doorstep in minutes. In October 2015, he launched a digital media business, Merry Jane, a website with cannabis news and information, as well as interactive tools for exploring new cannabis products, dispensaries, events, and community. 

In November 2015, Snoop debuted his own cannabis product line, Leafs By Snoop. The line includes marijuana flower, concentrates, and edibles, and it makes him the first influential personality to brand and market his own line of legal marijuana products.  The savvy businessman partnered with the Canadian company Canopy Growth to sell his “Leafs by Snoop” products. Moreover, with the legalization of cannabis last year in Canada, the rapper’s net profit from his cannabis commodity is bound to escalate due to its high demand. 

7.  Hugh Hefner – Founder and former CEO of Playboy Enterprises

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“Hugh Hefner” by Alan Light is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The late founder and CEO of Playboy Enterprises lived his life pushing boundaries. So it should come as no surprise that he also pushed for marijuana legalization in the U.S.

A lifelong cannabis user, in 2010 Hefner was quoted as saying “I don’t think there’s any question that marijuana should be legalized because to not legalize it, we’re paying the same price we paid for Prohibition.” When a recreational cannabis bill in California passed in Nov. 2016, Hef’s prophetic words became a reality, well, in California at least.  Hugh Hefter died in 2017.

8. Hunter S. Thompson – American Author, Journalist

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American journalist, author, and founder of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson’s first literary contribution was the book, Hell’s Angels, published in 1967. As research for the book, he spent a while living with a motorcycle gang in order to write a realistic account of their lives.

A notoriously heavy drug user himself, Thompson vehemently advocated drug legalization and was an early supporter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the oldest and largest group dedicated to cannabis legalization. Thompson was on the advisory board for over three decades. In a 1997 interview, he claimed that drugs should be legalized “across the board… but I think it’s the only way to deal with drugs. Look at Prohibition: all it did was make a lot of criminals rich.”  Thompson died by suicide in 2005.

9.  Oprah Winfrey – Media Magnate, TV Personality, Philanthropist

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“Oprah Winfrey” by Alan Light is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Oprah Winfrey needs no introduction. We’ve all watched her skyrocket to mega-fame from humble beginnings. She has overcome obstacles that many of the other people on this list cannot even imagine. As the chairwoman, CEO, and CCO of the Oprah Winfrey Network and chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions, she is one of the savviest business giants in media.

With a net worth upwards of $3 billion, Winfrey has never publicly taken a stance on marijuana legalization, but she has admitted to smoking the herb.

On a 2018 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Oprah’s BFF Gayle King spilled the tea sharing that the media queen does indeed enjoy an occasional toke now and then, but we’re not surprised. For someone who advocates peace and harmony and tuning in to your inner soul, it makes sense that Oprah would turn to weed to reach her “happy place.”

10.  Bill Gates – Microsoft founder, Philanthropist, Humanitarian

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“Bill Gates – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2011” by World Economic Forum is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Bill Gates is not only the second-richest man in the world (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is first), but he is also a pretty smart guy, what with Microsoft and all. What’s more, the wealthy technologist supported the 2012 referendum to legalize cannabis in Washington.  

In a 1994 Playboy interview, he indicated that his psychedelic experimentation was not restricted to cannabis only. In 2016, Microsoft partnered with Kind Financial, a startup that will provide fiscal infrastructure to a booming cannabis industry that is currently forced to deal exclusively in cash.

And there you have it. Ten of the most genius, iconic and innovative minds who have used cannabis. Some use it every day, while others only dabble. Some others have even advocated for its legalization and firmly denounced prohibition.

Now the next time someone tells you that weed makes you dumb and lazy and you’ll never amount to anything in life, show them this. Hopefully, you’ll be able to open their minds or, at the very least, sway their perspective.


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