Marijuana, I shouldn’t have to tell you, grows naturally upon the earth and humanity has used the plant for its many medicinal and psychoactive effects for purposes as far ranging as ritual, medicine, industry, and of course, recreation for centuries. Not surprisingly, many of the world’s greatest artists, authors, scientists, and thinkers have gone on record to sing its praises or decry its prohibition — in fittingly chill fashion. Here’s a list of some of our favorite famous cannabis quotes.
1. “Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit … unnatural?” – Bill Hicks
Comedian, social critic, and barstool philosopher, the late, great Bill Hicks always spoke truth to power to those who would seek to restrict humanity’s natural state. Hicks had the most finely calibrated bullshit detector in the game, always able to zero in on the baldly hypocritical aspects of society, particularly regarding the Drug War. It’s enough to make you laugh… to keep from crying.
2. “Alcohol and marijuana, if used in moderation, plus loud, usually low-class music, make stress and boredom infinitely more bearable.” – Kurt Vonnegut
If there’s anyone that I would want to take life advice from, it’s Kurt Vonnegut. On the shortlist for greatest American novelists of the 20th Century, Vonnegut was a writer always in touch with his baser instincts, all the better to leaven his philosophical musings and science-fiction-tinged flights of fancy in his work. I like to imagine Mr. Vonnegut, preeminent author, taking a break from his typewriter, double-fisting a screwdriver and a joint and rocking out to Ambrosia, whose minor hit “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” transposes a poem from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle to their brand of ‘70s progressive-butt rock.
3. “It really puzzles me to see marijuana connected with narcotics … dope and all that crap. It’s a thousand times better than whiskey – it’s an assistant – a friend.” – Louis Armstrong
When Old Satchel Mouth tells you something, you better listen! Possibly the most important figure in American Jazz, as well as custodian and ambassador of the artform across the first half of the 20th Century, Louis Armstrong knew how best to handle the expectations and responsibilities placed upon him and his work–by unwinding with his “assistant” and “friend,” Mary Jane, as seen in this cannabis quote.
4. “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.” – Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan may have been the most respected and trusted of scientific ambassadors, making frequent appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and producing his seminal non-fiction miniseries Cosmos, as well as spearheading the Voyager project, used to communicate with extraterrestrial life via a golden record shot into the depths of space… Now that I’m typing this, yeah this dude smoked weed.
5. “Of course I know how to roll a joint.” – Martha Stewart
This cannabis quote is less notable for what is said than by who is saying it. Martha Stewart, preeminent homemaker, billionaire mogul, and ex-convict, shows that apparently the skill set required in rolling the perfect Swiss rolls isn’t too dissimilar in the ones needed to expertly roll a joint. But then again, considering her longtime collaboration with noted blunt enthusiast Snoop Dogg, perhaps the fact that Martha Stewart can roll a joint shouldn’t be that surprising.
6. “Is marijuana addictive? Yes, in the sense that most of the really pleasant things in life are worth endlessly repeating.” ― Richard Neville
This cannabis quote from Australian counterculture author Richard Neville really speaks to the addictive nature of peace, calm, and bliss associated with smoking some really good herb.
7. “Hashish will be, indeed, for the impressions and familiar thoughts of the man, a mirror which magnifies, yet no more than a mirror.” – Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire, whose seminal 1857 volume of poetry The Flowers of Evil influenced a generation of French authors, is considered the godfather of the French Symbolist movement in literature. I like to imagine Baudelaire, the first translator of Edgar Allen Poe to the French language, taking waaaaay too big of a hash hit and staring waaaaay too long into the mirror and thought waaaaay too hard about being waaaaay too high.
8. “I find it quite ironic that the most dangerous thing about weed is getting caught with it.” – Bill Murray
Bill Murray is a legend. From his break on Saturday Night Live to Caddyshack to Ghostbusters to What About Bob? to his transformation into indie-darling character actor, Bill Murray has rarely been out of the public consciousness in the last 45 years, and has always served to crack us up. Leave it to the inveterate deadpan funnyman to lay bare the hypocrisy of the War on Drugs in one droll sentence.
9. “I used to smoke marijuana. But I’ll tell you something: I would only smoke it in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening – or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, mid-evening and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early midafternoon, or perhaps the late-midafternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning. . . But never at dusk.” ― Steve Martin
Speaking of legendary funnymen, Steve Martin has prided himself on being something of a Renaissance man throughout his career, not only writing and acting in his own comedy vehicles like The Jerk and L.A. Story, but penning plays and novellas, brilliantly displaying the intelligence necessary to deliver a truly dumb joke. A skillset developed no doubt from a toke session or two. Plus this dude can pick a mean banjo.
10. “I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits – and millions of Americans agree with me.” – Hunter S. Thompson
This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone reading this article that Hunter Thompson did drugs. Hell, the only thing more impressive than the man’s capacity for psychotropic substances was his ability to convey that mindset through writing. Honestly, if E. Jean Carroll’s catalog of his daily routine is to be believed, marijuana is among the more innocent items on that sordid laundry list.
11. “Marijuana should be legalized. All drugs should be legalized. I’m tired of all the best party people being caged.” – Thor Benson
Thor Benson, freelance journalist whose pieces have been featured in The Atlantic, U.S. News & World Report, Wired, and Rolling Stone to name a few, shares some of that Hunter Thompson Gonzo energy, coupling razor sharp reporting with an indulgence for drinks and drugs. It’s no wonder that Benson so vehemently opposes the War on Drugs, as he just wants to keep the party going — don’t we all?
12. “The other day they asked me about mandatory drug testing. I said I believed in drug testing a long time ago. All through the sixties, I tested everything.”- Bill “Spaceman” Lee
Noted 1970s Boston Red Sox pitcher was just as notable for his sly left-handed pitching as he was for his ingestion of copious amounts of drugs spanning his career in professional baseball. It’s not for nothing he wound up the nickname “Spaceman” which, to be noted in the ‘70s for conspicuous consumption of illicit substances is really saying something.
13. “I was fascinated that one could have such perceptual changes, and also that they went with a certain feeling of significance, an almost numinous feeling. I’m strongly atheist by disposition, but nonetheless when this happened, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘That must be what the hand of God is like.’” – Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks was a neurologist, science historian, and author who regularly wrote about the human brain and its capacity to surprise and adapt in books such as Awakenings. Sacks’ retelling of the first time he got high is all but a validation for any pot-smoke. Here is one of the pre-eminent experts on the human brain, who the New York Times called the “poet laureate of modern medicine,’ comparing getting high to no less than being touched by the hand of God. This particular cannabis quote sounds like a ringing endorsement to me!
14. “I think pot should be legal. I don’t smoke it, but I like the smell of it.” – Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was never a stranger in any room he walked into. Recognizable by his shock of white synthetic hair hanging over his glasses and his slight frame, he was granted access into the most exclusive of affairs simply by virtue of being Andy Warhol. “If Andy’s here, then we might be in the place to be!” you’d think. It’s in such environments that Warhol likely became familiar with the pleasing smell of burning cannabis. Ever an enigma, Warhol wasn’t known for his substance use like many of his friends and contemporaries were, but it’s nice to know he liked the smell of pot when he was around it.
15. “One’s condition on marijuana is always existential. One can feel the importance of each moment and how it is changing one. One feels one’s being, one becomes aware of the enormous apparatus of nothingness — the hum of a hi-fi set, the emptiness of a pointless interruption, one becomes aware of the war between each of us, how the nothingness in each of us seeks to attack the being of others, how our being in turn is attacked by the nothingness in others.” – Norman Mailer
One gets the sense that Norman Mailer, cantankerous author of The Naked and The Dead, was high as fuck when he wrote the above cannabis quote. But, he may have been on to something. Being high can make you keenly aware of not just before-unheard and -unseen sensations, but the absence of sensations as well.
16. “It makes me feel the way I need to feel.” – Snoop Dogg
It would be almost impossible to get through a list of notable cannabis quotes without an entry from the Doggfather, possibly the most famous weed-smoker in the world (save for perhaps the very last person quoted in this list). Snoop echoes the sentiment for many a weed smoker: smoking weed is therapeutic. Whether relaxing at the end of a long day, an afternoon one-hitter on the way back to work from a lunch break, or getting nicely toasted before an event, weed helps people relax, heal, and maintain.
17. “If the words ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.” – Terence McKenna
Terence McKenna is listed on his Wikipedia entry as “ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, author, and an advocate for the responsible use of naturally occurring psychedelic plants.” He’s famous for his proselytization for psilocybin mushrooms. In this cannabis quote he makes a striking point about the mid-20th century Drug War hypocrisy: a nation founded by a bunch of hemp farmers dedicated to freedom from oppression should let their people be free to alter their reality as they see fit.
18. “I apprehended the structure of certain pieces of jazz and classical music in a new manner under the influence of marijuana, and these apprehensions have remained valid in years of normal consciousness.” – Allen Ginsberg
It’s said that marijuana’s psychoactive effects can enhance a work of art for a receptive audience member. Take it from Allen Ginsberg, Poet Laureate of the Beat Generation, marijuana can rip down your preconceived notions of art, opening your mind to possibilities never before considered. Whether hyperfocusing on a small aspect of a piece of music, or considering the holistic theme of a work of art, this stretching of critical faculties through cannabis is one big reason for the popularity of the plant.
19. “Unquestionably, this drug is very useful to the artist, activating trains of association that would otherwise be inaccessible, and I owe many of the scenes in Naked Lunch directly to the use of cannabis.”― William S. Burroughs
Akin to the experience of experiencing art while high, is the experience of making art while high. Again, cannabis can break down your preconceived notions and habits as an artist, allowing new avenues of thought and creativity. There’s no silver bullet for making great art–drugs work for some people; for others it can lead to artistic disaster. To those inclined, however, marijuana can be a useful, creative tool.
20. “Why do you want the criminals to make all the money off of marijuana when it’s proven that it won’t kill you unless you let a bale of it fall on you?” ― Willie Nelson
We’ll close out this list of cannabis quotes with a heaping helping of common sense from the Red-Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson. Long known to be a very vocal advocate for marijuana use (he smoked a joint on top of the White House during the Carter Administration!), Willie lays it out plain: why bother criminalizing weed when it’s less harmful than many other perfectly legal substances like alcohol, and let the profits from legal weed serve a tax base? That seems to be a question that more and more states are asking as voters and state legislators nationwide continue to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use.
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