Five Brilliant Scientists Who Consumed Marijuana


We all know plenty of brilliant artists throughout history have indulged in marijuana use. The link between marijuana use and artistic creativity is well-known. However, creativity is also a positive trait for thinkers in the hard sciences too. The great Albert Einstein—a likely but unconfirmed weed smoker—said, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” With that in mind, here are five confirmed examples of brilliant scientists that consumed marijuana:

1. Oliver Sacks

Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks enjoyed and was fascinated with the hallucinatory effects of smoking marijuana. This is not surprising considering Sacks build a career studying the interaction of human senses and the reality around us. Sacks made enormous contributions to the fields of neurology and psychology, in large part thanks to his ability to think creatively.

2. Francis Crick

Another Nobel winner, Francis Crick famously discovered the double helix of DNA alongside James Watson.  He also consumed marijuana and experimented with LSD according to biographer Matt Ridley.

3. Stephen J. Gould

Stephen J. Gould was one of the “most influential paleontologists and evolutionary biologists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries” according to the American Museum of Natural History. He was also a marijuana advocate. Gould credited marijuana with helping him recover from a deadly form of mesothelioma in the early 1980s—he lived twenty more years. In 1998, Gould testified in the case of marijuana activist Jim Wakeford.

4. Lester Grinspoon

Dr. Lester Grinspoon is an Associate Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and an avidcannabis activist. When Grinspoon began studying marijuana in the 1960s, he believed that “it was a very harmful drug that was unfortunately being used by more and more foolish young people who would not listen to or could not believe or understand the warnings about its dangers.” However, he later conceded that his beliefs were unfounded, and over the years transformed into a prominent pro-cannabis legalization activist (and smoker).

5. Carl Sagan

One of the most beloved scientists of all-time, the great astrophysicist Carl Sagan of Cosmos fame, loved to smoke marijuana. In 1969, for the publication Marijuana Reconsidered, Sagan wrote:  

“There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day. . . .

[T]he 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.”

Some may think cannabis use dulls the intellect—but as these examples show, cannabis can actually increase creative thought and give people an intellectual boost. Have a question or comment about this list—contact us!


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