Influential Pot Users

1. Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. Oh, and he was a confirmed and admitted stoner.

He published more than 600 scientific papersand articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He advocated scientifically skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Sagan played a leading role in the American space program since its inception. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA beginning in the 1950s, he briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon, and was an experimenter on the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions to the planets. He helped solve the mysteries of the high temperature of Venus (a massive greenhouse effect), the seasonal changes on Mars (windblown dust) and the reddish haze of Titan (complex organic molecules).

Sagan is known for his popular science books and for the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which he narrated and co-wrote. The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. Sagan wrote the novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name.

Asteroid 2709 Sagan is named after him. He was also given the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award of the American Astronautical Society, the Explorers Club 75th Anniversary Award, the Konstantin Tsiolokovsky Medal of the Soviet Cosmonautics Federation, and the Masursky Award of the American Astronomical Society.

Other Notable Awards:

Oersted Medal (1990)
NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal (twice)
Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction (1978)
National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal (1994)

“Somewhere, something incredible  is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan

2. Terence McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American philosopher, psychonaut, researcher, teacher, lecturer and writer on many subjects, such as human consciousness, language, psychedelic drugs, the evolution of civilizations, the origin and end of the universe, alchemy, and extraterrestrial beings.

In 1969, McKenna traveled to Nepal led by his “interest in Tibetan painting and hallucinogenic shamanism.” During his time there, he studied the Tibetan language and worked as a hashish smuggler, until “one of his Bombay-to-Aspen shipments fell into the hands of U. S. Customs.” He was forced to move to avoid capture by Interpol.  He wandered through Southeast Asia viewing ruins, collected butterflies in Indonesia, and worked as an English teacher in Tokyo. He then went back to Berkeley to continue studying biology, which he called “his first love”

McKenna, his brother Dennis, and three friends traveled to the Colombian Amazon in search of oo-koo-hé, a plant preparation containing Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Instead of oo-koo-hé they found various forms of ayahuasca, or yagé, and gigantic psilocybe cubensis which became the new focus of the expedition.  In La Chorrera, at the urging of his brother, he was the subject of a psychedelic experiment which he claimed put him in contact with “Logos“: an informative, divine voice he believed was universal to visionary religious experience.The voice’s reputed revelations and his brother’s simultaneous peculiar experience prompted him to explore the structure of an early form of the I Ching, which led to his “Novelty Theory”.

Ideas/Theories:

Terence McKenna advocated the exploration of altered states of mind via the ingestion of naturally occurring psychedelic substances. For example, and in particular, as facilitated by the ingestion of high doses of psychedelic mushrooms, and DMT, which he believed was the apotheosis of the psychedelic experience. He spoke of the “jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs” or “self-transforming machine elves” that one encounters in that state.

Although he avoided giving his allegiance to any one interpretation (part of his rejection of monotheism), he was open to the idea of psychedelics as being “trans-dimensional travel”; literally, enabling an individual to encounter what could be ancestors, or spirits of earth. He remained opposed to most forms of organized religion or guru-based forms of spiritual awakening.

Either philosophically or religiously, he expressed admiration for Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Gnostic Christianity, Alfred North Whitehead and Alchemy. McKenna always regarded the Greek philosopher Heraclitus as his favorite philosopher.

He also expressed admiration for the works of James Joyce (calling Finnegans Wake “the quintessential work of art, or at least work of literature of the 20th century”)and Vladimir Nabokov: McKenna once said that he would have become a Nabokov lecturer if he had never encountered psychedelics.

“Stoned Ape” theory of human evolution

In his book Food of the Gods,McKenna proposed that the transformation from humans’ early ancestors Homo erectus to the species Homo sapiens mainly had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis in its diet – an event which according to his theory took place in about 100,000 BC (this is when he believed that the species diverged from the Homo genus). He based his theory on the main effects, or alleged effects, produced by the mushroom. One of the effects that comes about from the ingestion of low doses, which agrees with one of scientist Roland Fischer’s findings from the late 1960s-early 1970s, is it significantly improves the visual acuity of humans – so theoretically, of other human-like mammals too. According to McKenna, this effect would have definitely proven to be of evolutionary advantage to humans’ omnivorous hunter-gatherer ancestors that would have stumbled upon it “accidentally”; as it would make it easier for them to hunt.

In higher doses, McKenna claims, the mushroom acts as a sexual stimulator, which would make it even more beneficial evolutionarily, as it would result in more offspring. At even higher doses, the mushroom would have acted to “dissolve boundaries”, which would have promoted community-bonding and group sexual activities-that would result in a mixing of genes and therefore greater genetic diversity. Generally McKenna believed that the periodic ingestion of the mushroom would have acted to dissolve the ego in humans before it ever got the chance to grow in destructive proportions. In this context, he likened the ego to a cancerous tumor that can grow uncontrollable and become destructive to its host. In his own words:

Wherever and whenever the ego function began to form, it was akin to a cancerous tumor or a blockage in the energy of the psyche. The use of psychedelic plants in a context of shamanic initiation dissolved-as it dissolves today-the knotted structure of the ego into undifferentiated feeling, what Eastern philosophy calls the Tao.
—Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods

The mushroom, according to McKenna, had also given humans their first truly religious experiences (which, as he believed, were the basis for the foundation of all subsequent religions to date). Another factor that McKenna talked about was the mushroom’s potency to promote linguistic thinking. This would have promoted vocalisation, which in turn would have acted in cleansing the brain (based on a scientific theory that vibrations from speaking cause the precipitation of impurities from the brain to the cerebrospinal fluid), which would further mutate the brain. All these factors according to McKenna were the most important factors that promoted evolution towards the Homo sapiens species. After this transformation took place, the species would have begun moving out of Africa to populate the rest of the planet. Later on, this theory by McKenna was given the name “The ‘Stoned Ape’ Theory of Human Evolution”

3. Sir Richard Branson is an English business mogul, best known for his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies.

His first successful business venture was a magazine called Student at age 16. In 1970, he set up an audio record mail-order business. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores. Branson’s Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and expanded the Virgin Records music label.

Branson is the 4th richest citizen of the United Kingdom and 254th richest person in the world, according to the Forbes 2011 list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of US $4.2 billion

in 2007 he smoked cannabis with his son Sam, a model, during a surfing holiday in Australia. “I went with my son on his gap year. We had some nights where we laughed our heads off for eight hours,” Branson said, adding, .”I don’t think smoking the occasional spliff is all that wrong. I’d rather my son did it in front of me than behind closed doors.” In the interview with Piers Morgan for GQmagazine, the entrepreneur also admitted trying cocaine and ecstasy.

Reportedly worth £5 billion, Branson says Rolling Stone Keith Richards was the “first person to teach me to roll a joint.” He said he had not tried the mythic super-strong “skunk” cannabis and insisted cannabis was okay “in moderation.” Branson is pro-hemp, and recently offered a cash prize for anyone who can come up with a carbon sequestering technology for his airline. Branson was among 100 prominent people who signed a public declaration in favor of the decriminalization of cannabis. They also included former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, and playwright Harold Pinter.

In 2001 Branson said that he would sell legalized cannabis in his Virgin stores but not tobacco because it is too dangerous. When asked about cannabis on a BBC2 interview he said: “I personally think it should be legalized. I think it’s wrong that 100,000 young people have criminal records every year for doing something which is no worse than their parents are doing every night—drinking alcohol.”

Branson recounts trying pot and LSD in his book, Losing My Virginity, but says he’s done drugs only “rarely.” In one instance, he took a joint so as not to appear ungrateful to the host who proffered it, and found out the next day that Dire Straits signed with another label.

4. Timothy Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs like LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as “turn on, tune in, drop out“, “set and setting”, and “think for yourself and question authority”. He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and he developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Leary was arrested regularly and was held captive in 29 different prisons throughout the world. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America”.

Leary is often considered one of the most prominent figures during the counterculture of the 1960s, and since those times has remained incredibly influential on pop culture, literature, television, film; and especially music.

Timothy Leary’s ideas heavily influenced the work of Robert Anton Wilson. This influence went both ways and Leary admittedly took just as much from Wilson. Wilson’s book Prometheus Rising was an in depth, highly detailed and inclusive work documenting Leary’s eight circuit model of consciousness. Although the theory originated in discussions between Leary and a Hindu holy man at Millbrook, Wilson was one of the most ardent proponents of it and introduced the theory to a mainstream audience in 1977’s bestselling Cosmic Trigger. In 1989, they appeared together on stage in a dialog entitled The Inner Frontierin Cleveland, Ohio hosted by the Association for Consciousness Exploration,(the same group that had hosted Leary’s first Cleveland appearance in 1979). Wilson and Leary conversed a great deal on philosophical, political and futurist matters and became close friends who remained in contact through Leary’s time in prison and up until his death. Wilson regarded Leary as a brilliant man and often is quoted as saying (paraphrase) “Leary had a great deal of ‘hilaritas’, the type of cheer and good humour by which it was said you could recognise a deity”.

Owsley Stanley, one of the pioneers of the era, would later write of him:

Leary was a fool. Drunk with “celebrity-hood” and his own ego, he became a media clown—and was arguably the single most damaging actor involved in the destruction of the evanescent social movement of the ’60s. Tim, with his very public exhortations to the kids to “tune in, turn on and drop out”, is the inspiration for all the current draconian US drug laws against psychedelics. He would not listen to any of us when we asked him to please cool it, he loved the limelight and relished his notoriety… I was not a fan of his.

Author and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey remained a supporter and admirer of Leary throughout his career,

Leary can get a part of my mind that’s kind of rusted shut grinding again, just by being around him and talking.

World religion scholar Huston Smith was turned on by Leary after the two were introduced to one another by Aldous Huxley in the early 1960s. The experience was interpreted as deeply religious by Smith, and is captured in detailed religious terms in Smith’s later work Cleansing of the Doors of Perception. This was Smith’s one and only entheogenic experience, at the end of which he asked Leary, to paraphrase, if Leary knew the power and danger of that with which he was conducting research. In Mother Jones Magazine, 1997, Smith commented:

First, I have to say that during the three years I was involved with that Harvard study, LSD was not only legal but respectable. Before Tim went on his unfortunate careening course, it was a legitimate research project. Though I did find evidence that, when recounted, the experiences of the Harvard group and those of mystics were impossible to tell apart—descriptively indistinguishable—that’s not the last word. There is still a question about the truth of the disclosure.

The slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”, signified a conceptual way of thinking wherein a person would turn on to their own way of thinking, tune in to themselves, and drop out of society. This constituted a concept of inward self reliance.

5. George Washington: Yeah, that’s right, the first recorded President of the United States. It is not known whether Washing smoked it or not, but he did cultivate the plant.

Washington’s diary reports that he separated males from females in his hemp garden, “rather too late.” Much speculation has ensued about whether or not Washington’s reason for sexing his plants was to make a more smokable product. One thing is for sure: hemp was grown in the US colonies as far back as Jamestown, with several colonies ordering their farmers to grow it. Thomas Paines’s pamphlet Common Sense lists hemp as the first requirement for revolution, writing that in the colonies “hemp flourishes almost to rankness.” Thomas Jefferson also grew hemp on his plantation and went to great lengths to smuggle hemp seeds out of China. Jared Eliot wrote, “I am informed by my worthy friend Benjamin Franklin, Esq., of Philadelphia, that they raise hemp upon their drained lands.

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