The Nobel Committee recently made waves by awarding its lauded Nobel Prize for literature to Bob Dylan, and while we agree that the man who turned the Beatles on to pot is a lyrical genius, he’s not on this list. Why? Because we decided to look past all of the successful musicians and actors who like to indulge to find the absolute smartest stoners who’ve ever walked the planet—we’re talking scientists, doctors and CEOs.
Margaret Mead was a cultural anthropologist and activist who helped spark the feminist and sexual revolution movements in the United States. A quote from Mead that appeared inNewsweek in 1970 reads like it could have been said today: “It is my considered opinion at present that marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few overusers, because you can get damage from any kind of overuse.”
A 1993 Nobel Laureate in chemistry for his DNA research on the polymerase chain reaction (P.C.R.), Kary Mullis is a frequent lecturer on molecular biology. The New York Times went so far as to say, “His invention is highly original and significant, virtually dividing biology into the two epochs of before P.C.R. and after P.C.R.” He currently serves on the advisory board of NORML and has written about his use of marijuana and LSD.
Stephen Jay Gould
Named a “Living Legend” by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2000, Stephen Ray Gould was a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science credited with bringing evolution to a national audience, becoming heavily involved in pop culture through the ’80s and ’90s. Gould began smoking marijuana after being diagnosed with incurable abdominal mesothelioma; with a diagnosis of eight months left to live, he made it another 20 years and became a big advocate of medical marijuana and ending the global drug war.
A man who needs no introduction, Bill Gates built up Microsoft at the same time Steve Jobs was building Apple, so it’s only fitting the two men of the same era have similar feelings regarding weed. Gates voted for legalization in Washington, his home state, and this year, Microsoft partnered with a software company that tracks the cannabis industry, the “first time a major American company put its money behind legal weed.”
Oliver Sacks was a neurologist best known for turning many of his experiences and case studies into books, several of which have been adapted for film and stage. Several outlets have described him as “one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century.” A frequent drug user himself—his book Hallucinations was about various types of hallucinations—Sacks wrote about his first time smoking marijuana: “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.’”
We don’t need to tell you what makes this former Apple CEO a genius—you probably have at least one, if not several, of his company’s market-changing products. Jobs was not only a stoner during his early days, but also dabbled in other drugs, including LSD. He claimed that both helped make him more creative, a claim our (also genius) staff entirely endorses.
The scientific community —particularly the space community—lost a huge ally in 1996 when Car Sagan passed away. The preeminent scholar on extraterrestrial life, he was also an author, with his work Cosmos securing the spot for best-selling science book published in English.
A theoretical physicist known for things that would be too difficult to describe here, he received the joint Nobel Prize in 1965 and assisted in the development of the atomic bomb. Feynman was exposed to marijuana and LSD in the context of John Lilly’s sensory deprivation tanks, and his open acknowledgement of his drug use brought him much praise and criticism from the scientific community in the ’50s and ’60s.
Along with James Watson, Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 and jointly received the Nobel Prize in 1962. Although maybe not a frequent smoker himself, Crick was a long-time advocate for legalization and a critic of marijuana’s legal classification alongside harder drugs. He famously wrote to Dr. Clyde Manwell in 1970 that, “In my view, cannabis is not a dangerous drug, and is certainly no worse than the combination of alcohol and tobacco.”