Is cannabis the cure for writer’s block?
It’s possible. Cannabis is well known as a creative-inducing substance. Despite the positive and negative stereotypes, this one won’t die.
And why should it? Stimulating your creative thoughts is one of the main appeals of cannabis.
And we’re not the only ones who think so. Here’s a list of ten writers who’ve used cannabis to aid their creative process.
1. Hunter S. Thompson
Author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and inventor of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, was a long-time cannabis user.
The writer once said: “It’s in my interest, in ours perhaps, or maybe the interests of the greater good, for me to smoke a joint, and calm down.”
And “I have always loved cannabis. 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.”
2. William Shakespeare
Shakespeare probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of cannabis writers. But in 2001, researchers unearthed several pipes in Shakespeare’s garden. Eight of the pipes contained cannabis fragments.
Read between the lines of his sonnets, particularly Sonnet 76. You may gain clues about the effects cannabis had on his work.
3. Lee Child
The British-American author of the famous “Jack Reacher” franchise is a full-on stoner. “I’ve smoked cannabis five nights a week for 44 years and my dealer’s on speed dial,” he once told the British press.
“I’m the poster boy to prove it doesn’t do you much harm… I have a guy on speed dial in New York who comes over with a huge range of marijuana. I smoke it in a pipe because I’ve never been any good at rolling my own joints.”
In Reacher Said Nothing, we see how Lee Child writes his books, including how he uses cannabis as an editing tool. “I don’t think weed should be made legal,” Lee says, “It should be compulsory!”
4. Alexandre Dumas
The 19th-century juggernaut responsible for The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers and a founding member of the Le Club des Hashishins (“The Club of the Hash-eaters.”)
After Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt, cannabis hash became popular in Paris, France. Dumas was part of a group of artists who met from 1844 to 1849 at the Hôtel Pimodan (now the Hôtel De Lauzun) for monthly “séances.”
5. Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan may have been a scientist first, but we remember him for how articulate his writings were. It’s rare for someone of his intellect to be able to describe complex ideas without sounding condescending.
In addition to hundreds of scientific papers, Sagan is the author of multiple best-selling books.
Carl Sagan was also, of course, a cannabis connoisseur.
You know when you’re high and think of something creative? Perhaps the next day, the idea doesn’t seem as far out as it did. It must have been the cannabis, right?
Sagan didn’t think so.
“There is a myth about such highs,” he wrote,
“The user has an illusion of great insight, but does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that 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. Some of the hardest work I’ve ever done has been put to such insights down on tape or in writing. The problem is that 10 even more interesting ideas or images have to be lost in the effort of recording one.”
6. Maya Angelou
The Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer has no qualms about cannabis.
In her autobiography, Gather Together in my name, she writes about the first time she used cannabis. It was during dinner, “The food was the best I’d ever tasted. Every morsel was an experience of sheer delight.”
She said cannabis also helped her during hard times when she struggled to make ends meet. “Positive dreaming was introduced on long, slow drags,” she wrote.
7. Victor Hugo
Another member of the Paris, Le Club des Hashishins, Victor Hugo, is famous for writing Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Hugo also had an affinity for cannabis, further proving that writers and cannabis are not just a 20th-century phenomenon.
8. Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino may be known better for his movies, but what’s Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs without the witty dialogue and potent satire?
If you want to check out Tarantino’s novel prowess, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was initially written as a novel (which he’s since published).
When it comes to cannabis? In an interview for Django Unchained, he told the interviewer: “You smoke a joint, you put on some music, you listen to it, and you come up with some good ideas…I don’t need pot to write, but it’s kind of cool.”
9. Norman Mailer
American journalist, author and essayist, you’ve probably heard the name Norman Mailer even if you haven’t read anything by him. Although he kept quiet about his cannabis use most of his life, he was getting pretty vocal by the end.
He compared it to a romantic relationship more valuable than anything he had with an actual human being. “Marijuana has a lovely quality,” he said, “to remove stale habits of the mind so one perceives a little better. One sees a little better and one hears a little better.”
10. Pierre Berton
Most lists on writers and cannabis you find on the internet feature all the same people—Sagan, Shakespeare, Thompson, etc.
But almost every list is missing this Canadian icon. Pierre Berton is to Canada what Mark Twain is to the United States.
It’s practically a guarantee that if you walk into any Canadian household, they will have an old hardcover copy of The National Dream, The Last Spike, or Vimy.
The late Canadian author’s last television appearance was rolling a joint on the Rick Mercer Report. And this was well before federal legalization.
And it’s actual cannabis.
“I am not going on CBC and rolling oregano, I’ll look like a fool,” he told Mercer.
“Remember Canada, it’s the loose joints that tend to fall apart, leaving unsightly toke burns on your chair or on your bow tie. It’s a tragedy we all want to avoid, don’t we?”
You can watch the video here.
10 Writers Who Love Cannabis
Of course, there are some honourable mentions.
Louisa May Alcott, Jack Kerouac, and even Stephen King used to smoke back in the 1980s.
But I think we’ve made our point. Cannabis gets a bad rap. People think it makes you an unmotivated, couch-locked potato. That alcohol has always been the writer’s best friend (see Ernest Hemingway or Charles Bukowski, or, making another appearance on a different list, Hunter S. Thompson).
But this list goes to show what most of us already know: cannabis stimulates the creative centres in the brain.
And who says you have to be a writer?
Are you in tech? Programming? Office administration?
Whatever you do, eventually, you’ll run into a problem that looks insurmountable. You’ve come at it from every different angle without a solution.
But have you tried some THC? Sometimes all you need is a little hoot, and your mind is already thinking outside the box.