Was William Shakespeare a Marijuana User? Science Says ‘YES’


Beyond the documented health benefits of cannabis, one of its more revered effects is the creativity it inspires in many of those who consume it. Noted thinkers, artists, scientists, and even executive-level businesspeople have celebrated marijuana’s effects on their work, and we’re not just talking about Hunter S. Thompson, Snoop Lion Dogg, and millionaire dispensary-owners. Steve Jobs, Carl Sagan, Oliver Sacks, and Maya Angelou are just a few of the notable and prolific cultural icons whose lives’ work was informed–if not inspired–by the use of marijuana.

Now, through science and the hard work of a South African palaeoanthropologist, we can add to our list one of the most influential and prolific writers of all times, The Bard himself: William Shakespeare.

Back in 2000, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, England granted South African scientist Francis Thackeray (then heading the Department of Palaeontology and Palaeoenvironmental Studies at the Transv Museum) access to dozens of smoking pipes found at William Shakespeare’s estate. Using advanced forensic technology called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, Thackeray determined that four of the pipes contained traces of cannabis residue. In addition to cannabis, traces of cocaine, tobacco, camphor, and the nutmeg-derived psychedelic myristic acid were found in several of the other smoking devices.

Many have long speculated that Shakespeare was a marijuana smoker, often citing his poem Sonnet 76, in which he refers to “a noted weed” and “compounds strange.” Check it out:

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?

While this discovery was made 15 years ago, a recent issue of Country Life magazine has renewed interest in Shakespeare’s drug use and, no doubt due to our current pot-heavy news cycle, is making headlines again. In internet time, 15 years may as well be a century, so we’re happy to be bringing this back to the world’s attention. Cannabis users are some of the most influential people in the world, and this is as close to definitive proof as you can get.


Alibi writes weed news right here at Marijuana Politics, and infrequently updates The Stoner's Journal. You'll find him reviewing weird bands and editorializing here and there and from time to time.