This doctor tried to convince Carl Sagan to stop smoking weed

Dr. Lester Grinspoon ended up becoming a leading cannabis advocate.

Apr 15, 2018

Photo Courtesy of David Bienenstock.

In 1967, Dr. Lester Grinspoon tried to stop his best friend (and fellow Harvard professor) Carl Sagan from getting blazed all the time.

“As a physician, I saw all that smoking going on, and I was really concerned about it,” according to Grinspoon.I suffered from a kind of arrogance that sometimes afflicts physicians. Doctors are supposed to automatically be experts on drugs, and so I found myself spieling off the stuff that the government was saying, telling this brilliant person that I was concerned about marijuana’s detrimental effect on his health. Because I truly believed pot was a very harmful drug.”

Instead, as the good doctor would discover after a fateful visit to the Harvard Medical School library, the government’s case against cannabis is all a pack of lies. So he wrote the seminal book Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), which for the first time in the modern era made the case for cannabis with hard data and medical studies. A national sensation upon publication, the book turned its author into a lifelong cannabis advocate and a leading figure in spreading awareness of the plant’s therapeutic properties and helping to end its prohibition.

Marijuana Reconsidered also included a few choice quotes from Carl Sagan, writing under the pseudonym Mr. X:

I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate. Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness. Both of these senses of the absurd can be communicated, and some of the most rewarding highs I’ve had have been in sharing talk and perceptions and humor. Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.

Sagan also praised marijuana as a means of cerebral expansion and exploration.

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. Some of the hardest work I’ve ever done has been to put such insights down on tape or in writing. The problem is that ten even more interesting ideas or images have to be lost in the effort of recording one.To hear more about Carl Sagan’s mind-expanding use of cannabis, Dr. Grinspoon’s incredible journey pushing for medical use and learning to love getting high along the way, and the life-long stony friendship these two heroes shared, check out the latest episode of Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean.

Apr 15, 2018