Following the recent legalization by state law of cannabis and cannabis-related products, the interest in the plant and the usage of its components for varying reasons has grown exponentially. More and more people are finding themselves drawn to using cannabis and cannabis-related products such as CBD oil and edible as they are now widely known to be a healthy alternative to conventional medicines.
Along with this curiosity about what cannabis can do, the interest in its history has also grown. Where did it come from? How long has it been in existence and in use? What influence has it had on history and historical figures, and if so, how much?
Shakespeare and Cannabis
Recently, scientists from South Africa who were studying tobacco pipes that were recovered from Shakespeare’s home spoke of the traces of cannabis that were discovered in the pipes. This finding has sparked a discussion over whether or not Shakespeare and his iconic works were indeed influenced by cannabis. Was the famous playwright and his works inspired by the drug?
While investigating William Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, scientists discovered tobacco pipes originating in the 17th century. Upon the examination of the pipes through advanced scientific means (a chemical test by the name of Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry or GCMS), scientists and botanists alike were able to identify the presence of cannabis on the fragments of the pipes.
The chemical test used was able to determine the presence of various drugs on pipe bowls found at the home of the playwright. The drug contents found include cocaine, various hallucinogens, and compounds that come from burned cannabis.
Upon closer examination by anthropologists, it has been suggested that Shakespeare has indeed referenced the usage of drugs in his works, such as in the case of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76: “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…” It has been implied by experts and academicians that the ‘noted weed’ Shakespeare was referring to might be an allusion to the usage of cannabis as tobacco.
Though Shakespeare’s remains cannot be exhumed and examined for evidence of drug usage, forensics and historians claim that the revelation that William Shakespeare used drugs and was inspired by it is not at all shocking as he lived in a time where the smoking of diverse plants was not particularly taboo. The 17th century Elizabethan England was a hotbed for drug usage, and experts say that it is not impossible for Shakespeare to have been exposed to them.
Whether or not Shakespeare used cannabis or was inspired by it, this discovery and the presence of this discussion carries significant implications in the argument against the infamy and harmfulness of cannabis. If a playwright as successful as Shakespeare was indeed a user of this drug and was able to flourish as much as he did during his time, then who can say that the usage of cannabis and related products, especially for medicinal purposes, is criminal and harmful?