5 Highly Successful Americans Who Defy Every Stereotype of Being a Stoner

That stoner kid who hacked the CIA director’s personal email is the latest to give the lie to the stupid pot smoker stereotype.

By Phillip Smith

Source: Alternet

When somebody hacked into the private email account of CIA director John Brennan last month, the irony was palpable. Here’s the head of the world’s spookiest spy agency getting played by some kid. And when it turned out that kid was a self-proclaimed stoner hacker, the schadenfreude meter went from the ridiculous to the sublime.

In honor of this stoner overachiever, and in another bid to forever bury the negative myths and stereotypes about marijuana users, we present a list of five other pot smokers who achieved some pretty remarkable things.

1. Stephen Jay Gould. One of the most influential and widely read popular science writers, Gould took up the pot pipe in 1982 after being diagnosed with cancer and claimed marijuana had an “important effect” on his recovery. He testified in court to its medical benefits, and said “it is beyond my comprehension that any humane person would withhold such a beneficial substance from people in such great need simple because others use it for different purposes.” Gould was not just a science popularizer; he was also a biologist, paleontologist, and historian of science, and during the two decades after he took up pot, he made his biggest contribution to science with the theory of punctuated evolution, summed up in his The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Not too shabby for a stoner.

2. Kary Mullis. Dr. Mullis won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1993 for inventing the polymerase chain reaction, which revolutionized genetic science by allowing for the creation of millions of copies of a DNA sequence from a single piece of the genetic material. The technique is now common, and indeed indispensable for a number of genetic applications, including DNA cloning, functional analysis of genes, the identification of genetic “fingerprints,” and the detection and diagnosis of infectious diseases. Mullis credited LSD with helping him come up with the polymerase chain reaction, but he also gave a shout-out to marijuana, which he purportedly smoked before his first acid trip.

3. Oliver Sacks. Sacks, who died earlier this year, was another writer who brought science to the masses, winning the informal title of “poet laureate of medicine” for his numerous books about neurological science, beginning with “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” His work was also the basis for the film “Awakenings,” based on his book of the same name, with Robin Williams playing the good doctor. Sacks was the recipient of numerous award and honorary doctorates in neurological science, and he did it all as an admitted pot smoker and one on a more than recreational level. Sacks, who also experimented with other drugs, including amphetamines and LSD, said that he saw pot smoking as a potential gateway to other levels of consciousness.

4. Ted Turner. This guy was such as stoner that he got busted for growing pot in his college dorm room and apparently never gave up the habit, even as he revolutionized TV news broadcasting by creating CNN in 1980, became one of the largest landowners in the country, and founded the Turner Foundation, which, among other things, is a major funder of the Kentucky Hemp Museum. He also ignored complaints that his Cartoon Network hit Scooby Doo was “laced with subliminal drug references,” garnering himself a perhaps unearned reputation as a fan of the stoner favorite, and he did the same to the DEA, blithely ignoring its demand for “rebuttal time” after CNN aired a semi-positive documentary on pot called Higher Times. When, in a 1987 bid to get wife Jane Fonda to quit smoking, he vowed not to hire cigarette smokers at CNN, former anchor Gwenn Scott called the ban hypocritical because “it is common knowledge that Turner sits in his office and smokes marijuana.”

5. That Bogarting Kid from the Choom Gang.You may know him better as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. Obama copped to ecumenical youthful pot smoking in his 1995 autobiography, “Dreams of My Father,” writing that he would smoke “in a white classmate’s sparkling new van,” “in the dorm room of some brother,” and “on the beach with some Hawaiian kids,” and apparently, damned near anywhere else he could.

But it was David Maraniss’ 2012 biography, “Barack Obama: The Story,” where the commander-in-chief was identified as a leading member of the “Choom Gang,” a group of pot-smoking buddies. “As a member of the Choom Gang, Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends,” including “Total Absorption” or “TA,” Maraniss wrote. “TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” explains Maraniss. If you exhaled prematurely when you were with the Choom Gang, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.”

Obama also helped popularize the practice of “roof hits,” the biographer noted. “When they were chooming in a car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.” And he was known to aggressively intercept passed joints: “When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.” Well, maybe Obama was the exception, and all those other Choomers ended up dead, in the gutter, or in prison, right? Wrong. “In fact,” Maraniss writes, “most members of the Choom Gang were decent students and athletes who went on to successful and productive lawyers, writers and businessmen.”


Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.


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