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Carl Sagan's essay on cannabis

05-01-2016 - 32 Comments

Carl Sagan's essay on cannabis

In case you missed it the first time: the article below was originally posted in 2009 but Carl Sagan's essay is still remarkable and poignant today. Enjoy!

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Below are a few citations from an essay that astronomer Carl Sagan wrote in 1969 for Marihuana Reconsidered, a book published by Dr. Lester Grinspoon. At that time Sagan was 35 years old. He continued using cannabis for the rest of his life.

"The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I'm down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse."

"A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me.

"Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I'm down. The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation. A potato will have a texture, a body, and taste like that of other potatoes, but much more so."

Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex - on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking."

"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."

"When I'm high I can penetrate into the past, recall childhood memories, friends, relatives, playthings, streets, smells, sounds, and tastes from a vanished era. I can reconstruct the actual occurrences in childhood events only half understood at the time. Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them a symbolism significant to me which I won't attempt to describe here, a kind of mandala embossed on the high. Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights."

"The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."

Well said, Carl...

The entire text can be read here: Dr. Lester Grinspoon's Marijuana Uses.


Comments

  • Jay 07-10-2009 18:56:18

    cannabis... the brain tonic :)

    i allways thought carl sagan was special and one of us, now i'm shure :P

  • Zioneye 13-10-2009 01:22:05

    We all need a psychologist sometimes:
    mine is called Mary, Mary Jane.

  • Peter Jackson 09-02-2010 06:19:18

    I was going to say the same things myself but never got around to it. :-)
    Good jazz, especially, becomes the rhythm of living.

  • macbone 20-07-2010 00:05:59

    I last used cannabis 30 plus years ago, and now that I recently started smoking it again, I regret I didn't continue. I recognise all aspects of the essay extract above. It's an amazing release and can only agree that it is criminal to restrict access to this beautiful stuff.

  • stoner steve 27-01-2011 16:42:27

    as a 18 yr old going on 6th year of pot smkin, i have come to enjoy this sensational past time. It has brought together many ppl i have come to noe as my friends.. my sex life is amazing as well as i too enjoy the simpliar things in life music n art is was cool when ur high..the stnr life is a life not only for me but shud be tried by evry1 on this amazing celestial ball of earth

  • Billy Bob 15-02-2011 22:03:26

    @stoner steve
    You arent helping.

  • A Pirate 20-05-2011 01:43:06

    It's because of people like stoner steve who create the stereotype for idiot potheads. Learn some grammer, douchewad.

  • Lam 19-06-2011 17:42:00

    The irony in A Pirate's post is overwhelming.

  • Trommy 01-07-2011 04:09:59

    Carl Sagan, A modern genius and incredible astronomer. Pothead just like me! Yep I'm a pothead, college graduate, rich, happily married,Drive a new Porsche, Productive and with an IQ of 157. Boy I love me some OG Kush and I love me some scrilla. I don't love me some ignorant people who want to control my liife and yours.

  • Jonathan 19-08-2011 06:10:53

    I think the Benefits from this go far beyond just the personal level. Say on a national level a country could do so much by legalizing this herb. Not only will it reduce the pull of people to drug dealers but it will ensure what people are buying is safe. It will help the countrys tourist industry. There would be a market opening Fore stores,shops and cafes to sell and cultivate weed. Dispensorys could be set up for the distribution of legal weed, all the things above creating much employment also there would be a new line of work in Cannabis farming the possibilities are endless

  • glowinggreenant 14-10-2011 18:09:07

    There is a new book out which explains the effects of a marijuana high, including the enhancement of episodic memory, pattern recognition, introspection, empathic understanding and the enhancement of our ability to produce insights: "High. Insights on Marijuana" by Sebastian Marincolo (dogearpublishing 2010). Highly recommended!

  • Liam 06-11-2011 05:14:06

    I think "the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world." is my favorite quote in the whole essay. That was written in 1969. Look where we are today, 2011, where marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic, right along with Heroin.
    I wonder what he would say...

    Also, as a 14 year old regular marijuana user, I definitely have to agree with A Pirate's post (except the "douchewad" part). People like stoner steve and like all "uneducated fools" are what give stoners a bad name. Anti-cannabis folk refer to these people when explaining what it "does to you", meanwhile those people were like that in the first place!

    The situation of marijuana today is simply unbelievable. *sigh*

  • Amanda 07-02-2012 20:20:00

    I can't say that I've had a particularly extensive experience with pot, however the few times I have partaken in cannabis consumption, the experience was intriguing to say the least. I am a color-graphemic and ordinal linguistic personification synesthete...so my experiences with pot are quite intense. I find both pros and cons to these experiences...for example, my perception of the color orange (specifically the pinkish, salmon-y sandpaper rough shade of orange) is thrown off, which can be irritating...However, my perception of translucent greens and choppy, frothy, slightly salty blues (shades of blue with slight sandy hints of gray-greens and silty beige) is enhanced, making the beach a really enjoyable place to go when high.
    I just recently turned twenty though, and as a young relatively attractive and genetically healthy women, I find that men seem to frequently ask me to get high with them, because pot does tend to lower ones inhibitions, and they assume that, if high, I will be more likely to consent to sexual intercourse. So, I do tend to stay away from pot simply because of that, and how much of a pain in the ass it can be to purchase without getting ripped off. As an artist, I find that when I’m in the throes of inspiration, the feelings and heightened awareness are quite similar to being high…and those moments of inspiration are magnified by pot. I do not enjoy smoking it, I prefer it in either a vaporized or edible form…the smoke makes my eyes burn and I do enjoy cookies quite a bit, so baking it into sweets has always been preferable than lighting up. I have dated the unintelligent type of stoner before, and dislike those who fit that stereotype…pot is a lot like a nice glass of wine, it should be enjoyed with tact and class, savored and not overused.

  • Wahwah 05-05-2012 05:48:16

    I always try to make marijuana consumption a positive experience, I cant stand when people just sit around being dumb and doing nothing.

  • ShellBell 14-06-2012 04:01:22

    Smoking pot probably would have saved my marriage, sadly.

  • Eco 01-07-2012 05:04:16

    Can you update the link to the essay? It is now found at the Internet Archive:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20090318080946/http://www.marijuana-uses.com/essays/002.html

  • tesla 06-11-2012 05:00:09

    if you wanna use propoganda to sell the legalization of pot , and sepcifcially link it with people whose alleged approval or usage are likely to influence the legalization of the drug---that person must be someone who appeals to the naysayers.

    scientists artists and other people on the left are not going to help.

    i want an article , highly detailed, about how mcarthur, truman, and chamberlain were all occasional pot smokers during the war. i don't give a pinneapple core if its true or not, but you better make it sound true. and repeat it as much as possible. thanks.
    carl sagan, yea wow, big surprise , who cares. wake me up after your done smelling your own pot scented farts while you slap your buddies back.

  • penelope 09-11-2012 19:12:06

    pot smoking nearly ended my marriage... hope it does

  • sunevesor 10-11-2012 04:55:46

    I am interested in the legalization of cannabis for medical and occasional use; As Amanda said, "... pot is a lot like a nice glass of wine, it should be enjoyed with tact and class, savored and not overused.
    I, myself, do not partake of the sweet weed because of bad experiences when I was younger.
    I do, however, have friends that enjoy a toke. Also, the benefits for those in medical need are astounding.
    I am hugely in favor, though, of having a minimum age to indulge in this treat.
    I see a huge difference in people who are college educated or have mature minds in the way this is beneficial and those who start smoking while in their teens. This drug is wasted on immature and uneducated minds.

  • Bonemiester 07-08-2013 17:55:52

    The pros arent out distancing the cons.. To many kids are dying.. Weed doesn't make you a better person.. You believe if you are told something enough times you begin to believe it.. Doing drugs gets progressively worse..

  • ed 17-09-2013 18:23:43

    My wife and I started smoking about 2 or 3 times a month. We do it purely for the intense sex that follows! We are 50 and otherwise a profesional conservitave couple.

  • jsun_s 31-01-2014 16:50:33

    Bonemeister... there has never been one recorded death associated with marijuana in the 10,000 years of its recorded use. You can't say that about alcohol and yet alcohol is legal. It is a people with issues problem, not a marijuana problem. Should alcohol be made illegal since it kills countless children in drunk driving accidents many of which have children behind the wheel? Of course not. We do not need anymore personal freedoms taken away because some old corporate puppet lawmakers think they know better how we should live our lives and raise our children.

  • SherrylAnn 24-02-2014 03:39:09

    Dr. Sagan is my hero. Such a shame he died so young - he gave us so much and would have continued to do so. My condolences to his wife Ann and his children.

  • Cdn 15-03-2014 08:45:07

    So, what about his protégé Neil deGrasse Tyson? deGrasse? !!!

  • Presley Conkle 23-04-2015 02:11:06

    Carl Sagan Presley Conkle

  • Presley Conkle 23-04-2015 02:12:29

    Wait... I think I did that wrong.

  • toker 09-04-2016 19:42:46

    I started smoking 40 years ago. I would smoke everyday if it wasn't for the side effects that occur when you inhale smoke into your lungs. Not to mention the impact on resistance to colds, etc.
    But I do agree, those side effects are less than drinking alcohol and destroying your liver and domestic violence, etc.

  • Amor 07-06-2016 17:27:02

    @Trommy, I'd like to get in touch with you. I'm working on a secret project and looking out in the world for some help.
    -psytellectual@gmail.com

  • Granny 03-09-2016 14:24:40

    I've been a medical cannabis (it's real name) user since I was 11 years old--I'll be 60 in May. Cannabis works for so many of my physical and mental issues and I am thankful for that as I cannot take the chemical cocktails prescribed by so many doctors. I completed college and university, have an IQ of 145 and have successfully run 3 businesses. We receive out first 'hit' of cannabis in our mother's breast milk--it's because we are born with canninaboid receptors in our bodies. Lately there has been talk about a new medical issues regarding our bodies needing cannabis. It is a harmless plant with harmless side effects i.e. eating too much junk food, laughing, and enjoying the smallest things life has to offer. The USA's economy was based on the growth of hemp since the days of Thomas Jefferson. Politicians from all parties use cannabis as well. It's time we stopped supporting Big Pharma and we get back to using cannabis as medicine and using hemp for everything from building materials to clothes to food to fuel. When Henry Ford produced the first hemp car and hemp fuel, the oil companies tagged him as a Nazi and ended his experiments with commercial hemp usage. Time to stop the demonizing the safest 'drug' in the world and time to end polluting the planet with carbon based fuels.

  • cannabis friend 16-09-2016 05:51:05

    @toker, you should find a vaporizer. Much easier on your lungs than smoking, and your herb lasts a lot longer too. Just like inhaling some vapors.

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