Carl Sagan and Marijuana

Carl Sagan aka Mr.X

Below are several highlights included in an essay that the late astronomer Carl Sagan wrote in 1969. The essay was written for Marihuana Reconsidered, a book published by Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

At that time, Carl was 35 years old, and it's very telling that he had to use an alias to protect his career. It's also claimed he continued using cannabis for the rest of his life. In fact, as many of you know, Carl died from Cancer ad was always a social activist. His wife, Ann Druyan had served on the Board of Directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws aka NORML for over 10 years, and was president from 2006 to 2010.

Carl's full essay can be read here.

Select Excerpts

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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