Carl Sagan: toking astronomer
The late astronomer and popular science writer Carl Sagan has been revealed to have been an ardent marijuana smoker. An upcoming biography titled Carl Sagan: A Life, reveals that Sagan's best friend for 30 years was Dr Lester Grinspoon, Harvard psychiatrist and outspoken pro-pot advocate.
In his 1977 book The Dragons of Eden, Sagan discusses the pygmies, for whom marijuana is their only cultivated crop. He wrote that "it would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization."
In an anonymous essay he wrote for Grinspoon's book Marihuana Reconsidered Sagan explained that he first tried pot around 1961, "a time of awakening of my social consciousness and amiability."
In the essay he describes a wide variety of experiences and observations he had under the influence of pot. He explains that marijuana increased his appreciation and understanding of art and music, as well as his sensitivity to tastes, aromas, and sexual pleasure. He also describes how marijuana led to insights "on a wide range of social, political, philosophical and human biological topics."
"There is a myth about such highs," wrote Sagan, "that 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 those 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.
"I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, un-available to us without such drugs."
Ann Druyan, Sagan's former wife, is a director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Sagan died of pneumonia in 1996. He was 62.
- NORML: www.norml.org