Marijuana, pot, ganja, grass, the sticky icky; whichever name you refer to the cannabis sativa plant by, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the shifting perceptions regarding the once controversial plant. Although cannabis remains illegal – a schedule 1 drug under the United States Controlled Substances Act, classified as illegal with no medical benefit – its use remains widespread both medicinally and recreationally. Cannabis was first made illegal in the United States in the 1930s, and was added to the United States Controlled Substances Act upon its passing into law in 1970. The plant was demonized quite harshly by the media in the mid 20th century, partially because of its association to black americans and Mexican migrant workers, which elicited scorn from segments of white America.
Since then, attitudes towards the plant have changed dramatically. 51.6% of all Americans have used the drug at least once in their lifetime. Yes, let that sink in; more than half of all Americans have used a drug that their government has decreed has no medicinal benefit and is highly illegal on a federal level. The contrast between the attitudes of the American population and the American legal system regarding cannabis has never been so distinct. Not surprisingly, many states are slowly disregarding federal law and allowing medicinal cannabis or – in the case of Washington and Colorado – full legalization for recreational purposes.
People across all segments of the population are jumping aboard the legal cannabis hype train, and celebrities – they’re just like us! – are no exception. Coming out in support of cannabis legalization was practically career suicide not so long ago. Now, by Hollywood standards, it’s probably considered highly unusual if you’re not. No longer considered a fringe political belief occupied by Willie Nelson, Cheech & Chong and the rest of their ilk, support for cannabis legalization has gone mainstream. Naturally some celebrities have come out and pushed for legalization a little stronger than others. Forget about Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogen, you probably have a pretty good idea on where they stand on the issue. Heck, no one was even really surprised when Miley Cyrus told fans at her show to smoke weed instead of cigarettes because it “gets you laid.” These are 10 celebrities who have openly endorsed marijuana legalization – and they contain some faces you might not expect.
#10 Jennifer Aniston
The former Friends star has been fairly up front about her beliefs regarding marijuana consumption. She opened up to the press and expressed nonchalantly “I enjoy smoking cannabis and see no harm in it.” She even admitted to smoking with former husband Brad Pitt on more than one occasion. While she hasn’t taken steps to associate her name and image with any political movement, activists must be encouraged knowing they have one of ‘America’s sweethearts’ on their side.
#9 Megan Fox
Megan Fox was everywhere in the late 2000s thanks to her starring roles in the first two of Michael Bay’s Transformers films. They were widely successful at the box office and established Fox as a young, up-and-coming actress and a modern sex symbol like Marilyn Monroe before her. When questioned on what she thought of marijuana legalization, Fox unambiguously replied; “When they do, I’ll be first in line to buy a pack of joints.” That’s about as upfront as you can get from a question that most celebrities choose to answer rather coyly.
#8 Johnny Depp
Everyone’s favourite eccentric actor has had his fair share of experience with drugs – some more potent than marijuana. Depp is probably most famous for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, which is probably why he caught flack back in 2004 for saying he would rather his kids obtain marijuana from him if they ever wanted to try it when they’re older. “Rather than have them go out on the street and get some nasty, potentially fatal stuff, I would rather say, ‘Look, this is marijuana. I know where it came from. And if you really need to try it, try it here in the house and be safe.” While some critics initially took his statement as condoning marijuana use for kids, looking back on the incident from our current cultural perspective makes Depp seem like the model parent. In a society with legalized cannabis, Depp – and other parents – wouldn’t have to worry about their children consuming contaminated cannabis, which is why he’s put himself firmly behind legalization.
#7 Stephen King
One read through of any of horror/fantasy writer Stephen King’s novels might have you convinced that the world famous author may have sampled some of the green stuff while writing, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Unfortunately, King’s relationship with cannabis wasn’t entirely productive, he admits he had some substance abuse problems and since the late 1980s has completely abstained from drugs and alcohol. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from recognizing that legalizing cannabis would be a boon to the economy. “The legalization of marijuana should be a cottage industry. It would be wonderful for the state of Maine.” If the latest cannabis tax revenue reports coming out of Washington are any indication, he’s absolutely right.
#6 Jack Black
A comedian, endorsing cannabis? Who would have imagined? Jack Black has been a supporter of legal marijuana long before it was cool – he’s a veteran/hipster of the legalized cannabis movement. Black is most famous for his roles on screen such as School of Rock and Orange County, but the actor has made time for a successful comedic music career with friend and longtime collaborator Kyle Gass as Tenacious D. As a duo, the two have appeared on the cover of High Times and performed at fundraisers for NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). In short, Jack Black isn’t afraid to let everyone know where he stands on the issue.
#5 Adam Carolla
Like Jack Black, Adam Carolla is another comedian in support of cannabis legalization, albeit one that’s flown slightly more below the radar in comparison. Carolla is best known as the co-host of The Man Show and as a regular performer on Comedy Centrals’ Crank Yankers. Since 2009 Carolla has been known mostly for his podcast, which has gone on to become the most successful podcast in history. As for cannabis, the man is a frequent outspoken critic of criminalization and is a member of the advisory board for the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest formal organization working towards legalization in the United States.
#4 Woody Harrelson
The eccentric star of Natural Born Killers may not be the kind of man you would expect to support marijuana legalization – wait, what am I saying, yes he is. Outside of a film career with starring roles in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Zombieland, No Country for Old Men and others – and a television career including this year’s HBO smash hit True Detective – Harrelson seems to have dedicated a huge part of his life to cannabis legalization. He’s been a member of NORML’s advisory board since 2003, and in 1996 was arrested after symbolically planting four hemp seeds to challenge laws that didn’t distinguish between the psychoactive cannabis plant and the non-psychoactive strains that are harvested for their hemp. If you haven’t already figured it out, Woody Harrelson is serious about his weed.
#3 Jimmy Carter
The opinions of actors and musicians may not carry much weight politically speaking, but how about a former U.S. president? Jimmy Carter has been endorsing changing our marijuana laws since the 1970s, back when he initially campaigned on decriminalization. Obviously that never came to pass, but his stance since then has remained the same. He believes criminalization has “destroyed the lives of millions of young people” and would rather promote “an alternative approach, beginning with treatment instead of just imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others.” In retrospect, Carter’s outlook seems to have been many years ahead of his time.
#2 Richard Branson
The world’s most eccentric billionaire is, unsurprisingly, in favour of cannabis legalization. Branson made his fortune as founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, which now comprises over 400 entities but was originally founded as a record store. He’s appeared before the UK House of Commons to argue in favour of cannabis legalization and taxation, as he believes it would be beneficial to the state. In addition, he was a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Reform, which concluded in 2011 that the ‘War on Drugs’ had failed and a new direction was desperately needed to alleviate the problems associated with drug abuse and the drug trade. He’s described himself as an occasional user of marijuana, and has even admitted to smoking with his adult son.
#1 Morgan Freeman
If God himself decides that cannabis should be legalized, maybe the world should listen. Veteran actor Morgan Freeman – known for his portrayals of the almighty and his beautiful, silky baritone voice – has been a frequent critic of criminalization. As he stated when asked about the subject, “Marijuana! Heavens, oh yeah. It’s just the stupidest law possible, given history. You don’t stop people from doing what they want to do, so forget about making it unlawful. You’re just making criminals out of people who aren’t engaged in criminal activity. And we’re spending zillions of dollars trying to fight a war we can’t win! We could make zillions, just legalize it and tax it like we do liquor. It’s stupid.” Simple, to the point, yet brimming with wisdom; it was a very Morgan Freeman-esque answer.