Many baby boomers are still reeling over the legalization of marijuana in several states, with more states lined up to change their laws as well. Millions of younger people don't realize how long and difficult the road to legalization has been or how many stigmas have had to be overcome decade after decade.
The insanity reached new highs back in 1936 with the release of the movie Reefer Madness, originally titled Tell Your Children and also comically called The Burning Question, Dope Addict, Doped Youth and Love Madness. The exploitation film blamed pot for everything from a hit-and-run car accident to manslaughter and suicide, and portrayed users as eventually tumbling into the abyss of madness. Even a mere 20 years ago, in many places you could go to prison – not jail, prison – for having a joint in your pocket, but now, even in conservative states, possession of small amounts of pot results in a small fine and a ticket similar in seriousness to a parking ticket.
But even in this new era of enlightenment and despite the fact that a 2014 survey conducted by The Pew Research Center found that 52% of Americans say the drug should be legalized, stereotypes persist. "Creative" types like actors and musicians are portrayed as being dazed yet productive but "regular" people are characterized as low class, low energy slackers with no ambition or aspirations.
These successful people have all been great supporters of marijuana legalization and put their pipes where their mouths are. They are among the most thriving business men (sorry, no non-entertainment industry women have come forward), politicians, sports icons and entrepreneurs in the world and attempting to changing the stereotypical image of pot smokers.
12 Montel Williams
Unlike most famous stoners, Williams turned to pot for medical reasons. After he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and finding no medicine that relieved his pain without unbearable side effects, the famous talk show host turned to pot. Today, he's one of medical marijuana’s most passionate supporters. His talk show was cancelled in 2008 after 17 years but Williams is still smiling.
11 Michael Bloomberg
Often credited as New York City's best mayor in decades, Bloomberg has a great sense of humor. During his term, he frequently appeared as a guest on David Letterman's show to talk about his accomplishments but took the inevitable slams and quips about his diminutive stature in stride. While serving as mayor, Bloomberg never copped to smoking pot. But he never missed a beat when asked about his younger days. Bloomberg laughed and replied, “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it!” And the experience obviously didn't affect his spot on business decisions that improved one of the most important metropolises in the world.
10 Sir Richard Branson
This outspoken multi-billionaire started out by founding a provocatively named record store, Virgin Records, from nothing. Branson then magically grew that venture into an empire of wildly successful airlines and telecommunications companies. Next on Branson's agenda: transporting civilians to outer space. Not only has Branson admitted he's smoked pot regularly during his uber-successful career, he now shares the pastime with his adult son who's in his 20s. A strong supporter of worldwide pot legalization, Branson said he'd sell weed if that comes to pass. No doubt it would add to his list of victories.
9 Steve Jobs
Apple fan or foe, the impact Jobs had on the world as an entrepreneur, marketer, and inventor is undeniable. He was the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Who knows what else he would have accomplished had he not died at the young age of 56 in 2011. Jobs often spoke of his lifelong love of pot and his experience with LSD in 1972 during his college years. Based on his inventions, outstanding marketing savvy and ability to predict what consumers wanted even before they realized it, could we be making more money if we committed to a toke a day?
8 Stephen King
If you've ever read a King book or seen a movie based on one of his books, it's clear this man's mind doesn't work like most. From Carrie to The Shining to his current stable of short stories and films, King can infuse creepy into any scenario. Sure, he's probably been a little twisted all his life but his fondness for pot probably helps the creative process. King has been a pot endorser his whole life, labeling laws against it as "ridiculous." He backed up that comment, "I think that marijuana should not only be legal, I think it should be a cottage industry." At the rate pot laws are changing, King may see his vision become a reality.
7 Barack Obama
Pot-smoking US Presidents are nothing new. George Washington grew it on his farm, Clinton allegedly "forgot" how to inhale when he was passed a joint. But Obama was the first President to admit smoking it – and enjoying the experience, of course admitting to smoking in his younger days. Regardless of your opinion of Obama and his performance, even his staunchest critics mostly recognize his intelligence. And as for pot adversely affecting ambition and drive, Obama's career squashes that belief.
6 Michael Phelps
World class athletes are generally perceived as manic devotees of healthy living. We have been led to believe they drink kale smoothies, adhere to stringent exercise regimens, and abstain from life's joyous escapes and stress relievers like booze and pot. When Phelps, who has more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone in history, got caught on film hitting a bong at a party with the expertise of a bona fide stoner, he cited bad judgment for a one-time occurrence. Few bought his story and many smiled as pot could no longer be called the enemy of athletic prowess or determination.
5 Carl Sagan
The next time someone starts pontificating about pot muddling thought processes and stifling creativity, tell them the Carl Sagan story. A pothead since the get-go, this world renowned astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist won a Pulitzer Prize as well as hundreds of scientific awards, wrote a novel that topped the best seller list, and has published 500+ scientific papers and articles. Sagan also credited pot with sharpening his insights. Perhaps he was under the influence when he coined his signature phrase "billions and billions."
4 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger has one of the most bizarre resumes ever. He first gained fame as a charismatic body builder in the memorable documentary Pumping Iron in which he was shown smiling while he puffed on a joint. That scene didn't deter him from starring in a string of box office super hero/robot movie hits. Schwarzenegger shockingly went on to become Governor of California. Apparently pot hasn't stood in his way on several paths to success. His early efforts to legalize pot eventually led to California okaying the sale and use of medical marijuana. Much like his most famous movie quotes, his most repeated comment on the subject was short and sweet: "Marijuana is not a drug, it’s a leaf."
3 Aaron Sorkin
From writing the screenplay for A Few Good Men to creating legendary TV series including Sports Night, The West Wing and The Newsroom, Sorkin will go down in history as one of the most creative minds in the business. Not the best poster boy for legalizing pot, Sorkin seems to like drugs in general. He snorted his share of cocaine in the late '80s and got arrested for possession of marijuana, mushrooms and crack in 2001. Hey, not all potheads make the best choices…but no one can argue the guy's talent.
2 Rick Steves
Steves has a way with words about faraway places throughout Europe that makes people crazy to visit them. With over 27 bestselling travel guides published, along with both a TV and radio show, he's also an outspoken supporter of pot legalization. Steves not only admits he enjoys smoking pot for pleasure, he credits it with making him more open-minded. Those colorful descriptions of places unknown would likely be a bit dull without a hit or two to recall his travel recollections.
1 Ted Turner
One of the most intriguing and multifaceted billionaires of all time, Turner is a mixture of charm, daring and audacity. The founder of CNN, Atlanta Braves owner and former spouse of Jane Fonda has a much more fascinating side. He cultivated pot in his college dorm room, funded a large part of the Kentucky Hemp Museum, along with outspoken stoner Woody Harrelson and is a huge fan of the cartoon classic Scooby-Doo. His conservative dress and demeanor are icing on the cake.