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Qingu's avatar

How often did Carl Sagan smoke marijuana?

Asked by Qingu (21173points) February 16th, 2010

It is well know (among some communities) that Carl Sagan, eminent astronomer and populizer of science, was a total pothead.

But how often did he smoke weed? Once a week? Once a day? Several times a day?

The only reference I could find to Sagan’s frequency of use is in his masterful essay about the joys of smoking pot, where he says, “Through the years I find that slightly smaller amounts of cannabis suffice to produce the same degree of high, and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater.”

And I’m not really sure how to interpret this. He also says “I find that today a single joint is enough to get me high.” To my eyes, that seems to be a lot to get high. So together these two statements could imply that Carl Sagan has smoked so much pot that he is no longer even building up a tolerance to it. But that still doesn’t even answer how often he smoked.

Like space, a grand and glorious mystery.

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20 Answers

kevbo's avatar

You just want someone to say “billions and billions of times,” don’t you?

Trillian's avatar

@ Qingu “and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater.”
Ya reckon he was at Rocky Horror?
@kevbo I had considered it, but that would have been too easy and predictable.

Qingu's avatar

@kevbo, heh. Actually, I think he would be a useful benchmark to determine if one perhaps smokes “too much.”

Edit: OH WAIT! I get it. :)

cheebdragon's avatar

What does it matter if he smoked once a week or on a daily basis???

tentaclepuppy's avatar

He smoked this much.

Seriously though, from an account he wrote here,

There is a very nice self-titering aspect to cannabis. Each puff is a very small dose; the time lag between inhaling a puff and sensing its effect is small; and there is no desire for more after the high is there. I think the ratio, R, of the time to sense the dose taken to the time required to take an excessive dose is an important quantity. R is very large for LSD (which I’ve never taken) and reasonably short for cannabis. Small values of R should be one measure of the safety of psychedelic drugs. When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of he parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn’t too distant; 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.

My guess from the above is that he was constantly high, or when he got high he got high for a day and a half.

Cruiser's avatar

He smoked it Billions and BILLIONS of times!

Trillian's avatar

@Cruiser somebody had to say it. I guess the other shoe finally dropped. Thanks, I can breathe now.

SeventhSense's avatar

That was pretty funny. I always found he reminded me of Kermit the Frog.

tentaclepuppy's avatar

@SeventhSense Wow, that takes me way back, back to when the just-linked youtube video was an audio file passed around my middle school.

wundayatta's avatar

Back when he was first smoking, pot was pretty weak. You needed several hits to get high.

These days, of course, pot is so much more powerful. One hit, I gather, is enough. Maybe that helps explain your questions about how much he used.

whatthefluther's avatar

Trying to utilize Carl Sagan to establish a benchmark for quantity or frequency of cannabis use or merely as justification for such use is as problematic as utilizing any one or number of historically significant alcoholics in a like manner for alcohol consumption. And if one were to feel they were in a position that required them to justify their use or amount of usage, it is quite likely that someone is voicing concerns, and it seems to me time would be better spent understanding the basis of those concerns and reflecting on their validity. Take that for what it is worth from a daily pot smoker, me. See ya….Gary/wtf

Cruiser's avatar

@Trillian You want me to stick my finger in a light socket? Just say it! lol!

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@wundayatta – Time after time, I hear people make the assertion that pot was less potent back in the day. I don’t know where you were getting your weed, but I have had access to the good stuff since I first started smoking it in the late sixties and much of today’s available herb is far less tasty and potent than what we used to buy.

wundayatta's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly Information about this is all over the place. Here’s what SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) has to say about it. Here’s a report by a University of Mississippi research project.

As always, people question the data. However, even if the average level of THC has remained the same, access to the marijuana with higher levels has dramatically increased. It’s what the customers want.

You may well have had access to the good stuff back in the 60s. Again, it’s not like it wasn’t available then. There’s just more of it now. In any case, you are one case. You can not claim you represent the entire marijuana crop around the world.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it! ;-)

(Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@wundayatta – Yeah, I question the data and rightly so. Truthfully, if given a choice, I would have smoked the high-powered government strains, which is what they based their research on. I had an opportunity to smoke some government grown weed back in the mid/late seventies and what I can tell you for a fact is that it was far better than anything else I’ve EVER smoked in my life. It’s purposely grown to be much, much higher in THC content. No single study ever tested the varying strains that people were really using. The techniques used to grow the weed are mostly unchanged since the sixties, with the exception of hydroponics and the development of new growing sciences and even more potent fertilizers. In short, the SAMHSA studies were biased. In order to test it, they had to have a product in which they could control the amount of THC produced or it would skew their data even further. Also, since it is currently illegal, it must be obtained or grown from government-approved sources and that product is distinctly higher in psychoactive content than street product. Yes, I am just one case and I never claimed to represent an entire marijuana (I can’t tell you how much I truly loathe that word) crop from around the world, but, likewise, you certainly cannot claim the opposite based on one or two biased government funded and approved studies.

wundayatta's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly No, but I do have a lot more evidence than you do. In any case, that’s not the point. You said, “I hear people make the assertion that pot was less potent back in the day.” To me that suggested, rightly or wrongly, that you wanted to know where this idea came from. All I’m saying is that there is plenty of basis for such an idea, whether or not it is true.

Just on the issue of research. You make some good points. Unfortunately, it seems to me it would be impossible to get decent data on the issue. I think that anecdotal data plays a big role here. I know my friends who smoke (I don’t) all say it is stronger than ever now. Not a one says otherwise.

To do a decent study you’d have to have sampled plants all over the world back then and compared them to current plants. Not possible. So all samples will be biased. Which leaves us with biased samples and anecdotal data. In fact, your testimony against the idea is the first time I ever heard anyone say that. Ever. One would expect some people to have your experience, though, so on it’s own, your testimony isn’t significant.

Although, when it comes down to it, this whole question is absurd, and I can’t believe I’m even spending time on it. I just offered a theory. I don’t even really want to defend it. I don’t know why I did. Sigh.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@wundayatta – You’re absolutely spot on about anecdotal evidence or biased studies and that was my point. Due to the impossibilities you mentioned above, the lion’s share of any valid “evidence” is just that, biased and anecdotal. However, evidence wasn’t really required in order for me to make a personal observation based on my own experience. I have spoken (and smoked) with many like-minded friends and individuals, often at great lengths and while most will agree that although the quality of weed is getting much better, much of it still doesn’t hold a candle to some of the exotic strains we encountered in our youth. I wasn’t trying to force you into defending your beliefs, I was only mentioning what I already know to be true. My apologies for dragging this out further than necessary.

bretf's avatar

@whatthefluther 1) Making a benchmark to see how much alcohol to consume should be based on an alcoholic. They give you evidence of many different factors; how much not to drink, the effects of drinking on the user and the ones around them.
2) Basing an argument around not using an alcoholic’s consumption is a misleading view by assuming Carls use of cannabis was detrimental or even all consuming of his day to day life. Which clearly he advocates proper use of the drug for betterment on the individual; which is why the op was curious as to how often, or how much is suggested by carl, he smoked. This question gives insight into a possible good standard.

The only problem is assuming that merely because he is Carl Sagan, appeal to authority, that his advice of cannabis is solid. His accounts are only of his own experiences, none based on evidence. Be careful in Carls own assumptions that may or may not be backed by data; for as it is, it could be nonsense. On a parting note, as someone who smokes has read his books, and see Carl as a champion for humanity, I am in no way dismissing his thoughts; for his insights are heavily influenced by his love and use of science. Again, be careful in justifying personal experiences for the sole reason of them being experienced since they are left in a position that cant proven or disproved by an objective standpoint.

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