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Where did Shakespeare get his weed?

By Oscar Pascual |

William Shakespeare’s creative muse might have been cannabis, researchers say.

A new study published in the South African Journal of Science analyzed several tobacco pipe fragments excavated from Shakespeare’s garden in Stratford-upon-Avon and found positive traces of cannabis residue.

“We were delighted to find indications of cannabis,” said Francis Thackeray, the study’s author and anthropologist from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “We can’t be sure that the pipes which we analyzed were those of Shakespeare, but they were from his garden, and they were dated to the early 17th century.”

Thackeray and his colleagues tested several of Shakespeare’s clay tobacco pipes “using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry,” the scientist explained in the study.

While eight pipes found contained cannabis residue, two pipes analyzed contained traces of Peruvian cocaine, which was known to be consumed during the playwright’s era.

“Shakespeare may have been aware of the deleterious effects of cocaine as a strange compound,” Thackeray writes. “Possibly, he preferred cannabis as a weed with mind-stimulating properties.”

While Shakespeare may have preferred weed over tobacco, the question of who sold pot to the author remains.

It’s likely Shakespeare’s weed traveled a great distance, as Western cannabis production was limited to growing hemp in colonies such as Port Royal and Virginia.

If Shakespeare didn’t get pot from a returning colonist or trader, then he might have procured hash from anyone who traveled through occupied Constantinople, where hashish became a major trade item through Asia during his lifetime.

Regardless of where Shakespeare got his weed, Thackeray believes the Bard loved cannabis so much that he wrote about it.

In an email to CNN, Thackeray references the author’s Sonnet 76, which mentions “invention in a noted weed.”

“I think that Shakespeare was playing with words and (it) is probably a cryptic reference to cannabis,” Thackeray told CNN.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons