Did Pirates Smoke Weed?

Most people assume that pirates were drunks, and pirating is associated with spirits like ale or rum. It’s natural to also wonder if pirates partook in other recreational forms of relaxation, such as marijuana.

Some evidence points to pirates having used marijuana, but mostly by using hemp to craft supplies, not smoking. Additionally, there is some evidence that pirates used marijuana-infused eye patches and smoked out of pipes. 

The history of marijuana and pirates is complicated. This article will explore cannabis usage by pirates and some of the earliest civilizations in history. 

Did Pirates Use Cannabis? 

Pirates were known to smoke marijuana, but the herb was used for more than just recreational purposes.

Pirates did use cannabis. Hemp, which is what cannabis is derived from, may have helped them craft ropes and sails. Additionally, some evidence does point to cannabis being smoked or used for recreational purposes. 

Pirates were known to smoke marijuana, and most historians agree that they used it, though the evidence is scarce. According to some accounts, it was used as a relaxant, an aid in celebration, and even for medical reasons. There’s also some evidence they may have done a form of cocaine. [1]

In addition to being used recreationally by pirates, land-lovers, and other seafarers throughout history—and possibly even earlier—cannabis has been used for religious purposes since at least 3000 B.C. [2]

Meanwhile, hemp ropes may have had many purposes. They were used to tie up prisoners and keep the ship’s sails in place. Hemp rope was used to tie up the cannons on pirate ships so they wouldn’t move when their crews were going through rough waters.

The Pirates Used Hemp To Craft Their Supplies

Hemp sails were strong, durable, easy to repair, and much cheaper than cotton sails. Hemp sailcloth was also lighter than most day fabrics, which meant that a ship could carry more cargo without becoming too heavy.

In fact, there were probably many reasons why pirate ships had hempen sails over cotton sails: [3]

  • Hemp is stronger than cotton or natural fibers such as flax or jute. It can withstand tearing and stretching better than other materials when wet from rain or spray, which means pirates didn’t have to worry too much about their sails losing their shape in rough weather. 
  • Hemp is also more durable than cotton or linen. In fact, hemp sails would last much longer than the average cotton sail, which was useful on a ship that might spend months at sea without any chance to return home for repairs.
  • Hemp sails were also more water-resistant than cotton or linen. Hempen sails wouldn’t soak up water like other fabrics, which helped keep the ship afloat and moving through rough seas.

How Did Pirates Smoke Weed?

There is some evidence pointing to pirates having used marijuana eye patches to get high off on cannabis. Otherwise, they smoked it as many people today do: from pipes, which were often made of coconut shells or hand-blown glass. They may have also brewed it in tea. 

They would also use it for tea and for oiling their swords. Before that, weed was mostly used as a medicine [4] or an aphrodisiac by sailors. [5] They would rub the leaves on their bodies or smoke them in pipes made from bamboo or coconut shells.

Dutch sailors were known for making “tobacco pipes” out of pot leaves and tobacco, which they would use to smoke both substances together.

There are many stories about how pirates used marijuana. Some say that they would use it as an eye patch [6] when they weren’t wearing one—the idea being that the patch would prevent their eyes from drying out while they slept on deck during long voyages. Other accounts say they would rub it on their skin to help with sunburns or insect bites.

It’s possible that pirates got high by wearing eye patches made of weed and absorbing THC through their retinas. That is the theory put forth by a team of professionals that discovered two sunken pirate ships in the Caribbean Sea in 2013.

Despite all the theories surrounding eye patches, historians don’t believe that pirates typically wore them. Using eye patches to get high would be a novel explanation but probably not a very generalizable one.

Who Were the First in History To Smoke Weed?

The pirates weren’t the first to use hemp for supplies and recreation.

The first group in history to smoke marijuana was the ancient Chinese. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis isn’t a “new” recreational drug and was used religiously and recreationally by various cultures, including the ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations. 

Weed usage can be traced all the way back to Ancient China. [7] They used hemp for making clothes and ropes and paper for writing. The ancient Chinese were also the first to use marijuana as an intoxicant.

They would harvest the hemp plant and dry it out before mixing it with other herbs and spices to create drinks. This was used as a medicine and for recreational purposes.

Additionally, hemp (the plant weed grows from) supported the construction of much of their weaponry. [8]

The ancient Egyptians also made rope from hemp, [9] as did other cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans, who used it for similar purposes, such as sails for ships. 

The ancient Greeks were known to use marijuana and cannabis recreationally. They would often smoke it in pipes and socialize with friends. The Greeks also used this plant to aid meditation, which led them to believe that the plant had healing properties. 

The first mention of cannabis in Western literature comes from a Greek physician named Pedanius Dioscorides, [10] who wrote in the 1st century A.D. that cannabis has many uses: as an aphrodisiac, an anti-inflammatory agent, and a painkiller.

It is also mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and The Iliad. [11] In the Odyssey, Homer tells us that Calypso, a goddess who lived on an island in the middle of the ocean, gave Odysseus some cannabis-infused wine to help him forget about his home and his wife, Penelope.

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