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Where did Shakespeare get his weed from?

By Oscar Pascual |

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

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

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

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

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

“Shakespeare may have been aware of the harmful effects of cocaine as a foreign compound,” writes Thackeray. “He may have preferred cannabis as a weed with mind-stimulating properties.”

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

It is likely that Shakespeare’s weed has come a long way, as Western cannabis production was limited to growing hemp in colonies such as Port Royal and Virginia.

If Shakespeare didn’t get weed from a returning settler or trader, he might have bought hash from anyone who traveled through occupied Constantinople, where hash became an important commodity through Asia during his lifetime.

Regardless of where Shakespeare got his weed from, 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 speaks of “invention in a known weed.”

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

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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