Why Did Reggae Musician Bob Marley Smoke Marijuana?
The iconic image of Reggae musician Bob Marley is a photograph of him smoking a large marijuana spliff. Why Marley smoked marijuana and what it meant to him and his music might not be what you think.
Bob Marley smoked marijuana because he practiced the Rastafarian religion, wherein the use of “ganja,” as it is called, is a holy sacrament. The word ganja is the Rastafarian term derived from the ancient Sanskrit language for marijuana, which itself is a Spanish word for cannabis.
Marley, Marijuana, and Religion
One feature of Rastafarianism that is often misrepresented is the ritual use of marijuana. Pious Rastas do not and should not use marijuana recreationally; instead, it is reserved for religious and medicinal purposes. Some Rastafarians do not use it at all. When they do use marijuana, the purpose is to aid in meditation and perhaps help the user achieve greater mystical insight into the nature of the universe.
Marley converted to Rastafarianism from Christianity in the mid-1960s, well before he achieved any international fame as a reggae musician. His conversion coincided with the conversions of thousands of his fellow Jamaicans of African descent, and as his fame grew, he began to stand as a symbol of both his culture and his religion.
Bob Marley did not use cannabis recreationally and did not see its use as a casual matter. He viewed marijuana as a holy rite, much as Catholics view Holy Communion or some Native Americans view the ceremonial usage of peyote. Viewing himself as a holy person (as do all Rastafarians), Marley strongly believed that marijuana opened up a spiritual door that allowed him to become the artist and poet he was.
Marley’s Career and Activism
Marley’s first singles were recorded in 1962, but in 1963 he founded a band that eventually became the Wailers. Although the band broke up in 1974, he continued to tour and record as Bob Marley and the Wailers. Prior to the breakup, two of the Wailers’ songs from the 1974 album “Burnin'” gathered cult followings in both the U.S. and Europe, “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Get Up, Stand Up.”
After the band broke up, Marley switched from the ska and rocksteady music styles to a new style that would become known as reggae. Marley’s first major hit song was 1975’s “No Woman, No Cry,” and that was followed by his album “Rastaman Vibration,” which made the Billboard Top 10 albums list.
In the late 1970s, Marley promoted peace and cultural understanding. He also acted as a cultural ambassador for the Jamaican people and the Rastafarian religion. Even decades after his death, he is revered as a Rastafarian prophet.
Marley died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1977, but because of religious objections, he refused amputation of a toe, a procedure that could have saved his life.
Bob Marley was often photographed with a marijuana spliff in his mouth, but he regarded its usage as an important religious rite.
Bob Marley’s Very Surprising Views On Marijuana Use Were Actually The Opposite of What You Might Expect
When you think of Bob Marley, what comes to mind first? Do the famous lyrics of “No Woman, No Cry” or “Redemption Song” drift into your head? Or do you picture his trademark dreadlocks tucked beneath a Rastafarian hat?
For many fans, the first thing that pops up is an image of Marley smoking a joint, surrounded by a plume of pot smoke. But how did the reggae icon feel about recreational marijuana use?
You might be surprised by his answer…
Walk into any college dorm and you’re bound to find at least one poster with an image of Marley surrounded by oversized pot leaves.
While Marley has been a symbol for pot enthusiasts for decades, but do the people who don T-shirts depicting him smoking a blunt know why he smoked?
Even for Marley superfans, this might come as a surprise.
While most people spark up a joint or take a hit from a bong as a way to relax, for Marley it was something much more meaningful.
It was part of his religion.
As a member of the Rastafarian movement, he believed the act of smoking “ganja,” the Rastafarian term for marijuana, was a holy sacrament.
Marley strongly believed that the marijuana plant holds healing properties.
On his official website, Marley is described as “a staunch supporter of the plant’s meditational, spiritual, and healing abilities, and a fierce opponent to those (‘political forces’) who tried using marijuana as a vehicle for oppression, and to keep certain groups of people out of the societal mainstream.”
Rastafarians are very strict about their marijuana habits.
Those who are especially pious abstain from using it at all, but most reserve it for medical and religious purposes.
The purpose of ganja is to “aid in meditation and perhaps help the user achieve greater mystical insight into the nature of the universe,” according to ThoughtCo.com.
Many have compared the Rastafarian use of marijuana to Holy Communion in Catholicism.
It’s a ritualistic act, and Rastas feel that the practice of smoking brings them closer to “Jah,” the Rastafarian term for God.
Marley’s son Ziggy conducted an interview with Quartz on what would have been Marley’s 70th birthday.
He discussed his late father’s legacy, and how he was more than just a symbol for the marijuana movement.
“Bob was a revolutionary,” Ziggy said. “He was a person who wanted social justice in a real sense, in a real physical sense. There’s a lot more to it than the whole, ‘Bob Marley, love and peace and smoke weed.’”
Bob Marley’s Very Surprising Views On Marijuana Use Were Actually The Opposite of What You Might Expect When you think of Bob Marley, what comes to mind first? Do the famous lyrics of “No Woman,