As awards season rains down upon us, it’s that time of year when the industry bestows honors on all the hard work of the thousands who engage in the business and art of making movies. None of the collective talent is more glamorous than the actors who look larger than life on the big screen. Only a lucky few will snag the top prize for acting. And while it’s true they’ve all worked hard to get there, it’s good to be reminded that there have been stoners who’ve reached the top level of the acting profession, both past and present. Often thought of as lazy, these thespians show that smoking weed doesn’t necessarily have to get in the way of a productive career.
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He’s America’s patron saint of marijuana who smoked out on the roof of the White House and has his own cannabis line. The man so loved by his fans that when the government came after him for back taxes and he ended up losing personal property, the people went out to auctions and bought the items to give them back to the musician.
Yup, there’s only one Willie Nelson.
Known as a country music legend, some might not be aware of his film career. He had an impressive run circa the early ’80s, when he appeared in The Electric Horseman (1979), Honeysuckle Rose (1980), Thief (1981), and Barbarosa (1982). Granted, none of these films are household names, but were solid enough to give Nelson a respectable resume. But, even if he had flopped as an actor, it wouldn’t have mattered much. Willie’s got the love of the people. That’s the truest sign of success.
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If we were to list all of Mr. Morgan Freeman’s notable films, we’d be here all day and night. While his first wide exposure was Driving Miss Daisy (1989), those who grew up in the ’70s will remember him being on The Electric Company, a kick-ass TV show for kids. To give a quick but proper assessment of his career, consider this: He went from being an educator on a PBS show, to a heartless pimp in Street Smart (1987), to POTUS in Deep Impact (1998). His rise to the A-List and the opportunity to be in Se7en (1995) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994), which continuously makes Greatest Films lists, was not just because of his refined acting chops, but also his stately presence that automatically classes up any movie he’s in.
Thirteen years ago, Freeman told a reporter for the Guardian, “Never give up the ganja,” calling it God’s own weed. The remarks have remained a popular quote on the Internet. Here’s hoping that Freeman keeps his views on marijuana free, man.
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Susan Sarandon seems like she would be super cool even if she didn’t smoke marijuana. And, while it’s not clear if the Thelma & Louise (1991) star still lights up, we do know for sure she remains as cool as ever. Proof comes via the music video for Justice’s “Fire,” which was released late last year and features the actress driving around in the desert, basically tearing it up with the energy of a teenager who just got their license.
Sarandon will always remain in the hearts of the fans of the cult midnight movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). A few more horror-related films—the dramatic, stylish The Hunger (1983) and the funny The Witches of Eastwick (1987)—might make you think she was typecast, but she’s appeared in a wide range of productions, including the romantic baseball comedy Bull Durham (1988) and the drama Dead Man Walking (1995), for which she won an Oscar. Sarandon, who has five Oscar nominations, has often been soft-spoken in her roles, her expressive eyes conveying a compassionate heart. Even when she played a drug boss in Paul Schrader’s Light Sleeper (1992), she was awfully nice—and cool.
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We can only guess that the reason Matthew McConaughey survived his dismal romcom period was that he was smokin’ up mad amounts of herb everyday to self-medicate. The Wedding Planner (2001), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Failure to Launch (2006), Fool's Gold (2008), and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) all seemed on the surface to be formulaic assembly line product. But, in a 2014 interview with Variety, the actor defended those films, saying, “It’s a hard challenge to make [a romcom] work, to tell a story you’ve seen time and time again that you know what the ending is going to be.”
Admittedly, that’s an interesting way to look at it. It’s probably something he came up with while he was high.
It should be noted that McConaughey did co-star in Frailty (2001) during the romcom era, and Frailty is a damn good thriller. And, right before his resurgence with films like Mud (2012), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), True Detective (with fellow bud-loving buddy Woody Harrelson), and Interstellar (2014), he was in the extremely dark and effective Killer Joe and the pleasantly surprising thriller The Lincoln Lawyer (both 2011).
Anyways, there’s no real reason to hold the romcoms against McConaughey. He’s done a bunch of dope films since his breakthrough in Dazed and Confused (1993). Besides, he doesn’t seem like a dude who hangs onto the past. When asked about his infamous 1999 arrest, he told GQ in 2013, “Of course I still play the congas naked. I just close the windows.” Spoken like a true stoner.
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We don’t need to explain too much why MERRY JANE’s Seth Rogen made this list. Cronyism. Nah, just kidding. Rogen has freely discussed his love for marijuana in the press for years, and, of course, starred in Pineapple Express (2008), one of the most popular weed comedies of all time. Even his films that are not weed comedies per se (Sausage Party; The Interview; This Is the End), end up being 420-friendly if you so choose. Plus, it’s not every actor who makes a film that so upsets another country that it sparks a cyber attack.
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For a while there it looked as if Kristen Stewart would never regain the popularity she had when the massively popular Twilight franchise took off. For various reasons, a ton of hate landed on her lap, and it seemed that no matter what she did, she rubbed people the wrong way.
But that’s behind her now. The former child actor laid to rest the famous “Bella” Swan character she’s most associated with, and she’s headed in a new direction, doing arty movies—Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), Café Society (2016), and Personal Shopper (2016) have seemingly given her the opportunity to improve as an actor.
But that doesn’t mean she’s abandoned fun movies like Adventureland (2009) or The Runaways (2010), in which she played the rock icon Joan Jett. The stoner action comedy American Ultra (2015) with Jesse Eisenberg was a chance to perhaps exorcise some unpleasant memories from nine years ago, when she was labeled a pothead after a photo of her smoking weed had surfaced online when she was 18. Back then, it seemed like it had a negative effect on her image. Almost a decade later, some of the stigma has worn off, especially after showing her detractors that marijuana is just a way to blow off steam.
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Sarah Silverman has accomplished a lot during her time in the spotlight, including pissing people off with her brazen style of humor. She’s perfected delivering caustic punch lines with a beaming smile on her face. It really doesn’t matter if the topic is abortion, racism, or rape, Silverman goes for the jugular every time.
Because of her famous deadpan delivery, she’s turned off some people with her more volatile jokes. But, for those who get it, she comes off as one of the more fearless comedians of recent memory. And whether you love or hate her, you tend to remember her when she shows up in movies like Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016), or when her recognizable voice is heard on episodes of Bob’s Burgers or the film Wreck-It Ralph (2012).
Some of Sarah Silverman’s crazier comedic choices, like going on Conan as Hitler, might make a little more sense when realizing she loves her ganja. In a highly-publicized incident, she was interviewed on the red carpet of the 2014 Emmys holding a vape pen.
Speaking of awards shows, Silverman was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her starring role in the family drama I Smile Back (2015). Not every comedian is given the opportunity to do serious work, so for her to show the same usual fearlessness in taking on such a challenging role, dealing with addiction and mental illness, is great.
Cheech & Chong
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Had they only been known for their seminal stoner movies of the ’70s and ’80s, it would have been enough to immortalize Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong. Their first three films, Up in Smoke (1978), Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie (1980), and Nice Dreams (1981), are the blueprints for nearly all weed comedies (and a few rap music videos) that followed.
After going their separate ways in the mid ’80s, Cheech shied away from his counterculture past. He wrote and directed the underrated Born in East L.A. (1987), and eventually landed a co-starring role on the TV series Nash Bridges, as well as parts in several G-rated animated movies, including the classic The Lion King (1994). Marin’s fantastic ability for funny voices and comedic outbursts makes him a natural for kids movies. But he’s also returned to edgy material in many Robert Rodriguez films, most notably in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).
Chong, who directed most of the Cheech & Chong films, has battled cancer and survived a short federal prison stint on what many felt were bogus charges. Resembling the world’s coolest grandfather, Chong also has enjoyed mainstream success with his recurring role on That ’70s Show and more recently did voice work in the hit Zootopia.
Cheech & Chong finally reunited in 2008 and embarked on a successful comedy tour. Hopefully, they make one last film together before it’s too late.
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First, he was the not-too-bright but lovable bartender Woody Boyd on Cheers. Then came the hit comedy White Men Can’t Jump (1992), and the bonkers Oliver Stone picture Natural Born Killers (1994), all of which made Harrelson one of Hollywood’s most liked actors. The discovery that he was a major advocate for the legalization of marijuana (and a serious toker) only made him more popular.
Harrelson, of course, has never slowed down. In a productive career that has seen him excel in comedies like Kingpin (1996) and Zombieland (2009) as well as acclaimed dramas like The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and the good season of True Detective (2014), the actor/activist (he’s on the board of NORML and once went on a hemp seed crusade) has an uncanny way of communicating non-verbally with an audience, whether from a mischievous smile or a knowing nod. (Or maybe we’re just so high we think he’s talking to us.)
Simply put, Woody is the man. Or more like an everyman, the type of guy you wouldn’t mind buying a beer or sharing a joint with. When he wins, we feel like we win. So, we felt bad when his marijuana dispensary application was denied last year, but at least the Hawaii resident got a consolation prize, as he was recently cast in the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars movie.
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In a career that has lasted over 30 years, Whoopi has been equally at ease in both dramatic and comedic roles. She made a splash early with The Color Purple (1985) and has never looked back. The way she plays her characters, you usually get the sense that they’re the smartest people in the room. Even when playing housekeepers whose sole purpose is to help white people in films like Clara’s Heart (1988), The Long Walk Home (1990) and Corrina, Corrina (1994), Whoopi has interpreted these stereotypical roles with dignity.
With millions of eyes on her as a co-host of The View, Whoopi, who owns a company called Whoopi & Maya that sells marijuana-infused feminine pain relief products, has been outspoken in trying to get the public to understand the medicinal benefits of cannabis. She knows them firsthand, as she uses it to help cope with glaucoma-induced headaches. Her love of weed also gives her the perfect excuse for doing WTF movies like Theodore Rex (1995) back in the day.
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You know how there are sometimes actors who play a role so well you can’t imagine anybody else doing the part? That’s T.J. Miller as Erlich Bachman on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Miller is excellent at portraying Bachman’s obvious lack of self-confidence and transparent overcompensation. He also always delivers a just-right recreation of being stoned at inappropriate times. He’s so good at playing a stoner that you automatically think he’s a ganja lover in any movie he’s in. You also believe that he’s an actual stoner in real life, which—surprise!—he is. (Or, as he puts it: “I am kind of an absurdist, ridiculous, performative kind of comedian, who happens to also be a very effective marijuana user.”)
Planned or not, Miller has had a career that looks 420-friendly so far. Whether he’s appearing in movies that appeal to comic book and sci-fi geeks like Deadpool (2016) and Cloverfield (2008), or lending his voice to kids movies like How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and Big Hero 6 (2014), or doing trippy stoner flicks like Yogi Bear (2010) (even more trippy in 3D), he’s made quite a few movies that’ll make you feel like sparking up.
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Method Man is undeniably a rap superstar whose love of weed is well known, but some might not think of him as a serious actor. Truth be told, Meth has been paying dues for two decades. Cutting his teeth doing bit parts in One Eight Seven and Cop Land (both in 1997) before graduating to recurring roles on Oz and The Wire, the man born Clifford Smith has been able to channel the charisma he displays on records to the silver screen.
Although he’s still looking for that one role that will finally get him the widespread recognition he’s been looking for, Method Man has in the meantime been in memorable films like Belly (1998) and the hip-hop stoner comedy How High (2001) with fellow buddah head Redman.
More recently, he played a father to a teenage son in The Breaks (2016), demonstrating artistic growth. He also continued honing his comedic talents by appearing in Key & Peele’s Keanu (2016). That he’s kept at it for this long just might pay off.
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If there’s anybody who looks like they’re having a non-stop blast on the job it’s the Workaholics’ Adam DeVine. It’s people like him who make the untalented really, really want to become actors or comedians because they think they get to party and smoke weed every day—and hang with Blake Anderson to boot.
But the reality is that DeVine came up the hard way, earning an Internet rep with the sketch-comedy group Mail Order Comedy that began in 2006. And while he probably clocks nice paychecks for popping up in big movies like Neighbors (2014), The Intern (2015), and Pitch Perfect (2012), the dude with the talent for crazy facial expressions is also appearing in lesser known but still kick-ass movies like The Final Girls (2015), the type of comedy that’s closer to his earlier days of trying to make it.
But, yeah, there’s a lot of reasons why you might want to swap careers with Adam DeVine. After all, he’s a rappin’ wizard and you’re not.
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Most of the well-known weed comedies have centered around male protagonists, so it’s refreshing when a female perspective comes along. Glazer represents to the fullest for the females who love their Mary Jane. Best known for Broad City, the web series-turned-TV show she started with her friend and creative partner Abbi Jacobson, Glazer is also a blazer in real life.
Portraying a character who’s not exactly a nerd but is prone to acting goofy when interacting with her friends, the Broad City women are providing a more honest representation of female behavior, whether it be grooming habits, masturbation techniques, or poking fun at the hang-ups of young women living in NYC. There’s also plenty of herb smoked on the show. Because it happens so frequently it feels less like a gimmick and more like a natural part of their lives. And Glazer has stayed loyal to the green leaf, as evidenced by her 2016 Comedy Central miniseries, Time Traveling Bong.