Bob Marley is known as the face and symbol of reggae. His name and music are familiar worldwide. Rolling Stone put him 11th on its list of the 100 greatest musical artists of all time. Bob Marley and the Wailers have three albums on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums, and he is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
His musical career began in the late 1950s when he and some friends formed the band the Wailers. They were a quite popular group in Jamaica through the 60s and then attracted attention in the United States with two critically acclaimed albums in the early 70s. From that point until his death in 1981, Marley remained one of the most popular musicians in America and in the world.
His personal life was chaotic. Although he and his wife Rita remained married until his death, neither was faithful to the other for years. Marley fathered children by several different women. When he died, he left no will, which resulted in years of legal battles between people who claimed they were his heirs.
Did Bob Marley Do Drugs?
Along with reggae music, Bob Marley is perhaps best known for his use of “ganja” or marijuana. Marley became a Rastafarian in 1966 when he converted from Catholicism.
Rastafarianism as a religion first appeared in the mid-1930s in Jamaica. While in some ways it’s a quite conservative sect (Rastafarians follow a very strict vegetarian diet), the religion has very liberal views on the use of marijuana as a religious sacrament. From the time of his conversion to Rastafarianism until his death, Marley likely used marijuana every day.
“When you smoke herb, herb reveal yourself to you,” Marley once said. “All the wickedness you do, the herb reveal itself to yourself, your conscience, show up yourself clear, because herb make you meditate. Is only a natural t’ing and it grow like a tree.”
Did Bob Marley Smoke Cigarettes or Drink Alcohol?
No, in fact, he was very much against smoking anything but marijuana. As far as alcohol is concerned, he once said that, “Herb is the healing of the nation, alcohol is the destruction.”
Marijuana in Rastafarian Culture
The importance of marijuana in Rastafarian culture continues to this day. In an interview she did with the CBC in Canada, Marley’s granddaughter Donisha Pendergast spoke of the importance this sacrament plays in the life of a Rastafarian.
“Rastas don’t do drugs because ganja is not a drug. Ganja is a plant.”
For her, the spiritual power of marijuana is connected to how it is used, which considers the person’s intention when they smoke marijuana as well as where it is smoked.
Effects of Marijuana Use
While Rastafarians like Bob Marley only see the benefits of smoking marijuana, the truth is that its use continues to be controversial. It’s the most popular psychotropic drug in the United States, with 11.8 million young adults reporting they used it in 2018. While many states, and some countries like Canada and Uruguay, have legalized its use, it remains a Schedule 1 drug federally in United States. Even its use as a medical treatment still raises some questions because there have been no long-term studies of its effect on people using it for medicinal purposes.
While many people say marijuana use produces a pleasant sensation, some people experience “fear, anxiety, distrust and panic.” This can happen more often when someone frequently smokes marijuana. Marijuana use has also been tied to other longer-lasting psychotic issues like schizophrenia.
Did Bob Marley’s Drug Use Affect His Life?
It’s hard to say if Bob Marley’s daily use of marijuana affected his ability to perform or impacted his daily life. He normally only spoke about his use of marijuana in a positive way. There is no solid evidence that his use of marijuana led to the use of harder drugs.
There may be legitimate questions, however, about how it affected his mental outlook. After Marley was diagnosed with cancer in 1980, which he tried to keep secret from his fans and the press, he became more and more reclusive.
It reached the stage where he stopped performing in public altogether. Finally, the cancer made him so weak that he had to cut off his famous dreadlocks because he was having trouble holding up his head under their weight.
This is where were the question of the connection between marijuana and depression comes into sharper focus.
Howard Bloom, Marley’s publicist, described the last six months of Marley’s life in his book Einstein, Michael Jackson and Me: A Search for Soul in the Power Pits of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He wrote that if there were no mentions of Marley’s illness in the media, he would spend the day playing soccer. If there was a mention, he would spend the day “sitting in his room, in the dark.”
There is also now the concern among many of his fans that Marley’s marijuana use will become how he is known around the world, rather than for his contributions to music. In 2014, an American company, attempting to profit from the legalization of marijuana, signed a deal with Marley’s estate that allowed them to globally sell a brand of marijuana under Bob Marley’s name.
Addiction and Recovery
If you’ve tried marijuana at a party or because you believe it might relieve your stress but nothing seems to be changing in your life, the reality is that you may be struggling with a more serious mental illness. If so, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You can contact us at FHE by calling (833) 596-3502. You’ll find a team of compassionate counselors ready to help start your road to recovery 24/7.