Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978)

Hear a "CannaBite" on Margaret Mead (produced by KMUD radio).

When Margaret Mead died in 1978, she was the most famous anthropologist in the world. Indeed, it was through her work that many people learned about anthropology and its holistic vision of the human species. Mead taught at a number of institutions, authored some twenty books and co-authored an equal number.

She was much honored in her lifetime, serving as president of major scientific associations, including the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and she received 28 honorary doctorates. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom following her death in 1978.

Mead testified before Congress in favor of the legalization of marijuana on October 27, 1969, and she told Newsweek in 1970 that she had tried it once herself. In her testimony, Mead said, "It is my considered opinion that at present that marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few overusers, because you can get damage from any kind of overuse.

"We occasionally find a society that will reject anything that leads to any kind of ecstatic state or of people ever getting outside of themselves. . . . But in general man has sought for ways of changing his moods, of making it possible for him to work longer than he could, to stay up longer than he could, to get through a meeting or a tremendous bout of work better than he could have otherwise. When the work is over, whether it is plowing a field or taking a hazardous journey in a canoe or getting through a terrible board meeting, he very often uses the same drug as a relaxant, which suggests that the relationship between these mood changing drugs is not as simple as we have thought they are. In the West Indies, people smoke marihuana to get through a hard day"s work and after they have done the hard day's work they smoke another bit of marihuana to relax and enjoy the evening....They smoke to keep working and then they smoke to relax, and all of these things fall under this general question of whether that man has any right to use natural or distilled or pharmaceutically produced aids to permit him to live the kind of life that he wants to live, and in most cases we find this combines work and relaxation or religion, work and relaxation."

A character named for Mead in the play "Hair" sings the song, "My Conviction"

I wish every mother and father in this theater
Would go home tonight and make a speech to their teenagers
And say kids be free, no guilt
Be whoever you are, do whatever you want to do
Just as long as you don't hurt anybody, right? Right

I would just like to say that it is my conviction
That longer hair and other flamboyant affectations
Of appearance are nothing more than the male's emergence
From his drab camouflage into the gaudy plumage
Which is the birth right of his sex

There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
And fine feathers are not proper for the man
When actually that is the way things are in most species

Source: Library of Congress, Margaret Mead Collection

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