Photos: Five potheads who went on to change the world

More photos below.
More photos below.

Ever have big plans for your life, but then you got high? Lethargic and under-achieving potheads may have created a bum rap for all of us, but that doesn't mean success and lighting it up are mutually exclusive.

Breaking news: a lot of famous celebrities and creative-types smoke weed. If this surprises you, then congratulations on getting an Internet connection under that rock you call home. But what about the truly rich and powerful who got faded?

These distinguished individuals aren't just wealthy and/or famous. They're billionaires, world leaders and legends of industry. Here's our list of five interesting people who got high but still found the time and energy to influence society in major ways.

Number 5: Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan.

Long before Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan was America's go-to scientist. Astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and badass, he didn't get stoned "billions and billions" of times. But he was a strong supporter of smoking marijuana to expand the thought process.

Known for blowing the minds of multiple generations with the TV program Cosmos, Sagan is credited with writing over 600 scientific papers and articles, and he also authored or contributed to more than twenty published books. Among them was Marihuana Reconsidered, in which Sagan writes about his enjoyment of smoking joints under the alter ego "Mr. X." (He wasn't identified as the author until a 1999 biography was published.)

Sagan said he didn't get high the first five or six times he smoked, but let's put that in perspective. If a 350-pound man drank two beers, would he get drunk? No. So if Carl Sagan's hulking brain were matched up against a few puffs of '70s swag, do you really think much would happen?

After finally getting baked, Sagan noted art, visualization and creativity as some of the "many human frontiers in which cannabis has helped me transverse." Later in his life, Sagan publicly advocated for the legalization of medical marijuana.

Continue to keep counting down our list of five potheads who went on to change the world.   Number 4: Ted Turner

Ted Turner.
Ted Turner.

Rumored to have grown weed in his college dorm room, Ted Turner's been doing whatever the hell he wants to for a long time. The first 24-hour news network? You can thank (or hate) Turner for that. Cartoon Network -- he's a big Scooby Doo fan. The Home Living Network, TNT, TBS and True TV are just some of the other cable channels he owns, and he once told Piers Morgan that rotating his four girlfriends was easier than dealing with marriage. If anyone with a grill like Turner's has four girlfriends, then he must be loaded.

Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.2 billion.

As the owner of the Atlanta Braves, Turner once sent the team's manager on a "10 day trip," with Turner deciding to coach the team before the MLB stopped his fun. His website calls him the "second largest individual landholder in North America," but even while running an extraordinary empire, Turner still found some time to relax. Former CNN Anchor Gwen Scott claimed it was common knowledge that Turner sat in his office and smoked marijuana.

Turner's philanthropy is too extensive to sufficiently summarize. He started the United Nations Foundation with a seventeen-year, $1 billion donation pledge. He's also major benefactor to the Kentucky Hemp Museum, which accepts generous donations from Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson.

Continue to keep counting down our list of five potheads who went on to change the world.   Number 3: Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh.
Rush Limbaugh.

No one said changing the world meant moving it toward a saner future. Whether you agree with his views or not, the heartland's favorite bombastic asshole signed a $400 million contract in 2008, and anyone who makes that much money in radio must have an impressive audience.

Limbaugh's supported the legalization and taxation of marijuana in the past, and he endorsed medical marijuana on his radio show last year. Advocating for the legalization of what he calls "the truly miraculous medicine," Limbaugh said he started smoking pot to recover from an opiate addiction.

"I wouldn't have been able to make it through hundreds of shows if it weren't for the benefits of medical marijuana. When I topped off my cigar with a half-gram, all my tremors and cravings for painkillers disappeared. I was able to speak more eloquently than ever, if anything."

Get your swang on, Rush. No word on whether he considers marijuana as birth control after Dr. Allen Pacy's study on the effects weed-smoking has on male fertility, but Sandra Fluke might be interested.

Continue to keep counting down our list of five potheads who went on to change the world.   Number 2: Richard Branson

Richard Branson.
Richard Branson.

Worth an estimated $4.6 billion, Richard Branson is the definition of entrepreneur. He started a magazine in a church basement at the age of sixteen; that led to a second-hand record-selling business called "Virgin." Branson turned that into Virgin Records, which later snowballed into a massive, multi-faceted business kingdom, including a music label, cell phone company and airline.

Branson's no virgin when it comes to getting high. He's admitted to smoking weed with his son on vacation and hasn't been shy about his support for legalizing the plant. Shit, Branson's even asked the president for a spliff during a White House dinner. But when you're knighted by the Queen of England, you can get away with things like that.

Branson has sold many of the companies that helped make him famous, but he's still open to investing in greener industries, as you'll see in the following video.

Continue to keep counting down our list of five potheads who went on to change the world.   Number 1: Barack Obama

Barack Obama, the early years.
Barack Obama, the early years.

You had to know this was coming: If anyone puts the POT in POTUS, it's Mr. Obama. As prisoners of the moment, changes in the present are always more important to us than those of the past, and having an ex-pothead in the White House is pretty inspirational.

The president's hazy reputation started in high school, when, according to biographer David Maraniss, Obama and his friends started up "the Choom Gang." The group's members were known for their love of basketball and reefer (where can I sign up?). Even at a young age, Obama was all about conservation.

Maraniss' book says Obama was a fan of holding his hits in as long as possible, something he called TA -- total absorption -- and roof hits: smoking in a car with the windows rolled up and inhaling the leftover smoke.

It's hard to tell if universal health care and immigration reform were on his mind when he was puffing and passing, but he eventually got around to that and a few other things after the high came down.

Obama's publicly stated that he feels marijuana is no worse than alcohol, and he's tried to maintain a softer but politically correct stance on marijuana while in office -- although that has led to some criticism from both sides of the legalization debate.

More from our Marijuana archive circa January 2014: "Photos: Fifteen more memorable Stoner Bowl memes."

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