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Carl Sagan Never Shared His Marijuana With Neil deGrasse Tyson

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It’s well known that famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan was a marijuana enthusiast. While many have wondered whether Neil deGrasse Tyson, who hosted last year’s reboot of Sagan’s legendary “Cosmos” TV series, ever indulges in cannabis himself, we now at least know that the two high-minded scientists never imbibed together.

“I don’t have first-hand knowledge” of Sagan’s marijuana use, Tyson said on this Sunday’s episode of StarTalk, his National Geographic Channel program.

“The times I met him I don’t think he was high. He was channeling the universe, as good educators will do, and so if that was the consequence of a marijuana-induced perspective I would not have known it at the time.”

Sagan once gave a tour of Cornell University, where he taught, to the younger aspiring cosmologist, who was considering enrolling there. According to Tyson’s new comments, the two didn’t end up passing a joint back and forth on campus that day or at any other time, even though they did keep in regular touch until Sagan’s death in 1996.

Sagan once wrote that his use of cannabis “produced a very rich array of insights” and helped him appreciate music and art at more intensely.

Tyson, who has previously talked about how he doesn’t like to mix work and intoxication, said on StarTalk that he personally doesn’t need marijuana to appreciate the wonders and mystery of the cosmos.

“You kind of get that for free anyway, from the universe itself,” he said.

But Tyson acknowledged that Sagan’s use of marijuana “may have helped him achieve a cosmic perspective.”

The new comments were prompted by StarTalk guest Susan Sarandon, the Academy Award-winning actress. “What marijuana does is help you be present,” she told Tyson, arguing that cannabis can help people find focus amidst a bombardment of distraction presented by mobile phones, tablets and other modern devices.

In introducing the interview, Tyson paraphrased Sarandon’s view that “the world would be a better place if people smoked weed instead of drank alcohol.”

Editorializing a bit, he added, “This is a completely defensible point.”

Sagan, for his part, wrote that “the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight.”

Watch the video of Tyson’s new comments here. The marijuana discussion comes about 26:30 in to the episode. (You’ll need a cable subscriber login to see the full clip.)

In a separate web-only segment, Sarandon went beyond cannabis and talked about how other drugs can help people achieve a cosmic perspective. “This is what ayahuasca’s all about,” she said, referring to the vision-inducing brew used by traditional spiritual medicine practitioners.

“People are gravitating again toward some of these plant experiences,” Sarandon said. “The idea of having something that takes you out of your narrow, self-involved, ego-based experience and encourages you to let go of all the things you’re worrying about. Because you now see it doesn’t really matter. Because the cosmos is so much bigger, and you have no control over it and that you are part of something.”

Tyson conceded that “whatever gives you a different perspective, a bigger perspective, is likely to be better for you than things that restrict your perspective.”

But he reiterated that marijuana and psychedelics don’t play a role in his own work. “When I’m writing down equations I cannot have any altered state while I’m doing that,” he said.

To learn more about Carl Sagan’s views on cannabis, as unearthed by a Marijuana.com review of his papers archived at the Library of Congress, click here.

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