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How Carl Sagan Predicted Marijuana Legalization

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Many marijuana enthusiasts are aware that astronomer Carl Sagan was a huge fan of cannabis, but did you know that he wagered some predictions about how legalization would roll out in his sci-fi novel “Contact”?

Sagan, who wrote quite a bit about marijuana and the larger drug war prior to his death in 1996, devotes a detail-rich paragraph in the 1985 novel to describing the legal cannabis scene of a fictionalized then-future 1999 Paris:

Outside a tobacconist’s there was a long, orderly, and polyglot line of people attracted by the first week of legalized sale of cured cannabis cigarettes from the United States. By French law they could not be sold to or consumed by those under eighteen years of age. Many in line were middle-aged and older. Some might have been naturalized Algerians or Moroccans. Especially potent varieties of cannabis were grown, mainly in California and Oregon, for the export trade. Featured here was a new and admired strain, which had in addition been grown in ultraviolet light, converting some of the inert cannabinoids into the 1Δ isomer. It was called “Sun-Kissed.” The package, illustrated in a window display a meter and a half high, bore in French the slogan “This will be deducted from your share in Paradise.”

Sagan was right all those years ago that legalization was an unavoidable part of the future, but how did he fare on the specifics?

The first places to legalize the marijuana trade were Colorado and Washington State, and those systems didn’t get up and running until 2014 — 15 years after Sagan envisioned that stores in France would begin selling legal cannabis cigarettes imported from California and Oregon.

Oregon’s system of legal sales is expected to roll out next year. California still hasn’t enacted legalization, though it is widely expected to do so via an initiative on the state’s 2016 ballot.

To date, no state allows for marijuana exports — even to other states that have legalized, much less across international borders.

And marijuana is still illegal in today’s France. In fact, the country has some of the harshest marijuana laws in Europe.

Sagan pegged the age limit for buying legal cannabis at 18, but the states that have legalized in real life have so far all required purchasers to be over 21 years old.

The “Cosmos” host was correct in noting that growing cannabis under ultraviolet light seems to increase THC content.

To read more of what Carl Sagan had to say about marijuana and drug policy, read this piece about the results of Marijuana.com’s investigation into his archived papers at the Library of Congress.

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