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Reefer, muggles, gage — whatever jazz-age slang you prefer, marijuana most definitely played an outsized role in the development of this most unique and influential American art form. From the formation of the first ever jam sessions to the racial integration of the leading jazz bands, cannabis culture and consciousness of the era pushed musicians and audiences alike towards a higher appreciation of authentic, improvised, expansive self expression.

As jazz evolved into the world’s most popular musical genre, weed-friendly musicians began to tour, leaving a trail of newly initiated reefer smokers (and freshly planted reefer seeds) in their wakes. A wide range of jazz greats also made approving references to “Mary Warner” in songs like Reefer Man (Cab Calloway), If You’re a Viper (Fats Waller), Texas Tea Party (Benny Goodman), Muggles (Louis Armstrong), Gimme a Reefer (Bessie Smith), When I Get Low, I Get High (Ella Fitzgerald), and I'm Feeling High and Happy (Gene Krupa).

We explore this incredible underground history via the unique friendship of two of the scene’s most legendary Vipers (or weed enthusiasts) — Louis Armstrong, the most famous jazz musician of all time, who inhaled two cigar-sized joints on the daily, and clarinetist Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a middle class Jew from Chicago who became very, very well loved in jazz circles for having a steady supply of the finest herb available.

Read more about this incredible era in weed history with Mezz Mezzrow’s book Really The Blues (1946).

Check out our friends and sponsors at Kiva Confections.

Great Moments in Weed History is a Spoke Media original.

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