In addition, anti-marijuana propaganda of the time claimed that marijuana use induced super strength. Overblown media reports proclaimed that pot smokers became extraordinarily strong, and even immune to bullets. So tying in Popeye's mighty strength with his sucking back some spinach would have seemed like an obvious cannabis connection at the time. Further, as a "sailor-man," Popeye would be expected to be familiar with exotic herbs from distant locales. Indeed, sailors were among the first to introduce marijuana to American culture, bringing the herb back with them from their voyages overseas.
Segar did make other, more explicit drug references in his comic strip. One ongoing 1934 plotline had Vanripple's gold mine facing corrupt, thieving workers. Popeye discovers that the mine manager is feeding his men berries from a bush whose roots are soaked in a nasty drug. Consuming the drugged berries removes human conscience, making people more violent and willing to commit crime.
In many of the animated Popeye cartoons from the 1960's, Popeye is explicitly shown sucking the power-giving spinach through his pipe.
Further, in the comics and cartoons made during the 1960's, Popeye had a dog named Birdseed. Surely the writers who named Popeye's dog during this "flower power" era were aware that cannabis was in fact America's number one source of birdseed until it was banned?
Another slightly different drug reference occurs in the 1954 cartoon, 'Greek Mirthology'. In the cartoon, Popeye tells his nephews the story of his ancestor, Hercules.
Hercules, who looks just like Popeye, is shown sniffing white garlic to gain his super strength. By the end of the cartoon Hercules has discovered spinach and switches over to it. Is this a metaphor for the benefits of cannabis over cocaine or snuff?
Another animated film shows Popeye carefully tending a crop of spinach plants reminiscent of a cannabis patch. He carefully takes cuttings, dips them into rooting gel and plants them in his outdoor garden. He even gives each plant a special feeding mix from a baby bottle. Pot growers worldwide would recognize the unique way that Popeye cares for his sacred crop.
I yam what I yam
Some have commented on the parallel between Popeye's famous phrase, "I yam what I yam," and the statement, "I am that I am," made by God to Moses in the Old Testament. In the story, God speaks to Moses through a magical burning bush, which was not consumed by the fire.
Interestingly, many different people and faiths have believed that the biblical burning bush is a reference to the Cannabis plant, including Rastafarians and various early Christian sects.
So in this context, the use of phrase, "I yam what I yam," can be seen as a reference to Popeye's use of the burning cannabis bush, which creates his higher awareness of the self-reflective nature of the Godhead.
Reference : Cannabis Culture ~ Popeye The Pothead
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