Pot has been in prohibition for a lifetime. Throughout the years cannabis activists risked their own freedom in the hope that one day we would be free to choose a strain without the fear or the pain.
If now, you are sitting down taking a puff of smoke legally it would not have been possible for it not for the heros and heroines of the counterculture.
So who should you toast to before getting toasted? Prior to princes and princesses of pot there was the one. The only… The Emperor.
A cultural icon. A phenomenon. A Legend.
Jack Herer – The Emperor of Hemp
Would you go to jail for something you believed in or pay a $5 fine?
Sounds like a no brainer and there would be no shame in paying the fine.
For some people though they would rather die for what they believe in.
Paying even a notional amount is selling their soul to the establishment.
In 1981 Jack Herer and his supporters were campaigning at federal buildings in West Los Angeles California for cannabis law reform. Under the no tolerance Reagan regime Jack and his supporters were charged under an archaic law for ‘registering voters after dark on federal property’.
The supporters paid the $5 fine and got probation. Jack vehemently refused to pay the fine and challenged the ruling. He lost.
He then went to the US supreme court who would not hear his case.
On the 14th of July 1983, Jack reported to the Federal prison in terminal island California and started to serve his 30 day sentence all because he believed in something greater than himself. He believed in cannabis sativa.
Those who knew Jack in the 60’s would never believe that this ‘gold leaf republican’ ex army man would later become a jail bird.
Born in 1939 to a conservative middle class Jewish family, Jack had a typical American upbringing in Buffalo New York.
Caught driving after dark on a junior licence, Jack avoided prison by joining the US army. There he served honourably for 3 years. He came home from post war Korea, settled down with his wife and had three kids.
Jack hated peace loving hippies and saw their ‘no war’ message as a statement of cowardness. Army duty made him proud and he had old fashioned American values.
Jack was very much on the side of the establishment and was heavily influenced by the anti-drugs propaganda that infiltrated schools and media outlets. He believed Marijuana turned good American kids into useless hippies
In 1967 the then 28 year old divorced from his wife and some time later had a new girlfriend. The following is the conversation he had with his new girlfriend in Jacks own words:
GF: “Jack have you ever smoked Marijuana?”
Jack: “Why of course not!”
GF: “I think you should.”
Jack: “I experienced feelings I never had. Why is this illegal?”
GF: “I don’t know..”
The euphoric experience Jack had from smoking cannabis set him on a Journey that would change his life forever.
In the 70’s Jack and a friend wrote a cartoon comic called: ‘Grass’. It was an instant underground hit. It included a 1-10 scale on stonedness: 1 being mild and 10 being ‘stoned stoned.
Jack admits to not knowing much about cannabis other than it got you high.
In the following years Jack met people who made him aware of the thousands of uses that hemp gives us. Jack was in awe and became completely engrossed in hemp. He made a pact with his friend Captain Ed to “work everyday to legalize cannabis until our death or until we both turned 84”.
In 1979 Jack opened the nation’s first ever Hemp store on Venice Beach California and became known as the ‘Hemp Merchant of Venice’
In 1983 his resolve to fight for justice found him serving the 30 day prison sentence. It was a blessing in disguise though as this hard working activist finally had time to write down all the knowledge he had accumulated.
His masterpiece -’The Emperor Wears No Clothes’ was written, published and 35 years later this best selling bible of cannabis is now in its 12 publication!!
Jack worked tirelessly to free this gift to mankind and his effort did not go unnoticed.
In 1992 he received a ‘lifetime achievement award’ from ‘NORML’ for long term advocacy. This was fitting given his relationship with ‘NORML’ was somewhat tiresome due to their inactivity in helping Jack throughout the years.
In 1994 he was honoured by the conservative drug policy foundation in Washington DC for showing what one person can do and was awarded the ‘Achievement In The Field of Citizen Action’
As the ‘farm bill’ passed in America in 2018 legalizing hemp I am sure many docked their hats and gave a moments silence to thank Jack Herer.
There are many cannabis advocates who in 2019 are still fighting to free the plant for mankind in many parts of the world. Many have done so much over the years and I will attest to them in future articles.
Together in sharing information we stand on the shoulders of giants.
We stand on the shoulder of Jack Herer.