Jack Herer is best known as the father of the marijuana legalization movement. He died in 2010 at age 70 in Eugene, Oregon from complications from a heart attack that occurred moments after speaking at a Portland marijuana rally.
Herer was an author and pro-marijuana activist. His wildly popular 1985 book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” was the catalyst for the modern marijuana legalization movement. In fact, the book, which has been continuously in print for 33 years, is frequently cited in national efforts to decriminalize and legalize marijuana as well as to expand hemp production for industrial uses including clothing. The PBS documentary, “Emperor of Hemp” chronicled his colorful life. The documentary has been translated into French and Spanish.
Herer also founded and served as the director of the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) organization. As an activist, Herer spoke about the benefits of cannabis and hemp, arguing for their medicinal benefits as well as the plants’ potential uses as food, fiber, and paper.
He actively worked to decriminalize marijuana, asserting that the US government has been deliberately hiding the proof of the health benefits of marijuana from their own citizens. Others have agreed with this, citing that many lawmakers are in the pocket of “Big Pharma” which doesn’t stand to profit from marijuana, and is therefore actively trying to suppress it in favor of highly profitable pharmaceuticals.
Herer made a presidential bid twice, in 1988 (he received 1,949 votes) and 1992 (he received 3,875 votes) as the Grassroots Party candidate.
Herer was sometimes accused of unrealistic claims about the potential of hemp as a cash crop. Herer claimed that hemp was a higher-yielding plant than other crops. However, under most favorable growing conditions, other crops such as potatoes and sugar beet produced similar dry matter yields. He also claimed that hemp could become a viable method of producing fiber for clothing and other soft goods – a claim that has been realized.
Ultimately, both hemp and marijuana are gaining a positive foothold in the public perception – marijuana for its medicinal properties, and hemp for its medicinal as well as industrial applications. With more and more states in the USA legalizing both the medical and recreational use of marijuana, it’s possible that Herer’s vision will become reality sooner rather than later.