At HempStalk in Portland, Ore., 2008.
Photo by Bonnie King
by Bonnie King, Salem-News.com
originally published Apr-20-2010, 04:20
Center stage is exactly where Jack Herer belonged. A talented, “bombastic” man, Jack’s energy was contagious and his legacy is alive and well.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Jack Herer was born June 18th, 1939, in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. In 1940 his family moved to Buffalo, where he was raised, the son of a collection agency manager. A “normal American nerd”, he grew into a respectable young man, joining the military, getting married and starting a family.
And then, at age thirty, he completely changed direction, becoming one of the very first American Cannabis activists, and inevitably the most world renowned leader for hemp education.
Jack didn’t start out as the “kind of guy” who smoked pot. He was a Goldwater Republican, in the sign maintenance business. In 1969, recently divorced, he was introduced to cannabis by a girlfriend. He wasn’t much interested in it before then, and after briefly trying it a couple of times he was fairly sure it didn’t “work on him”. Jack was therefore naive to the euphoric or medicinal properties of the herb. When he decided to really give it a try, he said he had the most incredible sex of his life.
That inspired him to learn more. What he learned, he shared.
Jack Herer spent the early 1970's in Venice Beach, California, where he re-established himself in the world by opening two head shops. In 1973, Jack published his first book, G.R.A.S.S. (Great Revolutionary American Standard System), and met his friend and mentor Captain Ed Adair.
Jack & Captain Ed
Captain Ed changed Jack’s life, bringing new enlightenment to what Jack had already learned, and sparked the flame that never dimmed from that point forward. Jack soon founded an organization named HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition).
Jack believed that the cannabis sativa plant should not be illegal because it has been shown to be a renewable source of fuel, food, fiber and medicine, and it can be grown in virtually any part of the world. Jack was dismayed with the U.S. government, which he said hid the proof of these facts from American citizens.
Jack and Captain Ed formed the Reefer Raiders in Los Angeles. They spent the next twelve years assembling all types of information about the history, properties and benefits of cannabis.
In 1982, Jack was at a party and had the opportunity to outline the hemp story to Tom Rutherford, a state senator from New Mexico. The senator told Jack that if the facts were real and if they were put into a book, then pot would be legalized.
That’s all Jack needed to hear, and he went to work on The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which would become one of the seminal books on the history of hemp and marijuana prohibition, used by experts and laymen alike as an essential research tool and a catalyst in the advocacy to decriminalize cannabis since it was first published in 1985. Over 600,000 books have been sold, it is translated into a dozen languages and there is an online version available on JackHerer.com.
In 1988, Jack ran for United States President, (1,949 votes) and again in 1992 (3,875 votes) as the Grassroots Party candidate.
Described by close friends as “bombastic”, "tireless", and "inspirational", Jack spoke out as often as possible about the benefits of hemp, the medicinal uses of marijuana, and his deference to paying the government “one thin dime” for the privilege of using the herb. His impassioned message never faltered through the years, always ready to take on the unenlightened and share his vault of knowledge on the subject of hemp.
In 1990 he told Steve Hager of High Times, “Our leaders are acting like lemmings. I want them to legalize hemp and start cleaning up our planet right now. I don't want to wait 20 or 50 years for something to be done about petrochemical pollution. And they have to let the people in jail for drug violations out of prison today! And pay them back for attorneys, for bail, for losing their jobs and their property! Everything must be restored!!”
Jack determined that legalizing hemp would reverse the Greenhouse Effect, a direct result of burning fossil or old carbon fuels.
“There is only one plant that can completely substitute for fossil fuel. The plant is an annual that grows in all 50 states. It is the fastest growing sustainable biomass on the planet. It can produce paper, fiber, food, and fuel,” Jack said.
Jack and Captain Ed made a well-known pact, a pledge that is now a famous quote, one that strikes the heartstrings of those that knew them both.
In Jack’s own words: “In 1974-75, possession of under an ounce of hemp/pot was decriminalized in the state of California. Captain Ed was 33 years old and I was 34. Ed’s pledge that I took in 1974 and again in April 1980, 1986, and 1988, and finally in the hospital four days before he died in August 1991, was that we’d swear to work every day to legalize marijuana and get all pot prisoners out of jail, until we were dead, marijuana was legal, or we could quit when we turned 84. We wouldn't have to quit, but we could.” --July 15, 1998
Jack & 2008 Initiative
On August 16, 1991, Jack lost his partner Edwin “Captain Ed” M. Adair III, to Leukemia, Ed was 50. Jack remained resolute, and continued the quest for decriminalization.
the one and only Jack Herer.
A specific strain of cannabis was named after Jack Herer in honor of his work and is known around the world. The strain has won several awards, including the 7th High Times Cannabis Cup, the “Academy Awards of Marijuana”. Jack Herer was also introduced to the Counterculture Hall of Fame at the 16th Cannabis Cup in recognition of his first book, G.R.A.S.S.
The Emperor of Hemp, http://www.emperorofhemp.com, is a 1999 PBS documentary by Anita Roddick about the life of Jack Herer. It is considered by some to be one of the best pot documentaries of all-time, revealing the reasons why industrial hemp and cannabis were outlawed in 1937.
In July 2000, Jack had a heart attack and a major stroke while on stage at the World Hemp Festival in Oregon, resulting in long term rehabilitation for ongoing difficulties speaking and moving the right side of his body.
He recovered fairly well, and was back in action after three years. In May 2004, Jack revealed that treatment with the aminita muscaria, a psychoactive mushroom was the "secret" to his recovery.
Every year, Jack and his crew would travel thousands of miles making appearances, book signings, and speaking engagements at hemp festivals and other events. Jack loved to share his wisdom.
Jack also attributed much of his recovery success to Rick Simpson’s Healing Hemp Oil, which he hoped would receive the recognition deserved for its many medicinal uses. In 2008, Jack said that Rick Simpson’s Healing Hemp Oil had changed his life. Using the healing hemp oil healed the wounds on his legs from diabetic ulcers that he had struggled with for years. He also took it orally and said he experienced better muscle mobility. He recited case studies of cancer survivors and many more success stories. He couldn’t rave about it enough.
On September 12th, 2009 Jack said he felt better than he had in years and talked about his upcoming European tour with Rick Simpson. He was enjoying the Oregon sunshine, and the positive environment surrounding him at the HempStalk Festival while he visited with fans, and many long time friends.
September 12, 2009
Yet, later that day Jack suffered a sudden heart attack after speaking onstage. He was given CPR for over twenty minutes, and then rushed to Emanuel Hospital. He remained in critical condition for several days. About a month later, he was transferred to Avamere Rehabilitation Center where he made some progress, but was unable to fully recover.
Jack was released to his home in Eugene, Oregon in late March 2010 and passed away with his wife Jeannie at his side on April 15, 2010.
Jack is survived by his wife, six children, a brother, a sister, grandchildren, and a worldwide cast of thousands. He is loved from all corners of the globe, and will be greatly missed.
On that fateful day in September, Jack encouraged the audience to continue the fight, to see the initiatives through to success, not to bow down to undue influence, and resist the temptation to agree to pay the government to use cannabis. Jack was unyielding in that regard; he did not believe in taxation on any level.
Jack Herer has left the stage, but his message and his legacy will reverberate infinitely. The work he did was a gift to all generations, the foundation of a more enlightened social consciousness, and an example of what a man can do, when he puts his mind to it. And so it is. The fight must go on.
Jack’s last words to the audience, and to the world,
“See you next time!”
June 18th, 1939 - April 15th, 2010
April 25th: Jack Herer's Memorial will take place on Sunday, April 25th at 1:00 at Eden Memorial Park - 11500 Sepulveda Boulevard, Mission Hills, CA 91345.
To read excerpts from The Emperor Wears No Clothes for free online, visit JackHerer.com
Photos courtesy JackHerer.com; Facebook.
Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher.