Black History Month: Meet the Cannabis Changemakers

Established in 1976, Black History Month provides a welcome, vital opportunity to engage with the story of our nation through the eyes of Black Americans.

Offering us a chance to uplift the heroes and leaders who have paved the way for progress, Black History Month also calls upon us to grapple with the centuries of systemic racism that necessitated such bravery.

Predating the criminalization of cannabis itself, the first commercially cultivated hemp in the US was grown by enslaved African people for the benefit of white colonists. In time, an increasing series of ever-stricter laws would use cannabis—and later, crack cocaine—as a straw man to oppress Mexican immigrants and Black Americans.

Culminating in America’s infamous War on Drugs campaign, the past 50 years has seen skyrocketing incarceration rates headlined by disproportionate detainment, arrest and conviction rates for minorities. However, in the wake of a legalization revolution for cannabis—kicked off in 1996 when California’s landmark Prop 215 was approved by voters, legalizing medical marijuana—a renewed focus on restorative justice has dovetailed with the arrival of cannabis a major new industry.

Let’s celebrate this welcome change by looking at five Black cannabis industry leaders working to create a more equitable industry from within.

Troy Datcher. Photo courtesy of The Parent Company.

Troy Datcher

CEO & Chairman of The Board, The Parent Company

It doesn’t get much more high profile than serving as CEO of California’s leading consumer-focused, vertically integrated cannabis company, but Troy Datcher thrives in the spotlight. He sees plenty of it as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of The Parent Company, which boasts big brands including Jay-Z’s Monogram and Caliva Dispensary and Delivery within its robust portfolio. Datcher also supports The Parent Company’s mission to “disrupt a sector that has disproportionately impacted communities of color” with a social equity ventures fund established with $10 million of initial funding.

Black History Month Darius Kemp
Darius Kemp. Photo courtesy of Curaleaf.

Darius Kemp

National Director of Social Equity, Curaleaf

A native of Birmingham, AL, Darius Kemp’s career trek includes a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer, work in labor union organizing and his current role as national director of social equity for Curaleaf. Kemp’s accomplishments also include developing 14 social equity brands that have collectively sold more than $15 million worth of BIPOC and women-owned cannabis products to date. In his work with Curaleaf, Kemp remains focused on creating a cannabis industry able and willing to rectify the problems created by America’s failed war on drugs. To that end, Curaleaf has amassed an enviable reach as a leading medical and recreational dispensary brand serving 350k+ registered patients across 23 states.

Black History Month Mary Pryor
Mary Pryor. Photo courtesy of Mary Pryor.

Mary Pryor

Co-Founder, Cannaclusive

Disappointed by the diversity issues she observed taking root in mainstream cannabis culture, Mary Pryor co-founded Cannaclusive in 2017 to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers by offering free resources including a stock photography gallery dedicated to diversity. Another resource, InclusiveBase, provides a directory of BIPOC-owned and operated cannabis companies across the globe. In 2020, Pryor spearheaded The Accountability List and founded Cannabis For Black Lives (CfBL). In 2021, Pryor was the recipient of the CLIO Cannabis Impact Award and presently counts a role as advisor to The Parent Company among her myriad duties and projects.

Black History Month Amber E Senter
Amber E. Senter. Photo courtesy of Amber E. Senter.

Amber E Senter


Chairman of the Board & Executive Director of Supernova Women

At the rate Amber E. Senter is going, she’s going to need a full-length book to list all her accomplishments. As of now, Senter’s impressive credentials include more than two decades of marketing and project management experience. She’s also the founder and CEO of MAKR House, a distribution and infused cannabis products company, where she heads fundraising, supply chain management, government relations, strategy, product development and marketing. Senter is also co-founder, chair and executive director of Supernova Women, formed in 2015 to empower people of color to become self-sufficient cannabis industry shareholders. Furthermore, during her tenure as the former chief operations officer of a Bay Area dispensary, she obtained the first onsite consumption permit issued by the City of Oakland.

Black History Month Everett Smith
Everett Smith. Photo courtesy of Presidential Cannabis Co.

Everett Smith

Co-Founder & CEO, Presidential Cannabis Co.

Everett Smith had hoops dreams that blossomed into a thriving career in the cannabis industry. After finishing his basketball career in Europe, Smith launched Los Angeles-based Presidential RX in 2012. Today, he oversees one of the largest infused flower cannabis companies—as well as the third largest pre-roll brand—in California, with products available in some 400 stores across the state. Now proudly shelved at powerhouse dispensaries such as MedMen and Sherbinskis, Smith’s Presidential is a success story to overshadow even the most impressive of half-court heaves.

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Presidents’ Day: (In)hale to the Chiefs

Being the leader of the free world is a tough job. Perhaps that’s why we know that at least a handful of former US presidents have consumed cannabis. Be it before, after, or during their White House tenures, there does indeed exist a track record of commanders-in-chief partaking or otherwise advocating for aspects of cannabis that goes back as far as the origins of our country. This Presidents’ Day, let’s explore this historical—and fascinating—fact.

From the founding fathers through to the most recent names to hold the post, the intersection of America’s top leaders and their affinities for cannabis makes for a fascinating survey. Be it a curiosity for cultivation, a massively cloudy college transcript, or the origin for arguably the coolest Willie Nelson story of all time, on Presidents’ Day, we’re paying homage to those who’ve served the nation’s highest post and who also harbor an affinity for weed.

George Washington

In addition to being the first US president and his pivotal leadership role in the Revolutionary War, George Washington somehow also found the time to keep detailed diaries throughout his life. Covering all manner of his adventures, meditations and challenges, Washington dedicated significant ink to his interest in botany—including hemp. Though historians can’t say anything definitively, it does appear possible that the “hemp preparations” Washington writes of making and consuming to deal with toothaches and other ailments could conceivably have been made from female cannabis plants rich in THC. 

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was also fond of hemp, possibly going so far as to smuggle seeds back from China to cultivate in America. In his tenure as ambassador to France (cue the Hamilton song), Jefferson was smack dab in the middle of a hashish craze. Unfortunately, we have no documentation to tell us whether Jefferson ever blazed properly, but his actions are a worthy reminder that, at times, even sitting US presidents may have been reduced to trying to smuggle cannabis compounds into the country they led.

James Monroe

Like Jefferson, Monroe served as ambassador to France where he experienced a first-hand glimpse into the hashish craze. Some accounts suggest that our fifth president took the fervor back home with him, where he continued to unapologetically smoke hashish for the remainder of his life. It’s also possible such tales are the result of unfounded claims or confusion, but it appears the jury is destined to forever remain out on exactly how high Monroe was when it comes to hashish.

Jimmy Carter

One has to take Jimmy Carter at his word when he says he tried cannabis, but it’s thanks to our 39th president that one of stoner culture’s greatest stories came to be. Indeed, it was Carter’s son, Chip, who invited the seminal folk musician and cannabis advocate Willie Nelson to join him for a late-night toke on the roof of the White House. It’s incredible stuff, compounded by the fact that Carter also pitched Congress on legislation to eliminate all federal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis—in 1977. Talk about a leader who was ahead of his time.

Bill Clinton

A meme in an age before memes, Bill Clinton’s infamous quote (“I didn’t inhale”) was a punchline made in pot comedy paradise. As the world collectively rolled its eyes at Clinton’s phrasing, his unwillingness to acknowledge his own past cannabis consumption was made infinitely worse through his advocacy and support of the draconian 1994 Crime Bill, which was also sponsored by the current President, then-Senator Joe Biden (and every Republican in elected office). Next time? Definitely inhale, President Clinton.

Honorable Mentions

When 46 separate people serve as president over the course of more than 250 years, it’s tough to squeeze everyone in there. That said, it’s worth noting that varying accounts suggest James Madison was also fond of hemp; that Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pearce all (separately) wrote letters during the Mexican American War that referenced enjoying cannabis; and that John F. Kennedy quite possibly used cannabis to treat his back pain while in office.

Meanwhile, our modern crop of commanders-in-chief now face a turning of the tide in which previous rhetoric equating cannabis to an enemy to be defeated by means of a “war” will no longer suffice. Instead, we see recent American presidents such as Barack Obama openly admitting to past cannabis use and successfully moving on from the topic. However, such personal enjoyment has yet to translate into concrete policies geared at freeing those incarcerated for cannabis crimes and mitigating future arrest, incarceration and systemic prejudice.

Though recent administrations have made waves with pardons related to cannabis prisoners, including some issued by former President Trump in 2021 and President Biden’s 2022 welcome announcement that he was pardoning “all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession,” the leader who’s in charge the day such pardons are no longer necessary is destined to find their name atop the heap as America’s first true cannabis positive president.

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Oaksterdam: Canna Education at its Finest

It’s been a quarter-century since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, cannabis has evolved significantly. The last decade in particular has seen a dramatic shift with regards to reform; most states have legalized the plant for either medicinal and/or adult use. In fact, the legal cannabis industry is now responsible for more than 300,000 full-time jobs in the U.S.  

As the landscape changes and the stigma surrounding cannabis wanes, one thing remains clear: Access to high-quality cannabis education is critical for the industry to thrive. Oaksterdam University (OU), founded in Oakland in 2007, offers an authoritative and cutting-edge curriculum curated by industry pioneers. OU prides itself on setting the gold standard for cannabis academics. 

“Our superpower is our students,” says Dale Sky Jones, OU Executive Chancellor.

With deep roots in early advocacy efforts, the nation’s first cannabis college has shaped a generation of professionals from legacy cultivators to up-and-coming operators. The school, with more than 50,000 alumni worldwide, has a network that includes top growers, entrepreneurs and policymakers.

And it’s not just industry professionals who rely on OU to provide the latest cannabis knowledge. Regulators, researchers and government officials all look to the university to help frame tomorrow’s legal marijuana marketplace. 

Horticulture expert Jeff Jones (L) and Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones (R).

The Beginning

Oaksterdam University was initially formed as a way to strengthen California’s medical cannabis community, back when the notion of adult-use was but a distant fantasy. Drug policy reform activist, Richard Lee, was inspired to establish the school after a visit to Cannabis College in Amsterdam and was so driven by his desire to legitimize the fledgling cannabis industry, he went forward with creating Oaksterdam University. 

Jones, Oaksterdam’s current Executive Chancellor, is an advocate in her own right. She fought alongside Dennis Peron on behalf of Prop 215, and she volunteered as an instructor when OU was first founded. 

“Early on, Oaksterdam was entirely about the patients’ safe medical cannabis access,” Jones says. “Back then, it was learning about how to become a qualified patient; how to grow your own medicine; how to grow some extra medicine and share it with your collective; or how to potentially pay your mortgage that way.”

Jones eventually made her way through the ranks, taking over as Executive Chancellor in 2012 from Lee after the DEA raided the university along with the affiliated Oaksterdam Museum and Coffeeshop Blue Sky.

With deep roots in early advocacy efforts, the nation’s first cannabis college has shaped a generation of professionals from legacy cultivators to up-and-coming operators.

That same year, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to fully legalize adult-use cannabis. Other states soon followed, and it wasn’t long before Oaksterdam was the premier destination for quality (and highly in-demand) cannabis education. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about teaching people how to grow a little extra medicine — an entire supply chain was being formed.

“The needs of who needed to understand this industry change, and we’ve changed our curriculum over the years to meet those needs,” Jones said.  

From benevolent caregivers just trying to avoid prosecution, to commercial facilities trying to remain compliant, Oaksterdam’s core mission of imparting accurate cannabis knowledge has never wavered, particularly now as the federal fight for legalization rages on. 

“We’ve always started with a prerequisite of arming students with what they need to know to make sure that they don’t lose it all,” Jones says. “The most expensive mistake is the one you didn’t see coming when you didn’t understand your risk.” 

Oaksterdam University
Oaksterdam University students learn practical knowledge and academic research.

The Work

Oaksterdam aims to offer a wide breadth of coursework designed to combine practical knowledge with academic research. Designed by leading industry entrepreneurs and thought leaders, OU’s curriculum changes in tandem with the marketplace. Whether it’s new discoveries in lesser-known cannabinoids or a breakthrough in extraction, students receive the most relevant and up-to-date cannabis expertise available. 

As the industry moves toward standardization, the need for institutions such as Oaksterdam is proving to be critical. In its infancy, the school provided a safe space to share early insights into cannabis horticulture and growing techniques. Practices that were at one time found only on message boards or in magazines could be explored in depth and shared with a wider audience in an authoritative yet approachable way. Today, the school covers a vast range of subjects touching every corner of the industry including politics and history, legal rights and responsibilities, research and science of cannabis and more.   

Oaksterdam University has cemented a position as the foremost cannabis educational facility in the country. But at its core, it’s a school that puts people first.

“All the way through we remind folks whose shoulders we stand on that this industry began as a movement — it was about helping patients first,” Jones says emphatically. “It was never about legalizing weed. It was about legalizing people.”

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Origins of Cannabis: Plant Was First Domesticated 12,000 Years Ago

Researchers investigating the first domestication of cannabis have determined that the plant was originally cultivated in what is now northwestern China, according to a recently released study published in the journal Science Advances. The team of researchers investigating the origins of cannabis analyzed the genomes of more than 100 cannabis plants from around the world to conduct the study.

“It confirms it is one of the oldest cultivated plants,” said Luca Fumagalli, a biologist working at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who led the study. “We think it was a multipurpose plant. It was exploited for fiber, food and oil, and possibly medical and recreational purposes,” he said.

The research contradicts the commonly held belief that cannabis originated in Central Asia, perhaps in valleys of the Hindu Kush mountain range. The study determined that there are four genetically distinct categories of cannabis including a primordial group, a hemp group, and two groups bred for drugs. The researchers concluded that the first domestication of cannabis occurred in northwest China about 12,000 years ago, and that the plants cultivated likely had multiple uses.

“We show that cannabis sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia and that all current hemp and drug cultivars diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and landraces in China,” the study reads.

A Global Sample of Cannabis Strains

To conduct the research, Fumagalli and investigators from Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Qatar and Switzerland analyzed the genomes of 82 plants collected for the study and genomic data for 28 more plants that had been previously collected. The 110 plants included landrace strains, feral plants, historical cultivars and modern hybrids.

The researchers determined that the wild ancestor of modern cannabis is likely extinct, but strains growing in northwest China are its closest living relatives. The genomic dating of about 12,000 for the first domestication of cannabis is consistent with archaeological evidence, including pottery with hemp cord markings from about the same time.

“Our genomic dating suggests that early domesticated ancestors of hemp and drug types diverged from Basal cannabis [around 12,000 years ago], indicating that the species had already been domesticated by early Neolithic times,” the study adds.

The study into the origins of cannabis also determined that farmers began breeding distinct strains of cannabis for drug or fiber production only about 4,000 years ago. The researchers identified several changes brought about by selective breeding, including a number of mutations that inhibit branching in hemp strains. These mutations cause the plants in the hemp genetic group to grow taller and produce more fiber in the stem.

The first domestication of cannabis cultivars for drug production took advantage of mutations that increase branching, resulting in shorter, bushier plants with more flowers and boosted resin production. Plants in the drug groups also showed several mutations that increase the production of THC, the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis.

Previous research into the origins of cannabis cultivation has been limited due to the difficulty in obtaining a wide range of samples from around the world. The new study included samples collected by researchers from the wild, as well as strains being cultivated by farmers around the globe. But geographic challenges were not the only obstacle to collecting plants for the genetic research – investigators also had to keep the legal implications of possessing cannabis in mind.

“You can’t just go and collect samples because you go to jail,” Fumagalli said.

Research Implications

The study contradicts the belief that cannabis originated in Central Asia, which is based largely on the fact that the plant can often be found growing wild in the region, which also has a cannabis culture dating back thousands of years. But Fumagalli said that the plant readily adapts to growing conditions found all over the world, adding “That’s why it’s called weed.”

The researchers determined that the genomic study and other evidence suggests that the origins of cannabis lie farther east and discounted the commonly held belief.

“Contrary to a widely-accepted view, which associates cannabis with a Central Asian center of crop domestication, our results are consistent with a single domestication origin of cannabis sativa in East Asia, in line with early archaeological evidence,” the authors of the study wrote.

The authors wrote that the study provides an “unprecedented” base of genomic information for ongoing breeding, as well as functional agricultural and medical research. They added that the study “provides new insights into the domestication and global spread of a plant with divergent structural and biochemical products at a time in which there is a resurgence of interest in its use, reflecting changing social attitudes and corresponding challenges to its legal status in many countries.”

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The History of 420

Act One

You can trace a line from Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady to Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs to Steve and Dave, who entered San Rafael High School in the late’60s. They were rugged individualists uninspired by the social scene, which centered on athletics and the school’s top jocks, so they decided to create their own fun by embarking on a quest for adventure. The first of these was a visit to a Bay Area research lab developing the very first holographs. Soon, Jeff, Larry and Mark joined the safaris, as these adventures became known.

Every safari started with a sacramental hit of cannabis, followed by the cranking of the tunes, either in the 1966 4-door Chevy Impala with the killer Craig 8-track stereo system, in Steve’s room, or in one of a few other sacred spots they shared herb, as getting high was illegal and couldn’t be done in public or around parents. One of their favorite spots was underneath the statue of Louis Pasteur by Benny Bufano, which overlooked the school parking lot. Sacred hymns provided by New Riders of the Purple Sage, Allman Brothers, Poco, Commander Cody, Beatles, The Moonlighters were then employed to lift the vibration higher.

Waldos & Louie

This crew gravitated to a wall inside the courtyard of San Rafael High, where they’d meet before class and during lunch break to make withering comments about everything around them. This is where they obtained their name: The Waldos, as well as where they honed their savage wit. You couldn’t smoke pot around school unless it was a one-hitter and done extremely carefully, and even then you risked suspension and your parent’s wrath.

In the fall of 1971, Steve was given a treasure map to an abandoned patch of cannabis on Point Reyes that had been planted by a member of the Coast Guard too scared to return. He wanted some fellow stoners to have the patch and everybody at San Rafael knew the Waldos were frequent stoners.

“Surely, this is the ultimate safari,” Steve thought. “No more adventurous nor noble quest could be devised by the mind of man.”

The Waldos prophetically all agreed to meet at 4:20 p.m. at the Louis Pasteur Statue to get high and drive out to Point Reyes to search for the secret patch of weed. From then on, whenever the Waldos passed each other in the halls, they spontaneously erupted in a salute with the words, “Four Twenty Louie!” Little did they know how far this ritual would eventually travel, although “Louie” got lost along the way.

For the next 10 years, the Waldos went on the most amazing safaris and had the most magical adventures, although they sadly never found that patch. But they always sponsored a big pot party on April 20th, where a ceremonial toke would take place at 4:20 p.m. Eventually they started getting married, having families and picking up the sacred pipe less frequently. However, they kept up the safaris.

But as soon as the Waldos retired from staging 420 ceremonies, the younger classmen of San Rafael picked up on the magic of numerology and began using the code as a way to evade detection and some of them started a ritual of congregating on a ridge of Mount Tamalpias with a sunset view of the Pacific on April 20th in order to get high at exactly 4:20 p.m. as a way to honor the spirit of cannabis. This ritual started with only a few souls, but soon grew to dozens. And that’s when someone got the idea of making a flyer inviting stoners from all over the Bay Area to the ceremony. Nobody outside Marin even knew that 420 signified pot. But even those gathered at the top of Mt. Tam didn’t have any idea how the code had started. They thought it had something to do with the police.

Act Two

I’m often knee-deep before I realize what I stepped into, and that’s how it was with the Cannabis Cup. The idea came to me on the plane, while flying back from the Netherlands after interviewing the founder of the first marijuana seed company, Nevil Shoemakers. The night before, Dave Watson had regaled me with tales of California harvest festivals before CAMP helicopters forced that scene underground.

Soon, I was back in the Netherlands, organizing the first Cannabis Cup, with a photographer and grow expert. Three seed companies entered, and one of them didn’t even cure their entries but plucked them fresh off the vine.

But when I returned home after that first event, I couldn’t shake a feeling of responsibility. My event demanded a ceremonial framework respecting the true spirit of cannabis and its historical importance and influence. And that’s how I ended up buying a paperback version of the “Rigveda.”

Imagine my surprise when I came across the description of the primary sacrament shared during all ceremonies, a drink called Soma:

“The blind see, the lame walk… he clothes the naked. Soma is a sage and seer inspired by poetry …King of the healing plants.”

I knew Soma was supposed to be a mushroom, something accepted as gospel by the academic community, but in my heart, I instantly realized this had to be a description of cannabis. I also realized there had to be some incredible cover-up going on that dwarfed the cover-up Jack Herer was pushing about the industrial uses and environmental benefits of hemp.

I stepped out of my office to smoke a joint and reflect on these matters (something I had been doing in my office, but had recently departed, as I had moved to a former warehouse in the back of the building), something necessitated by a crackdown on smoking. But the crackdown had just been extended to the warehouse as well, so I sought refuge in the stairwell.

Steve Bloom, the recently appointed news editor of High Times was there, along with some hippie dude I didn’t know, and he proceeded to pull out a stash of whippets and he began inhaling them in rapid succession. Bloom asked when he was going to share, and he said, “Sorry, I only have my dose and nothing more.”

I fired my joint, while Bloom showed me a flyer he’d been handed while attending a recent Grateful Dead show in Oakland. “Check this out,” he said. “It’s really silly.”

I don’t have immense satori moments often, but I’d been time traveling through the Vedas for hours and still had a foot in distant past, so when I saw that crude flyer asking people to come to the sunset-view ridge of Mt. Tam at 4:20 p.m. on April 20th, it assumed Biblical proportions in my mind. I expressed these feelings instantly, because this was a sign and something that could be employed to give meaning to my Cannabis Cup ceremony and also help make marijuana legal. But for those not into numerology or the study of secret societies, this is just silliness with no meaning. Some people “got” 420 and employed the magic to enhance their cannabis experience and help legitimize pot in ceremony, while for others, it remained a joke and nothing more.

I told Bloom I intended to use the code as part of my effort to build a case for spiritual rights to use cannabis under the Constitution.

“This ceremony manifested spontaneously, and is evidence of the power of cannabis to create ceremony and culture,” I said. “We’re going to make this a big part of the Cannabis Cup and the Freedom Fighters.”

Later on, I was crushed to discover Bloom had run a joke item about the flyer and failed to mention my pledge to deploy the code. No matter, I was soon on the road going to hundreds of college campuses in a debate titled Heads versus Feds against the former head of the DEA in New York. And at every event, I asked the students to have a peace ceremony at 4:20 on April 20th. I also told them to be moderate in the use at such a young age, reminding them “the less you do, the higher you get.”

Certainly, Chef RA, Jack Herer, Rodger Belknap, Thom Harris, Linda Noel and Debby Goldsberry “got” 420. They were the shock troops in the hemp legalization movement, who helped me found the Freedom Fighters, the first national hemp legalization group. For many years we drove to rallies in a psychedelic bus (a new one each year as they were always breaking down). We hosted free campgrounds, with free kitchens, and published a free newsletter. Back then, the rallies were all held at precisely high noon, a trend that would continue for well over a decade. But the Freedom Fighters always held council at 4:20 p.m., passed a feather and plotted how to best legalize in our lifetime. Just as every year, one of the Freedom Fighters was selected by open council to attend the Cannabis Cup as a celebrity judge.

Goldsberry became the most dedicated member of that original crew and quickly broke off to create her own organization, CAN. The half dozen rallies we attended were not enough to keep her occupied, as she created her own tour that hit almost every college town in the Midwest, while we concentrated on Ann Arbor, Madison, Boston and the Rainbow Family Gatherings. At every stop along the road, she handed out free copies of the original 420 flyer.

Kenny Scharf was the first famous artist to design the official Cup art.

I hadn’t been to any Cups since the first one. But in 1993, I held the first 420 council at a Cannabis Cup. In truth, it was a clumsy ceremony, as no one but me had any idea what 420 represented, including Jack Herer. Some people will claim 420 was already widespread within the Grateful Dead community in the 1980s, but that is not true. It was known to teenagers who lived in Marin County in the later part of the decade.

The following year, however, at the 7th Cup, my 420 ceremony blossomed and became epic and stayed that way for the next 15 years or so. Most of the chiefs of cannabis you’ll find in Amsterdam today attended that first big 420 ceremony and spoke from their hearts. Eagle Bill was a major force elevating those ceremonies and it could not have happened like it did without him. I ran into Bill on my way to open the Pax Party House on opening day and noticed he carried a hand-carved staff. I asked if he would like to be the ceremonial high priest and use his staff in place of a feather. The impact of this request on Eagle Bill was profound. To say Eagle Bill “got” 420 would be a vast understatement, as he rapidly elevated to become the primary guiding spirit of the event.

I was arranging everything around the afternoon 420, but the crew got so devoted they began doing 420 a.m. ceremonies, and these rapidly became the most legendary parties at the Cup and everyone collected photos of themselves under the clock at exactly 4:20.

In 1995, Vancouver got credit for staging the first April 20th 420 ceremony outside Marin County. Marc Emery, Dana Rozek, Cindy Lassu and Ian Hunter had a hand in manifesting this event, although Emery was initially opposed to the concept. It continues today as the longest-running April 20th ceremony in North America. A few years later, Goldsberry staged the first major 420 event in the Bay Area in Golden Gate Park, although it turned into a one-off. However, the already established free 420 gathering on hippie hill continues to this day. The Mt. Tam sunset ridge ceremony was shut down in 1990.

Act Three

Even though High Times became the magazine success story of the ’90s and the Freedom Fighters spearheaded the return of the rallies, re-igniting the sleeping marijuana movement, success only seemed to bring problems for me, as I was soon forced to disband the Freedom Fighters and there were constant pressures to shut down the Cup as well, or at least remove my supervision. I moved home to concentrate on events and how to document them for posterity as I felt there was something important in these 420 ceremonies I was manifesting. At the time, I was primarily interested in building up WHEE! as the premiere cannabis event in North America.

I’d been trying for years to get Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters over to the Cannabis Cup, and had lured Mountain Girl when she was poor and adventurous, but at one point realized if I wanted to do a ceremony with Kesey, it was going to have to happen in his backyard, and that’s what happened. The first year (1997) we had over 300 vendors and 20,000 attendees.

Of course the Pranksters “got” 420 immediately, and the reason the code suddenly began skyrocketing through the Grateful Dead scene was threefold: first, Rainbow Family and Dead Family were basically the same thing and the Freedom Fighters and 420 had acquired a huge presence at Rainbow; second, Jack Herer and Chef RA “got” 420 and they became influential figures and spread the code; and three, and probably most important, the Pranksters “got” 420, and began actively pushing it. And Kesey was the most influential person in the Dead scene after Jerry Garcia.

One day, I got an email from Mike, the travel agent of the Cannabis Cup, who had been made the producer of the event with me directing the ceremonies. He forwarded a message from Bloom in San Francisco who claimed to have started 420 with his friends in 1971. The part that caught my attention was Bloom wasn’t seeking money, he just wanted to know the real story. He was writing to the Cannabis Cup travel package website because Mike had put up a forum for posting 420 Cannabis Cup stories, and this website drew the attention of the Waldos, who had been following the spread of 420 across America with much mirth and amazement.

By 2002, headshops in the Bay Area were stuffed with 420 t-shirts, buttons, hats, posters, and various other memorabilia. The code has become a well-known secret inside cannabis culture and been written about in High Times and celebrated as the central ceremony in the Cannabis Cup and WHEE!, the two biggest and most influential cannabis-themed events at the time (if you don’t count Kumba Mela). Still, however, outside the Bay Area, the code remained an enigma, even to most stoners.

I ended up flying out to San Francisco and meeting the Waldos and holding epic ceremonies with them for days, all of which were captured on video, as were my 420 ceremonies with the Pranksters and the elders of the Rainbow Family. In fact, whenever I get together with Pranksters, Waldos or Rainbow Elders, the same magic improvisational energy always emerges, as well as an overwhelming desire to have fun. I never doubted the Waldos’ story, and read the truth in their hearts before I examined their documents. But the powers-that-be at High Times never trusted me, and the publisher spread the story I was suppressing competing tales on the origins of 420 because the Waldos were my friends, implying it all a massive hoodwink on my part. And that’s the way this story appears on Wikipedia today.

Heads versus Feds

I also began a college lecture tour in 1995, debating Curtis Sliwa for five years, and then the former head of the New York DEA for additional 14, and Heads versus Feds traveled to over 300 colleges and universities over 19 years and I end each debate with a plea for the creation of a local student-run legalization group and urge the students to hold annual events on April 20th and have local bands play to raise money for the chapter. That line about April 20th often gets a laugh from the audience, and about half the time, I’m able to get volunteers to start a sign-up sheet for a chapter of NORML for the first five years before I switched to advocating for SSDP. At many debates, the list of prospective members reaches several dozen before I depart the lecture hall, and some of these chapters actually get off the ground. Enough for SSDP to follow the tour remotely as it moves around the country, and that’s probably why Allen St. Pierre of NORML said recently: “Without Hager, I don’t think there’s any way that this interesting numerology that has crept deep into American culture and commerce would have happened.”

One of the earliest schools we traveled to for the Heads versus Feds debate was Boulder, Colorado, and that school soon started a 420 ceremony that got so big the University had to shut down the entire school on April 20th just to try and stop it. And I think that’s one reason why Denver got the center of energy of 420. Colorado was always the most vocally pro-pot state I visited.

420 as a Ritual

I’ve long supported the view 420 should be used to help ritualize and legitimize cannabis as a sacrament, which will also strengthen the case for religious use. I’m not in favor of students doing breakfast dabs and going off to take their calculus exam. I realize some get attracted to intoxication too early in life, and it holds them back, but on the other hand, I don’t believe anyone should go to jail, lose a student loan, or lose child custody over cannabis. So I suggest using 4:20 p.m. as a guide for an appropriate hour for the adult population to hold a cannabis ceremony, although this certainly doesn’t apply to those with a medical need. If you’re having a medical emergency, dabs away.

I’m hoping some who read this will “get” 420, and consider lifting the ceremony to a higher level, something more meaningful than just an excuse to get intoxicated. Only then will we be able to help forge a spiritual culture worthy of being handed down to future generations. If you want to treat this plant with respect, there is magic, but for some others who use it without wisdom or who become too attached too soon, it’s just an expensive habit. The other thing I’ve learned is that if you want to have a true counterculture ceremony, everyone must be invited, which means it has to be free and it can’t just be about getting high and nothing else.

Published with permission of the author.

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A History of Eating Cannabis: A Taste Test That Led to Religion

During the Stone Age, humans began exploring their surroundings and figuring out how to survive, forming crude communities along fresh water sources and experimenting with eating the plants and animals they encountered. These humans would have had a hard time ignoring the cannabis plant, its pungent flowers dripping with resin, and ethnobotanists believe it was one of the very first plants they explored. The cavepeople tasted cannabis’s fresh green leaves, bitter flowers and nutty seeds. The thick sap coating the flowers, rich with THC, stuck to their fingers. When they licked it off, they discovered the plant’s ability to intoxicate. They were the first in a long line of hash eaters to come.

Today we understand that it was the cannabinoids in the sticky resin of those plants that got those early humans high by activating special human receptors that enhance the expression of FOXP2, a gene that facilitates speech and language development. For our ancestors, there was only an understanding that this plant could take their minds to new places and open up untapped avenues of thought. It gave them good ideas. Researchers Geoffrey Guy and John McPartland theorized that as cannabis coevolved alongside humans, it was primarily responsible for what historians call “the great leap,” the time when we began making tools, weapons and art, and working together in collectives.

(PHOTO Bruce Wolf)

Ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes’s theory is that ingesting those cannabis plants led early humans to invent religion. “Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food, must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of hemp, an intoxication introducing him to another-worldly plane leading to religious beliefs,” Schultes and Albert Hofmann wrote in “Plants of the Gods” in 1979. “Thus, the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the spirit world.” Though it was seemingly discovered by accident, Robert C. Clarke and Mark D. Merlin wrote that the female cannabis flowers’ ability “to exude large amounts of readily apparent and easily collected psychoactive resin” was the plant’s “most evolutionary significant trait.”

Though valued for its nutritious seeds, cannabis’s psychoactive qualities may well have been the magic bond that motivated early humans to begin putting crops in the ground and continue to plant cannabis wherever they went. After observing that early African Pygmies learned to cultivate cannabis because they considered it an important tool for keeping the hunters soothed and amused during the long hours they spent stalking meat and fish, scientist and author Carl Sagan famously suggested it would be “wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.” Sagan went on to observe: “The marijuana-intoxicated Pygmy, poised patiently for an hour with his fishing spear aloft, is earnestly burlesqued by the beer-sodden riflemen, protectively camouflaged in red plaid, who, stumbling through the nearby woods, terrorize American suburbs each Thanksgiving.”

As hunter-gatherers moved from place to place in search of food, they left behind campsites of rich compost where wild cannabis seeds germinated and flourished. Later, a vast, wandering Stone Age religio-complex of tribes seeking new lands and new consciousness brought cannabis, which they used as a spiritual tool, as they traveled farther and wider. Cannabis, Schultes wrote, “developed together with man as a multi-purpose economic plant: the source of a fibre, a narcotic, a medicine, an oil, and an edible fruit.”

As soon as they could figure out how to do so, humans domesticated cannabis and began breeding it to enhance useful traits such as elongated bast fibers, large seeds with high oil content and sometimes, copious narcotic resin. “Under the pressures of selection for these characters,” Schultes wrote, “cannabis began to reveal characters and combinations of characters not found in wild or presumed wild populations, a phenomenon that has occurred in every plant domesticated by man.”

Excerpted from the book “Pot in Pans: A History of Eating Cannabis” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. Used by permission of the publisher Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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10 Interesting Facts About the History of Hemp

If you’re looking to grow your knowledge about hemp, take a look at some of these facts and spread them far and wide

1. Hemp cultivation dates back more than 10,000 years

Many civilizations throughout time have grown hemp and utilized the plant for a number of items from food to fiber. The ancient use of hemp has been traced to many countries including China, Egypt, Russia, Greece and Italy.

2. It used to be illegal to not grow hemp

There was once a time in American history when farmers could actually be fined or jailed for not growing hemp. Because it was such a valuable crop in Virginia, the Assembly of Jamestown Colony passed legislation in 1619 making it mandatory for every farmer to grow Indian hempseed.

3. Hemp was hailed as a billion dollar crop before the government banned it

In an article written in 1938, “Popular Mechanics” declared hemp a new cash crop. It was touted as the standard fiber of the world that was easy to grow and poised to replace imported materials and manufactured products.

4. Hemp can restore unhealthy soil

Thanks to its botanical properties, hemp can actually leave soil better off than when it started by rejuvenating the dirt with nutrients and nitrogen. This helps clean up toxins, heavy metals and other pollutants from the ground through a process called phytoremediation.

5. Hemp oil is good for you

For people looking to reduce bad cholesterol levels, neutralize free radicals and improve nervous system function, the abundance of nutrients found in hemp oil can help. It’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including magnesium, calcium, vitamin E and carotene. When it comes to oils, hemp oil also has the highest level of polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) at 80 percent, with flax seed oil coming in second.

6. Many early artists made art on hemp

The word “canvas” is derived from the word cannapaceus, a latin adjective that literally means “made from hemp.” For centuries, painters used hemp canvases from the Renaissance artists to 17th century masters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

7. Twenty one states can legally grow hemp

According to agricultural reports, hemp can be grown legally in California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

8. Planes can be made from hemp

Earlier this year, Derek Kesek, the founder of Hempearth, announced that he would produce the very first airplane made almost entirely of hemp that will run on hemp-based biodiesel. Though the project has yet to take flight, many have high hopes about what its successful execution could mean for the future.

9. The United States Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper

The majority of paper in the late 1700s was made from a combination of hemp and flax as well as the occasional use of a verity of recycled cloth fibers. The final document which is housed in the National Archives was treated as any other important historical document at the time and indeed even to day would be. After the final product was approved (which happened to be on hemp paper) it was then transferred to a fine Vellum parchment made of sheepskin which was the practice for any significant document for well over a millennium.

10. Hemp is used in over 25,000 products

Although it may seem like hemp has been hiding out, the multifaceted fiber is actually used in everything from suits by Giorgio Armani to interior car parts by BMW. Hemp can also be found in everyday items like yarn, paper, carpeting, cosmetics, nutritional supplements and body care products.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

TELL US, do you use hemp products?

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Faces of Cannabis History: 3 Legendary Voices of Reason

I’ll be honest: history classes were never really my jam. I was more drawn to English, journalism and social sciences in college — and yet I always knew somehow I would eventually develop a deep passion for history.

And sure enough, it happened — starting with sprawling Ken Burns documentaries, moving forward with smart history podcasts and hitting me over the head more recently via Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical theater masterpiece “Hamilton.”

While I spent my 20s in rock clubs and my 30s studying drug policy, I find myself in my 40s going back to explore the historical roots of these subjects and others. And like countless others before me, I’m learning how thrilling it can be to understand history and how impossible it is to fully comprehend the present or forecast the future without knowing what came before.

Cannabis history is a fascinating one, from ancient Chinese relics to the Anslingers and DeAngelos of the world. But many modern cannabis consumers are hardly aware of this rich history, and so here’s a lively lesson on three figures in cannabis history you may not know.

(PHOTO Ronald Dale Carr)

Raymond P. Shafer

Raymond P. Shafer was the 39th Governor of Pennsylvania, from 1967 to 1971. Before this son of a reverend became a national GOP leader, he was an Eagle Scout, high school valedictorian, Yale Law grad, naval intelligence officer, World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

After Shafer’s gubernatorial term, President Richard Nixon appointed Shafer as chairman of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (later dubbed the Shafer Commission). And just think of the timing: Nixon was approaching peak anti-marijuana hysteria, having just signed the Controlled Substances Act, which “temporarily” categorized cannabis as Schedule I in anticipation of the Shafer Commission’s report.

But when Shafer presented the report — Marihuana, a Signal of Misunderstanding — to Congress in March 1972, the thoughtfully researched report written by politicos, physicians, psychiatrists, pharmacologists, educators and researchers actually recommended descheduling and decriminalizing cannabis.

This was monumental, and champions of drug policy reform cheered the report’s reasoned, common-sense recommendations. Nixon and important congressional subcommittees, however, ignored the report and moved forward with a War on Drugs that targeted people of color and ruined untold lives.

cannabis history margaret mead
(PHOTO Library of Congress)

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead was an author and cultural anthropologist known for her groundbreaking research (and resulting papers and books) on the role of sex in primitive cultures, as well as the debate surrounding race and intelligence.

Before becoming an internationally renowned academic, Mead was the daughter of a sociologist and a University of Pennsylvania professor, recipient of a masters and doctorate from Columbia University, assistant curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1969, Mead testified to Congress that marijuana should be legalized, saying: “Marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few over-users, because you can get damage from any kind of overuse.”

Speaking truth to power, in 1969 no less. Impressive.

cannabis history dennis peron
(PHOTO Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now)

Dennis Peron

Dennis Peron was an entrepreneur and activist best known for radically changing medical marijuana laws in California and beyond.

Before Peron made drug policy history, he was raised in Long Island, New York, served in the Air Force in Vietnam and supported gay activist Harvey Milk in Peron’s newly adopted home of San Francisco.

Peron’s cannabis history is long, from his San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club — the first dispensary in the U.S. — days to unsuccessful, legalization-centric bids for California Governor and U.S. President. But Peron, known as “the father of medical cannabis,” is best-known for organizing 1991’s Proposition P in San Francisco and helping to write 1996’s Proposition 215 statewide in California, the latter of which allowed the cultivation, possession and use of medical marijuana in the state — the first time such laws had been successfully passed in the modern world.

TELL US, who are your cannabis heroes?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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Archaeologists Discover Ancient Society That Smoked Weed to Get High 2,500 Years Ago

Cannabis advocates like to argue that weed has been used in society for thousands of years. But there has always been some level of contention about just how far back cannabis consumption actually goes.

Some swear tokers have been indulging for 4,000 years or so, while others believe the plant was a gift brought to Earth by one Jerry Garcia and popularized back in the 1960s. But it turns out that the earliest known use was actually around 2,500 years ago, according to a paper published this week in the journal Science Advances.

A research team consisting of archaeologists and chemists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing recently discovered significant traces of THC at the Jirzankal Cemetery, an ancient burial ground located in the darkest regions of the Pamir mountains in western China. Although cannabis remnants have been found before, the latest find is the only one to this day where THC, the stoner component of marijuana, was part of the uncovering. None of the others showed signs of ancient societies using the plant to get high.

“Modern perspectives on cannabis vary tremendously cross-culturally, but it is clear that the plant has a long history of human use, medicinally, ritually and recreationally over countless millennia,” Robert Spengler, an archaeobotanist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told the New York Times.

It appears this particular Chinese community was partial to smoking the herb with a bowl. Not exactly the same kind that many of us are used to seeing being whipped out at 420 — these were wooden receptacles containing small stones that were apparently exposed to high heat. Although some of these artifacts were used for incense and other herbs, the residue found on 10 of the 17 bowls tested positive for THC.

So, this tribe was most likely hotboxing cannabis and inhaling the smoke as it filled the tombs. Researchers believe they were likely using cannabis to summon the dead, just as Greek historian Herodotus described in the Scythian mourner’s rite.

The Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths and put the seeds on the red hot stones; but this being put on smokes, and produces such a steam, that no Grecian vapour-bath would surpass it. The Scythians, transported by the vapour, shout aloud.

Interestingly, the weed the Chinese tribe used in its rituals was apparently relatively decent bud. Researchers said that wild strains of cannabis grown in higher altitudes pack a much stronger THC potency than those growing in lower elevations. They do not know whether these potent strains were produced intentionally or if they occurred naturally. But it appears that this ancient society was serious about producing herb solely for the effect.

“The findings support the idea that cannabis plants were first used for their psychoactive compounds in the mountainous regions of eastern central Asia, thereafter, spreading to other regions of the world,” co-author Nicole Boivin told USA Today.

Researchers believe that the spot where they found the artifacts were located relatively close to the Silk Road, which was crucial in ancient times when it came to global distribution. There is speculation that this is how the cannabis plant found hybridization and made its way to other parts of the world. “The exchange routes of the early Silk Road functioned more like the spokes of a wagon wheel than a long-distance road, placing Central Asia at the heart of the ancient world,” Spengler said.

“Our study implies that knowledge of cannabis smoking and specific high-chemical-producing varieties of the cannabis plant were among the cultural traditions that spread along these exchange routes,” he added.

Dr. Mark Merlin, another researcher involved with the study, told the New York Times that other burial sites from around the same time containing marijuana show just how much cannabis was revered as a “plant of the gods.”

There is no denying that marijuana has been around for a while, but it appears to have taken a minute to catch on. Research published last month in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany indicates that the cannabis plant originated in Tibet around 28 million years ago. Although it was eventually used for fiber and food, people soon figured out that the plant could also be ingested for a variety of therapeutic reasons.

These days, it is still mostly illegal all around the globe.  

TELL US, are you surprised that cannabis was used for its psychoactive properties 2,500 years ago?

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Lester Grinspoon Pioneer of Cannabis Normalization Dies at 92

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, the renowned Harvard scholar whose works boldly challenged the cannabis stigma in an era when it was deeply entrenched in American culture, died June 25 at his home in the Boston area. His passing came unexpectedly, one day after he had celebrated his 92nd birthday. 

His most pioneering work, Marihuana Reconsidered, was published in 1971 and was the fruit of years of research with Harvard Medical School. In addition to a review of the scientific literature and historical material, it included actual first-hand interviews with cannabis users, portrayed without prejudice—a ground-breaking notion for its time. With multiple chapters dispassionately dedicated to deconstructing the propaganda of fear, it concluded with an open call for legalization.

This was given greater legitimacy by the fact that Grinspoon came to the question not as an already-convinced advocate but an objective scholar. As he would admit in a new introduction for the 1994 reprint edition: “I first became interested in cannabis when its use increased explosively in the 1960s. At that time I had no doubt it was a very harmful drug that was unfortunately being used by more and more foolish young people… But as I reviewed the scientific, medical, and lay literature, my views began to change. I came to understand that I, like so many other people in this country, had been misinformed and misled.”

Over the following decades, as the marijuana legalization movement burgeoned, Grinspoon emerged as its top intellectual authority and most respected representative.

He was among the very first to speak out for legalization on Capitol Hill. In 1977, he provided lengthy written testimony to the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse & Control, concluding optimistically: “Whatever the cultural conditions that have made it possible, there is no doubt that the discussion about marihuana has become increasingly sensible. We are gradually becoming conscious of the irrationality of classifying this drug as one with a high abuse potential and no medical value. If the trend continues, it is likely that within a decade marihuana will be sold in the United States as a legal intoxicant.”

Of course the backlash in Reagan revolution upset the timeline of Grinspoon’s prediction. But he did live to see a legal market became a reality in several states—and could claim a good share of the credit for helping to bring this about.

Bringing Science to Advocacy Work 

Massachusetts native Grinspoon would be compelled by the conclusions emerging from his research to take an advocacy position, eventually joining the board of directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). 

Years after the release of Marihuana Reconsidered, Grinspoon would reveal that one of the cannabis users quoted at length in the book—identified only as “Mr. X”—was in fact Carl Sagan, the Cornell astrophysicist who a decade later would become a celebrity popularizer of science. Sagan’s closing remarks as Mr. X in the book have often been quoted: “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

Grinspoon credited Sagan as the key personality that opened his mind on the cannabis question. 

Dr. Carl Sagan poses with a model of the Viking lander in Death Valley, Calif.
PHOTO Druyan-Sagan Associates, Inc.

Grinspoon also testified on behalf of John Lennon at his 1973 deportation hearing—a proceeding initiated by the US government based on his prior hashish arrest in England. As Grinspoon related to an amused audience at the 2011 NORML conference in Denver, the Nixon administration really “wanted to get Lennon out of the country because he was effectively protesting the Vietnam War.” The immigration officers overseeing the hearing weren’t even clear on whether hashish was a form of marijuana, Grinspoon wryly recalled. The ex-Beatle was ultimately allowed to stay.

 The cannabis question became poignantly personal for Grinspoon and his wife Betsy when their son Danny succumbed to cancer when he was still a young teenager. Cannabis helped him to endure the ill effects from high doses of chemotherapy. This experience propelled Dr. Grinspoon’s interest in the medicinal potential of the cannabis plant. In 1993, he joined with James B. Bakalar to author Marihuana: The Forbidden MedicineThree years later, California would become the first state to legalize medical use of cannabis.

Despite his achievements, Grinspoon was twice turned down for a full professor position at Harvard—something he attributed to the lingering cannabis stigma. According to a 2018 profile on Grinspoon in the Boston Globe, he believed “an undercurrent of unscientific prejudice against cannabis among [Harvard] faculty and school leaders doomed his chances.”

But whatever status he sacrificed for his beliefs among the academic establishment was made up for in the esteem he won from the advocacy community. In 1990 he received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship & Writing from the Drug Policy Foundation. In 1999, NORML established the Lester Grinspoon Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform, the organization’s highest honor—with Grinspoon, of course, the first recipient. Dr. Grinspoon served as a member of the NORML advisory board until his death. 

As NORML wrote in a farewell statement upon the passing the courageous scholar: “Dr. Lester Grinspoon led the way to insist that our marijuana policies be based on legitimate science. He made it possible for us to have an informed public policy debate leading to the growing list of states legalizing the responsible use of marijuana.” 

TELL US, did you know about Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s legacy?

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