Latecomers to the marijuana-legalization movement may never have heard of Jack Herer, who died yesterday at age seventy. But veterans of the cause cite his 1985 book The Emperor Wears No Clothes as the manifesto that launched a campaign that continues to gather steam.
Herer died from complications related to a heart attack he suffered last September. That makes the interview he granted a few months earlier to Gregory Daurer, a longtime local activist and freelance writer (visit his website to learn more) who works as the office coordinator for marijuana attorney Warren Edson, one of his last.
Read it below -- and check out Daurer's observations about Herer in the wake of his passing.
Daurer's interview with Herer appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of Medical Marijuana News and Directory. It's not officially online, but Daurer kindly sent us PDFs of the article. Click on the links for page one, page two, page three, page four and page five to read the piece in its entirety. But to get a sense of Herer's passionate (and often profane) style, sample the concluding section:
What do you think has been the most significant thing that's happened sine you've started promoting hemp?
I thought change would happen 25 years ago, 30 years ago, 35 years ago. It's getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough. If I had to do it over again, I would make nothing illegal about hemp.
You live two years longer if you smoke it every day. And people who don't smoke anything and who don't drink anything live two years less than people who smoke cannabis every day. I don't make a mistake. I do all my homework.
What tips do you have for raising consciousness?
Get out everybody to vote. You have to vote. You have to vote the bastards out! If they don't vote for hemp, vote the fucking bastards out of office, right now! Like Bush. And Obama: I don't understand, either he doesn't know...
Jack, is there anything else that you want to add?
I believe that all forms of things have to be natural. 50 percent of chemicals in agriculture are used on cotton in the United States. What the fuck is that about?
Go natural. That's the Jack Herer theme?
The best thing in the world and it's against the law.
I'll tell ya, I'm getting mad at all the fucking silliness. Even the good guys -- Ron Paul and Barney Frank -- they're fucking chicken. I have to speak. Other people have to speak. They are good guys, but they just don't know. Everybody needs to write these guys. Hemp will save the world, and nothing else will.
This wasn't the first time Daurer had spoken to Herer.
"I wouldn't say we knew each other that well," he says. "But like a lot of other people in Colorado, I was very intrigued by The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and I definitely wanted to hear him speak when he came out here in 1991. And he came out one or two times more between 1991 and 1992 to support the Colorado Hemp Initiative. It was an initiative to get hemp/cannabis/marijuana on the ballot, and even though it didn't make it, he was very helpful in the process and certainly an inspiration beyond that.
"Any activist in the early '90s worth their salt memorized from front to back Jack's book and distributed the information in whatever way they could -- or they were inspired to create their own businesses manufacturing hemp products: hemp clothes, hemp body ointment, so many other things."
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As this comment suggests, Herer's mission was multifaceted. He wanted the hemp plant legalized not only for smoking pleasure but also for industrial uses -- and his message was heard far and wide.
"This was serious business," Daurer emphasizes. "He inspired a bio-revolution that hasn't really taken hold as much in America, since we can't legally grow hemp, just like you can't grow marijuana. But in Europe, well, a few years after he spoke in Germany, Mercedes and BMW were including hemp as part of the composite material in their cars. And now, there are a lot of hemp products available here, because it's legal to import hemp in non-psychoactive form: hemp oil, hemp cereal, whole hemp seeds, which are really useful because of the essential fatty acids and all the proteins in it..."
In 2000, Herer suffered a stroke from which it took him years to recover -- and during Daurer's interview with him last year, the effects on his speech were still evident. Nonetheless, he was as forceful and excitable as ever -- and while his voice has been stilled, Daurer believes that "his legacy in this country is just starting. It may take the legalization of marijuana before anything can be done about hemp, since the government has been so silly about this whole issue. But hemp has passed through legislatures in South Dakota, Vermont and Oregon, and I think there'll be more to come. We've focused so much on medical marijuana, medical marijuana, medical marijuana over the past few years -- so it's going to be good to explore other positive aspects of this plant.
"Jack Herer inspired dozens and dozens of people in Colorado to try to make a difference regarding this issue, and he's definitely going to be remembered. Hopefully, someday, there'll be a statue built of him."