You are probably familiar with the name Jack Herer, also known as the “Emperor of Hemp.” In 1985, he published a treatise, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, about the many uses of cannabis and hemp. There are award-winning cannabis products that carry his name. But, how much do you know about him? In this article I will discuss the many contributions that he made to the cannabis and hemp industries. His life and legacy are celebrated every year on his birthday, June 18.
Jack Herer Biography
Jack Herer was born on June 18, 1939 in Buffalo, NY. He dropped out of high school to join the Army and served in Korea as a Military Police officer. He held very conservative views, believing everything the US government told him until the age of 30 when a family friend enticed him into trying cannabis. He became obsessed with learning everything he could about the cannabis plant. His transformation was remarkable as he became a liberal cannabis and hemp activist.
In 1973, he invented a grading system for cannabis using a scale of 1 to 10, called the Great Revolutionary American Standard System (G.R.A.S.S.) He also started developing cannabis paraphernalia and opened High Country, a head shop in Van Nuys, through which he sold cannabis. He employed the help of other head shop owners to pay for his ongoing legislative efforts.
He dedicated much of his time and energy to promoting the legalization of cannabis in California. This went on for years but it never gained much traction. His friend and fellow activist, Ed Adair, a head shop owner, often helped support his efforts. In 1980, the two famously created the Reefer Raiders, and would frequently appear on the lawn of the Westwood federal building, smoking joints for the TV cameras.
In 1981, Jack Herer was arrested and jailed briefly for camping out in front of the federal building in LA where he and other demonstrators were protesting cannabis laws. His crime was for registering voters after dark on federal property. He refused to pay the $5 fine and insisted that he be sent to prison, just to make a point. He made use of his 14 day sentence to work on an outline for his famous book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. He had been doing research and compiling information on cannabis and industrial hemp since 1973.
The Emperor Wears No Clothes
After scouring the archives of the Library of Congress, Herer was convinced that the US government was actively lying to the American public in order to suppress information about the benefits of both medical cannabis and industrial hemp. He believed that using cannabis to maintain good health and using industrial hemp for food, fiber and fuel, could solve the majority of the environmental, social and economic woes confronting human beings.
His was one of the loudest voices of his time in support of cannabis legalization while simultaneously exposing the injustice of cannabis prohibition which began in the US in the 1930s.
He was convinced that the powerful Hearst and Du Pont families conspired to ban hemp for their own financial interests. They lied about the ability of biomass fuels to replace 90% of all fossil fuels used in the world. Their argument that burning biomass fuels from industrial hemp created just as much pollution and CO2 emissions as burning fossil fuels was a falsehood.
Steven Hager, the new editor of High Times magazine met with Herer about his book. Hager tried to get the magazine to publish it but they refused. Interestingly, the head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) also refused to publish Herer’s book.
By 1990, he was hailed as a “preacher” who extolled the wonders of the hemp plant. He spoke at dozens of rallies, explaining the versatility of the hemp plant and its positive effects on the planet. Herer described hemp as “the strongest, most durable, longest-lasting natural soft-fiber on the planet.”
In 2000, he had a minor heart attack and a major stroke which left him with communication problems and loss of use of the right side of his body. He was able to make a significant recovery but had a major heart attack in September, 2009 which left him incapacitated. He finally died in Eugene, OR on tax day, April 15, 2010. His son, Mark, thought that particular date was a fitting end for a man who hadn’t filed his taxes for 30 years.
He was married 4 times and had 6 children. Two of his sons, Dan and Mark, are carrying on his legacy.
The Herer Group
The group manages Herer Distribution, Herer Manufacturing and Herer Labs and Research which uses multiple vertically integrated cultivation to manufacture and distribute extraordinary products that carry the Jack Herer brand names. These include Dr. Delights, Infusio and The Original Jack Herer.
The Jack Herer Cannabis Strain
The award-winning sativa-dominant hybrid, grown at Herer Farms, was created by the Amsterdam-based super-breeder, Sensi Seeds. Only the premium flower which is subject to the highest quality standards makes the cut. Described as cerebral and aromatic, some consumers use it when they need to be active while others use it to enjoy periods of serious relaxation.
- He was inducted into the Counterculture Hall of Fame at the 16th Cannabis cup
- The Jack Herer Cup is held in Amsterdam, Colombia, Jamaica, Las Vegas and Thailand each year to honor the Worldwide Cannabis Legalization Movement that Jack Herer help start.
Let’s raise our glasses with our cannabis-infused cocktails and toast Jack Herer!
latimes.com, Jack Herer Dies at 70; Author and Advocate For Marijuana Legalization, April 24, 2010
forbes.com, Perhaps Jack Herer Was Right, The Future of Mankind May Be Hemp, Andre Bourque, July 8, 2019
wweek.com, The Story of One of the Greatest Cannabis Advocates Who Ever Lived and The Strain That Bears His Name, Martin Cizmar, updated May 23, 2017