Jack Herer may be an uplifting, sativa dominant strain that’s popular pretty much everywhere, but the reason it exists is the man himself, Jack, the Hemperor. More than simply an inspiration for some dank weed, this legendary figurehead of the hemp and marijuana movement was the inspiration for activists across the globe. While those same cannabis activists celebrated this month when the 2018 Farm Bill effectively legalized industrial hemp, none of that would’ve been possible with Herer’s early trailblazing.
In 1973, Herer came out with the infamous coloring book, G.R.A.S.S.: Great Revolutionary American Standard System. The pot-centric offering went viral before going viral was a thing and spawned countless letters from hippies and activists who wanted to share more information about the plant itself with Jack and his cohorts.
Those letters kicked the once Goldwater Republican into high gear. He and his partner Captain Ed Adair conceived of Herer’s soon-to-be seminal work: The Emperor Wears No Clothes. Practically required reading for all hemp and cannabis advocates, The Emperor is a mish-mash of cannabis facts, government and corporate corruption, the many, many, many uses for the hemp plant. It also included a big claim that would forever enmesh Herer with hemp.
Jack’s entire premise was that hemp could save the world if we’d only let it and in his book he put a $100,000 “reward” for anyone who could prove him wrong. No one ever tried collecting on the offer.
Hemp for fuel, hemp for fiber, hemp for health, it was all in Jack’s radar and he preached the miracle of cannabis wherever he went and to anyone who wanted to listen. Activists sat for hours, smiling and listening, while Herer went over his key talking points. And if they hung around long enough, they’d even get a demo of how his creation, the “Double Barrel Double Venturi Ricocheting Vortex Effect Pipe works.” The pipe burns bowls evenly and to a perfect ash utilizing airflow.
Herer suffered a massive stroke and minor heart attack in July of 2000. Though it wasn’t a quick path to recovery of his speech, he credits the psychedelic mushroom Amanita muscaria with reconnecting pathways and prompting a good recovery. Jack was unstoppable, even post-stroke and was backstage, getting ready to preach his mission at the Hempstock Festival in Portland, Oregon in December of 2009 when he had another heart attack. He would pass away in April 2010 at the age of 70 from complications due to the cardiac arrest.
Herer’s gumption, wisdom, soul and passion for the plant will live on in the hearts that knew and admired him. The Emperor will remain a classic work of cannabis research and literature. Herer is a major reason that awareness rose around hemp and deserves recognition for inspiring those who worked on the 2018 Farm Bill, which paved the way to a more sustainable future. It only took a couple decades, but Herer might finally be proven correct all these years later.