Searching for Jack Herer, the ‘Emperor’ of American Cannabis


If you visited Los Angeles’ Venice Beach boardwalk in the 1980s, you were likely to encounter a bearded, corpulent man peddling a wild conspiracy theory. With his disheveled clothes and slobbery workingman’s diction, he often looked like he spent the night in a dumpster. He offered a story as compelling as the Ancient Mariner’s, a tale of history, conspiracy, greed, and deceit. A cabal of plastic manufacturers and power-hungry bureaucrats, he claimed, had suppressed one of the most industrially useful and medically beneficial plants the world has ever known: cannabis. Everything you think you know about marijuana, he’d tell passersby, is wrong.

The man’s name was Jack Herer. At the time, he was in his late fifties and had just published a book that laid out his evidence. Actually, “published” is a strong word. The Emperor Wears No Clothes was cheaply bound by a vanity press, which meant that no reputable publisher would touch it. To continue reading