Jack Herer, the father of the cannabis legalization movement for whom a strain of cannabis is named, died Thursday in Eugene, Ore. after suffering a long illness related to a 2009 heart attack. He was 70 years old.
Herer was an outspoken and committed activist who dedicated his life to decriminalizing cannabis, even going so far as to run for president twice as a member of the Grassroots Party. He is the author of the books Grass and The Emperor Wears No Clothes; the latter (which is in its 11th printing) is filled with facts about the uses of hemp throughout the past 10,000 years. Herer suffered a debilitating heart attack in 2000 that left him with impaired speech and partial immobility on the right side of his body. He recovered after a treatment regimen that supposedly included psychoactive mushrooms. He suffered another heart attack in September 2009 while backstage at the Hempstalk Festival in Portland and was hospitalized for nearly a month. When he was discharged, the medical facility where he was sent to recover did not allow the medical use of cannabis, so several supporters donated money to allow him to live out his days in a rented home in Eugene. His wife Jeannie was at his side when he passed away yesterday.
"I never accepted that he was really going to go," Jeannie Herer told the Oregonian newspaper. "I'm sad that it happened, but I'm glad that it happened in Eugene. Everyone has been wonderful to us here."
Cannabis activists around the world reacted to Herer's death, including in Denver where in 1992, Herer brought a group of supporters from California to campaign on behalf of the state's first legalization effort, the Cannabis and Hemp Relegalization Act. The Cannabis Therapy Institute, an advocacy and education organization in Denver, said in a statement that Herer would be "appalled at the bills currently being promoted in Colorado's legislature that seek to restrict patient access to medicine."
"Jack worked hard for cannabis freedom and refused to compromise on patient rights," the statement continued. "His dedication to cannabis liberation made him a hero to generations and an inspiration to all who knew him. He will be missed greatly."
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.