There is a generation of cannabis activists in our ranks who, unfortunately, never got a chance to see the late Jack Herer in action. For those who may not know, Jack Herer was the grandfather of the modern cannabis movement. He dedicated his life to freeing the cannabis plant – not just hemp, not just medical marijuana, but all of the plant for everyone.
If ever a statue is to be erected to honor a single individual for advancing the cause of cannabis Jack, undoubtedly, is that person. His zeal led him to write The Emperor Wears No Clothes — the cannabis “bible” brimming with history and bristling with myth-busting outrage, which inspired thousands of activists and entrepreneurs alike. And there was never an interview or rally he turned down in order to spread his message.
I first met Jack 20 years ago at the Hemp Industries Association convention, as the new trade association tried to find its footing. Even then, Jack was recognized as the cannabis community’s seminal leader. He had been invited in order to give his blessing. Instead, I watched Jack, a bearish, sometimes growling presence, take on the HIA, insisting that its mission statement include a strong stance on legalizing cannabis in all its forms – not just hemp. The debate was long and contentious, but Jack never backed down.
A few months later, I was assigned to photograph Jack for his first HIGH TIMES cover. I spent the day shooting the legend in a number of locations near his home in Los Angeles. It was the beginning of a long relationship with the man. I wound up shooting him for three covers and covering him throughout the rest of his life. At his memorial service, I was asked to be one of his eulogists. In my remarks, I tried to be as truthful as possible: “Thanks, Jack, for giving me a career.”
It’s been four years since Jack’s death in April 2010. Our first HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in the United States was mounted just two months afterward. It’s a shame that he never got a chance to attend one of our Cannabis Cups in America. His dream of liberating the cannabis plant for humanity is slowly becoming a reality. Over 13,000 attended this past weekend’s HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup in San Bernardino, CA, and over 200 cannabis-related businesses were represented. Jack’s devotion to the cause galvanized us as a community and his influence still resonates in our actions as an industry.
View a gallery of Jack Herer photos by Dan Skye below.
In 1994, at the Hemp Industries Association convention in Arizona, Jack demanded legalization be a part of the organization's mission statement.
Jack was most certainly on the side of the angels. He posed alongside this Venice Beach, CA mural to prove it.
He also posed on the Venice Beach shoreline for this iconic shot of a man who truly embraced "high" tide.
We'll call this "Forrest Hemp."Just before posing for his first cover, Jack did a Forrest Gump impression sitting on a park bench in the Pacific Palisades wearing a 100 percent hemp suit. But he wasn't holding a box of candy. Jack was holding a hemp plant.
A few minutes later, Jack posed above the Pacific holding a gorgeous California cola for the April 1995 cover.
Later that evening, he posed again with joint in hand in this classic portrait.
Jack always had a good time in front of the camera and tried on different expressions.
Jack was often disheveled, but his mind never was. He gave interviews at all hours of the day pounding away at the idiocy of cannabis prohibition. Note the appropriate "Beware of Dog" sign in the background.
For his second cover (December 1999), Jack posed as Santa Claus with a stocking stuffed with buds.
Tommy Chong posed as a stoned elf for a story inside the issue.
Jack was an annual presence at the Seattle Hempfest, speaking to the crowd at 4:20 and always manning a booth on the Hempfest midway.
Jack's third cover (June 2001) was shot on the road to recovery from a stroke.
Recovering from his stroke was arduous, but he never lost his sense of humor.
In his last years, Jack sold thousands of his innovative, double-barreled "Jack Herer Pipe."
Woody Harrelson and Jack confer privately at the Seattle Hempfest.
This photo of Jack toking up at 4:20 is perhaps the most famous of Dan Skye's portraits of the man.
Jack speaks from the stage at the last Seattle Hempfest he attended.