7. TIMOTHY LEARY
Represents: The counterculture in America, Fighting for legalization in America
Even though he passed away over two decades ago in 1996, most stoners are aware of Timothy Leary, the Harvard psychology professor turned LSD icon who influenced songs by The Beatles and The Moody Blues.
But did you know that he got the aforementioned 1937 pot prohibition law declared unconstitutional?
As recalled by Inverse, Leary was busted by customs cops on March 13, 1966 at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas. With his two teenage kids in the car, Leary was denied entry back into America, then customs officials discovered five ounces of weed along with seeds scattered on the acid guru’s car floor.
Leary welcomed the arrest because he sought to generate a national debate on the hypocrisy of cannabis criminalization and to challenge the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary got the legal showdown he sought in ’69, when his case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court lived up to their name by ruling in Leary’s favor, accepting his argument that the Tax Act violated the Fifth Amendment because, though Leary was arrested under the Tax Act, it was also illegal under Texas law—meaning Leary would have provided self-incriminating evidence.
Thus, the Supreme Court ruled the Tax Act unconstitutional and shattered its legal standing. It was repealed in 1970 as Congress passed the Nixon administration-based Controlled Substances Act.
Some could argue Leary alienated the middle class towards marijuana, along with hastening the federal government’s officially classifying cannabis as being as dangerous as heroin with the CSA. However, it was Leary who brought pot out of the shadows of illicit drugs and put it on a pedestal for the entire nation to consider whether or not its criminal status was legit.
With pot use now a part of everyday American youth culture, it was time to discover other applications of cannabis…