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Smokin’ With Dr. G

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I sat in Barney’s Uptown perusing the new menu and enjoying a Jupiler ale while I waited for the restaurant’s owners, Derry and his wife Sissi, to arrive. We’d made plans to meet here for dinner and discuss how my coffeeshop feature was going.  When they showed up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they’d brought along a guest—Dr. David Grinspoon, who was in town to sample a new strain named after his dad, Dr. Lester Grinspoon.

If you’re not familiar with the name, you should be. Over the past 30 years, this associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has been one of the most respected, outspoken and brilliant advocates for marijuana legalization. His activist career began with his 1971 book, Marijuana Reconsidered—the landmark legalization bible that made the case for the legitimate value of cannabis. In the service of science and truth, Dr. Grinspoon has testified in dozens of trials as an expert witness, as well as before Congress and in many other countries.  In 1993, he published Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine, which helped bolster the increasingly credible claims of medical-marijuana activists, and the following year he helped save NORML by reconstituting the organization’s board of directors and serving as its chairman. Two years ago, he submitted a 53-page affidavit on behalf of the legal defense of HT’s own Rick Cusick and NORML founder Keith Stroup after their arrest for smoking a joint at the Boston Freedom Rally, when the two sought to challenge the constitutionality of federal marijuana law and uphold the principle of jury nullification. There’s even a popular Australian band (Grinspoon) named after him. Now, Lester Grinspoon’s great passion and achievements are being honored—much like Jack Herer many years ago—by naming a strain of cannabis after him as well.

Unfortunately, due to his age, Dr. Grinspoon (the person) isn’t able to travel to Amsterdam to sample Dr. Grinspoon (the weed). But since his son David (an acclaimed author and curator of astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science) was just across the channel in London for a conference, he decided to pay a visit and taste the namesake strain in his father’s stead.

When I’d first arrived in Amsterdam about a week before, Derry had given me a few grams to try out. It was a wispy little bud, a pure sativa, though not as dense or pretty to look at as some of the other plants. In fact, there weren’t even many solid buds—it was more like a bag full of large crumbs. It isn’t frequently cultivated, Derry explained, because it has a longer maturation period and produces a smaller yield than most other strains—which, in effect, only makes it that much rarer a delicacy. With my very first toke, I felt a wave of tingles up my nasal cavity, causing me to sneeze not once but thrice in a row. I’d smoked a vast array of other strains throughout the week, including heavyweights like Top Dawg, G-13 Haze and White Widow … but none matched the incomparably uplifting high of the good doctor. And now, I had the unique honor of sharing with Dr. Grinspoon his first joint of Dr. Grinspoon.

Over dinner, we discussed everything from the origins of life and global warming to Burning Man and shamanism … from the miserable failings of the Bush administration to the rational promise of the Obama administration. David Grinspoon recounted childhood memories of hanging out with “Uncle Carl” (Sagan) and “Uncle Andy” (Weil). He explained how the climate models he’d helped develop to chart the surface weather of Venus were now being adapted to better estimate climate change here on Earth. And he expressed his passion for the search for extraterrestrial life—much as he does in his book Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life. The higher we got, the more intellectually intriguing our exchanges seemed to grow. Our conversation carried on long after the meal was over—almost until closing time, in fact. Before retiring for the evening, I invited Dr. G to join us at the Cannabis Cup this year. With Derry planning to enter Dr. Grinspoon for Best Sativa, I think he may seriously be considering it. I hope he comes—the marijuana movement needs more intellectuals on its side like Lester and David Grinspoon, and I need to learn more about Venus. Dinner’s on me, Doc.

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