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Author and hemp activist Jack Herer has died

April 16, 2010 |  2:05 pm

Jackherer

Author and activist Jack Herer died Thursday in Eugene, Ore. The 70-year-old activist was in ill health following a heart attack he experienced after leaving the Hempstalk festival stage in Portland last fall.

Herer, pictured in 1996, was a longtime marijuana activist and the author of the landmark book "The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana." By 2004, it had been through 16 printings and published more than 600,000 copies. In 2004, the L.A. Times wrote:

Today, Herer is widely credited with launching the modern hemp movement, a persistent campaign by an eclectic coalition of environmentalists, legislators, rights activists, farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs and others to end the maligned plant's banishment and tap its potential as a natural resource. ...

When Jack Herer began his quest to emancipate hemp, he just assumed that everyone would find the essential facts about the plant's qualities so compelling that the battle would be won in six months -- two years, tops. That was 29 years ago.

One of the many people intrigued by Herer's book was Dave West, a Midwest plant breeder with a doctorate in breeding and genetics. His curiosity about hemp had already been piqued by something he witnessed in the mid-1980s as he toiled one sweltering day in a Wisconsin cornfield. A helicopter suddenly appeared low in the sky, then hovered over an adjacent field while several men rappelled to the ground. It was a drug-enforcement operation going after wild marijuana. "Which, as a plant breeder and as somebody who grew up in Wisconsin, I knew was preposterous," West recalls. "I knew this was feral hemp and nobody wanted it, and that's why it was growing as a weed out there and nobody was picking it."

Herer, known to some as "the Hemperor," posted half of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" online. Though he used to sell copies of the book from his website, sales have been suspended since September; now it is listed from Amazon resellers for $33-$93.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jack Herer in Venice Beach in 1996. Credit: Steve Dykes

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