Affectionately known as the "Hemperor," Jack Herer was one of America's foremost marijuana activists and experts. The author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes - about the government conspiracy behind cannabis prohibition - Herer preached his message that hemp can save the world for three decades. He passed away on Apr. 15, 2010.
Born on June 18, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, Herer was raised in Buffalo. He enlisted in the Army in 1956. When Herer returned to the States, he moved to Los Angeles. A Barry Goldwater conservative, Herer first smoked pot in 1967. Quickly converted by the powers of cannabis, he opened a head shop with Captain Ed Adair and published his first book, Grass, in 1973.
Herer gradually began working on The Emperor, painstakingly researching and studying the history of hemp when it was a legal crop before 1937. He reached the conclusion that the Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon (Anslinger's relative by marriange), DuPont and the Hearst newspapers were primarily responsible for the ban. Herer also agreed with Larry "Ratso" Sloman, who pinned prohibition on racism in his book, Reefer Madness.
At first, the marijuana movement resisted Herer's findings. "We thought hemp was a secondary issue," NORML founder Keith Stroup admits in Jeff Jones' documentary, Emperor of Hemp. But with printing after printing of The Emperor and countless speeches at colleges and rallies around the country on what was dubbed "Hemp Tour," activists began to adopt Herer's compelling message.
In 1989, he discovered Hemp for Victory - a 15-minute World War II-era promotional film released by the government in 1942 to encourage farmers to support the war effort by growing hemp - in the LIbrary of Congress. This film (watch below) proved Herer's point about the government's marijuana cover-up.
Over the years Herer gained a legion of fans and supporters. He even has a marijuana strain named for him, created by Sensi Seeds in Amsterdam.
Herer had a series of health issues - a stroke in 2000 and a heart attack in 2009 - that culminated in his death in 2010. He was married three times and had six children.