Richard Belzer Was a Medical Marijuana Advocate

Richard Belzer (1944-2023) as Det. John Munch

Actor/comedian Richard Belzer passed today, Feb. 19. He was 78.

Best known for his work on TV series like Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street, Belzer was a testicular cancer survivor and a medical-marijuana advocate.

In 2010, when he spoke at the Plant Medicine Expo in Denver, Belzer told Westword:

"When I had cancer [in 1983] and was radiated, my doctor recommended marijuana. He couldn't prescribe it - this was 25 years ago. But it just makes so much sense. The science is there, and many doctors are on board - and because I'm a celebrity, hopefully it will call more attention to it, particularly in the medical community.

Richard Belzer on pot: "For God's sake, it's a plant."

"People need to get educated, whether they're suffering or if they know someone is suffering. To me, it's all about relieving suffering and nausea. The thing that disturbs me most is the idea of people getting high - because if you're radiated or in pain or starving, it's not about getting high. It's about restoring balance to your body and replenishing yourself. For God's sake, it's a plant. It's been around for thousands of years and been used in many forms. And I think this demonization of it has got to end...

"It's heartbreaking that anyone would deny someone the use of such a harmless substance...

"To me, this is a moral issue in addition to a medical issue. How can you deny someone relief from suffering, especially when doctors are the ones recommending it?

"Hundreds of millions of people use marijuana every day, and in some places, the punishment is less than a parking ticket - and in other places, it's virtually legal. That's slowly happening over time because of society. But I think the medical aspect is a totally different issue. There's enough people cheerleading for it to be used responsibly by adults, and not enough people distinguishing between its recreational use - and there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's done responsibly - and the more serious treatment of cancer and epilepsy and a multitude of other illnesses."

Belzer was featured in High Times in 1984 and 1994.

Born in Bridgeport, CT in 1944, he moved to New York in the '70s to try his hand at comedy. But it's Belzer's work on TV and his detective character John Munch he'll be most remembered for. And his early cannabis advovacy.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.