Who Was Jack Herer?

Stephen Andrews
18 Jun 2024

You’ve probably heard about or even smoked the famous cannabis strain known as Jack Herer. The thing with Jack Herer is that it’s not merely a strain, but there is a real person behind the strain. And that’s not just anyone. It’s one of the greatest cannabis activists of all times. Jack Herer without whom cannabis legalization would not have been where it is today. If Jack Herer was alive he would have turned 85 years this month, so let’s take a look at his legacy.

Many cannabis lovers have enjoyed the award-winning cannabis strain known as Jack Herer. It’s available as a flower, but also as oil and concentrate. It’s a potent strain, with up to 24% THC in the strongest varieties. The strain is also known as “JH”, “The Jack” or “Premium Jack.” And while you may have indulged in this strain yourself as well, perhaps the story of the man by the same name is less familiar to you. 

Jack Herer was an American cannabis right activist born in 1939 in New York. He has several publications behind his name, including his most significant work “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” published in 1985. This book was like the Bible among cannabis activists from that era. Jack Herer also founded and worked as the director of Help End Marijuana Prohibition (H.E.M.P.). While he never lived to see the onset of legal recreational cannabis in the U.S., that would not have happened without his lifetime of activist work for cannabis.  

Jack Herer Was Often Called the Emperor of Hemp 

Jack Herer had an extraordinary life journey. Before becoming virtually a living legend among the greater cannabis community, he served in the US Army and as a “Goldwater Republican” he would regularly spoke against anti-war protestors. He served as a military policeman during the Korean War aged only 17. But his rigid stance toward the world would change in the late 1960s. 

Jack moved to California and his first encounter with cannabis was during the Summer of Love. He smoked that summer in 1969 what he believed was a variety of Acapulco Gold, and his appetites would not stop there. In fact, cannabis soon became an indelible part of Jack’s life. A story perhaps all too familiar. 

In the 1970s, Jack Herer with his friends pledged that they would work for cannabis until it becomes legalized. That he would do this until death. He started his activism with the California Marijuana Initiative, and he also opened a hemp shop on the Venice Boardwalk in LA. 

Jack invented all kinds of smoking gadgets in his shop. He entirely devoted his life to researching cannabis, writing about it, and campaigning about it. 

One of his first works that sort of made him popular in California was a cartoon strip titled G.R.A.S.S: Great Revolutionary American Standard System. In the hands of cannabis users, this little artwork helped determine the quality of smoked weed, using a 1-10 scale. 

But by far Jack Herer’s most popular book is The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which was initially published in 1985 and since then has sold over 700,000 copies. The book explores in greater details the reasons that led to hemp criminalization in the U.S. in the 1930s. In it, Herer presents to the public documents from Congressional Hearings from the years before the 1937 Marihuana Act was approved. 

He also proposes that criminalizing hemp was of interest to big players from the petroleum industry. In particular, of interest to Du Pont which patented nylon in 1935. The only obstacle so that nylon can go mainstream was to eliminate hemp from the market. 

The Brooklyn-born further argued in his brilliant book that should hemp products be reintroduced, it would help reverse global warming and pollution. An idea perhaps ahead of its time. 

As much as it was recoiled by some critics, Herer’s book quickly gained popularity in California. His words prompted more activism, with Herer eventually launching the organization Help End Marijuana Prohibition. And it was this group that offered leadership for all other cannabis legalization movements across the nation. 

The influence of Jack Herer was also felt in Europe, nourishing the local cannabis initiatives there. This is also how Sensi Seeds, the famous Dutch cannabis seed bank, decided to cultivate the now super famous Jack Herer cannabis strain. The exact lineage of this strain is kept secret, though it’s widely believed it’s a combination or a cross between Haze, Shiva Skunk, and a variety of Northern Lights. 

Jack Herer did not wait to see when his home state of California passed recreational cannabis on the ballot in 2016. He died on April 15, 2010, following health complications from a debilitating heart attack. Herer suffered the heart attack in September 2009, just moments after delivering a heated pro-cannabis speech at the Hempstalk festival in Portland, Oregon. He said in that speech that cannabis should be smoked all day through, from morning to evening. “You’ve got to be out of your mind not to smoke dope,” he shouted to the crowds. “It is the best thing the world has ever had.” 

Had he been alive today Jack Herer would have turned 85 years on June 18. However, his legacy and lore lives to this day in the cannabis community. The best way to honor his work is yeah, light up a few Jack Herer buds, of course. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

New Paper Details History of Cannabis Use

Who Discovered Cannabis in the First Place?

Did Bob Marley Have a Favorite Cannabis Strain?

Stephen Andrews