5 Historic Heroes of Marijuana Legalization

Several years ago it was a dream, however, weed legalization is today an American reality. Like it or not, we are slowly, but surely entering a new world – one in which marijuana is completely legal. It’s been a year and a half since the Colorado and Washington legalization took place and we had plenty of time to adjust our mindsets to these changes. Although for many of Americans it seems that this shift has happened suddenly, it’s merely the tipping point – decades of work by legalization advocates were a foundation for what we are witnessing today. And those people didn’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel. That being said, it’s only natural to take a look back at 5 heroes of the pro-cannabis movement.

1. Dr. Lester Grinspoon

Dr. Lester Grinspoon

Convinced that marijuana is an awful drug destroying the youth, he set out to research the severity of its dangers. What Dr. Lester did not know back then is that he is going to discover something completely different than he was hoping for. Instead, when he began studying marijuana in 1967, he discovered marijuana’s pure awesomeness! He wrote a book about it in 1971 – Marihuana Reconsidered, which scientifically explains its effects and benefits. “I had been brainwashed like just about every other citizen in this country”, Grinspoon said in an interview. Dr. Lester Grinspoon (born June 24, 1928) is associate Professor of Psychiatry (Emeritus) at Harvard Medical School. Besides all things mentioned, he has testified before Congress and also as an expert witness in numerous legal proceedings. The latter includes the deportation hearings of John Lennon.

2. “Brownie” Mary Jane Rathbun

Brownie Mary Jane Rathbun

She was a woman and a baker who volunteered in hospitals and became known as Brownie Mary when she handed out weed laced brownies to AIDS patients and other sick people to relieve their pain and nausea. She first got the idea when she saw the relief marijuana brings to severely ill patients. Once she realized the benefits it had on patients, she just couldn’t help herself. It seems cruel and unjust to restrict that kind of plant, doesn’t it? Well, Mary thought the same. In the largely gay Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, she baked her famous brownies in the small kitchen of her home, in a housing project for the elderly. She got arrested three times. Under court orders she performed hundreds of hours of community service, which she decided to spend with AIDS patients. If you know your history, then you realized by now that all this was happening during the early years of AIDS epidemic. Mary worked as a volunteer for some 10 years and her base was SF General Hospital. She died in San Francisco, in 1999. She was 77 years old.

3. Rick Steves

Rick Steves

If you ever heard of or read anything from the series of books called Europe Through The Back Door, then you are familiar with the work of Rick Steves. He also had a television show called Rick Steve’s Europe. Rick established himself as a trusted guide for Americans travelling abroad. During the time he spent traveling through Europe, he realized that American approach to drug enforcement, especially to marijuana, has many serious flaws – in his book Travel As A Political Act he says: “I’ve traveled with an appetite for learning why Europe has fewer drug-related deaths, less drug-related incarceration, and less drug consumption per capita than we do here in America.” Rick is a longtime advocate for legalization of cannabis and in a recent article from Huffington Post he addressed newly implemented laws in Colorado and Washington saying that these are the first steps in “changing the national conversation on pot”. He’s an active member of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

4. Tom Forcade

Tom Forcade

According to Wikipedia, Thomas King Forçade (September 11, 1945 – November 17, 1978), aka Gary Goodson, was an American underground journalist and activist in the 1970s. He was born in Phoenix, Arizona and he graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in business administration. He formed an underground magazine called Orpheus and then he moved to New York. In 1970 (gosh, lots has happened during this year!) he hit Otto Larsen with a pie in his face during the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, thus becoming a pioneer of pieing as a form of protest. Why is he on our list? Oh, nothing special, it’s “just” that he was the founder of High Times magazine. Good enough, right? He committed suicide in November 1978 in his Greenwich Village apartment, following the death of his best friend.

5. Keith Stroup

Keith Stroup

Speaking of firsts, we have to mention first credible efforts to legalize marijuana in North America. The merit goes to NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). Keith Stroup, an attorney, founded the organization in 1970 (that year again!) using $5,000 in seed money from the Playboy Foundation. Does this mean we have to thank the Playboy also for progress regarding marijuana legalization? Stroup was the leader of some of the first significant victories on the field of marijuana legalization. In 2004 he stepped down as NORML’s executive director and listed some of his victories: “All 50 states have reduced penalties for minor marijuana offenses from a felony to a misdemeanor; 12 states have decriminalized minor marijuana offenses; 10 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana for serious ill patients.” Now, that’s something one can be proud of, right? All of his efforts (and of others who participated in his company) have helped the legalization movement to gain a precious momentum, which, as a result, doubled the number of states decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses. He is currently serving as Legal Counsel with NORML.

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