Jack Herer’s widow recalls the life of the cannabis movement’s most beloved icons
By Paul Rogers
Jack Herer was never an elected law-maker who could formally shape policy. Nor was he some billionaire who could buy influence. Yet his rare combination of brilliant intellect, endless curiosity, scholarly diligence and passionate people skills made him a force of nature whose impact is perhaps only just beginning to be truly felt.
All but complete Johnny-come-latelies to cannabis culture probably have some awareness of Jack “The Hemperor” Herer as perhaps the most influential figure in the modern legalization movement. Herer, who passed away in April, wrote 1985’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes, the book that ignited the campaign and remains its manifesto and devoted nearly four decades to tireless, charismatic activism. The man almost literally died trying to have hemp and marijuana legalized in America. Were it not for Herer’s work, we might not be enjoying decrim here in California (and elsewhere) or have seen nearly half the state’s voters give the nod to full legalization last month.
Yet while many may have read his book (Emperor has sold in excess of 700,000 copies over the course of 11 editions), heard him talk (he was a fixture at cannabis conventions nationwide) or even shaken his hand (as Herer was the ultimate one-mind-at-a-time, face-to-face campaigner), few knew the complete man or the breadth of his mission. In an exclusive interview, CULTURE spoke to his widow, Jeannie Herer, for insight into the husband who believed he could change the world and whose lingering influence continues to do so.
Jack Herer “had the biggest heart of anybody that I’ve ever met,” Jeannie recalls, radiating fondness. “He loved people and he loved being out and talking to people and educating people. He saw how you can change a person’s thinking very easily if you educate them. And he was an educator. He was an educator who believed that he—that we—could save the world, if we just knew all the facts about hemp.”