Jack Herer, Emperor of Hemp, dies

Jack Herer, a former Venice resident, who is credited by many with starting the Hemp movement, died from heart failure on April 15 in Eugene, Oregon. He had suffered a serious heart attack the previous September only moments after delivering a fiery speech at Portland’s Hempstalk festival. Herer’s Hemp booth was a familiar fixture on Ocean Front Walk in the 1980s. He took his crusade for hemp around the country and into the bowels of the federal government.

Hemp, Herer pointed out to anyone who would listen, could solve the energy crisis, make clothes and plastics and bring the world back from the brink of global climate change. Officials turned a deaf ear to Herer because hemp was the genetic source of cannabis, which was illegal. However, millions of people listened to Herer, and soon cottage industries were making hemp clothes, paper, health foods and other products.

“He was the king who put hemp on the map,” says Boardwalk vendor Jingles. “We would set up our booths next to each other back in the 80s.” Jingles, who still has a “meat is murder” booth on Ocean Front Walk on weekends, and Herer’s hemp booth were both colorful and bigger than is allowed under the current regulations. Jingles recalls that Herer had an apartment right off the Boardwalk. One day, undercover police did a sting operation on him at his apartment. They asked to buy some pot and when Herer agreed, he was arrested. In spite of their friendship, Jingles was critical of Herer’s eating habits. “He would eat anything. That probably contributed to his stroke and heart attack.”

Herer became widely known with the publication of his book about hemp, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.” Subtitled “Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy,” it ultimately sold more than 600,000 copies and earned Herer the appelation “Emperor of Hemp.” For more information, visit www.jackherer.com, which is being maintained by his wife, Jeannie.

–Jim Smith