Jack Herer is a great strain, not just because of its impressive lineage, but because the man for whom the strain bears its namesake was a remarkable figure in the cannabis movement. Jack Herer was known as a feisty and tireless champion who fought for the rights we now enjoy. Herer’s seminal book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” required reading. Anyone who cares about freedom. Learn about the man, his life’s work, and the eponymously named Jack Herer strain.
As you read this Jack Herer review (of his life, work, and his namesake strain), remember that Jack was much more than the legendary cannabis strain that bears his name; he was a legend in cannabis activism. Jack was a genuine person, a pioneer. If not for Jack, we may not have legal cannabis. Or, at the very least, legalization would have taken much longer.
Jack was born the youngest of three children on June 18, 1939, in New York City. His family later moved to Buffalo where he spent most of his formative years. Despite being incredibly bright, Jack dropped out of high school to join the Army and serve in Korea.
After the Army and a stint as a painter, Jack and his family moved out to Los Angeles in the early 1960s. Surprisingly, despite coming up during the 1960s, Jack was no early adopter of weed. He came to cannabis much later than his peers. In fact, Jack was a conservative Barry Goldwater Republican and ended up leaving his first wife when she refused to stop smoking the reefer. Despite the breakup, he remained close to his kids. (He ended up getting married two more times, before eventually meeting and then marrying his soulmate, Jeannie Hawkins in 2000.)
Eventually, Jack had a change of heart about weed and tried his first joint at age 30. Although his first experience was less than incredible (see video below), it didn’t take long for Jack to go all in on marijuana.
In 1973 Jack opened a head shop in Venice Beach and started selling pipes and bongs. Befriending another head shop owner (and cannabis activist), “Capt.” Ed Adair, the duo pledged to fight “the system” until cannabis was completely legal and everyone who had been incarcerated for simple possession was freed. Or, until they turned 84.
And, thus a movement began.
Keeping to his word by becoming a tireless advocate for cannabis reform, in 1981 while Jack was campaigning for pot reform, collecting signatures for a California ballot initiative, Jack got busted by the cops for “trespassing on federal property.”
It was during his 14-day stretch in jail that he began writing the now infamous book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes.
Sadly, ten years later in 1991, Jack’s partner-in-arms, “Capt.” Ed died — five years before California legalized medical marijuana and nearly a quarter of a century before California fully legalized recreational pot.
Not long after he got out of jail, Jack moved northward to Portland where he opened another head shop, The Third Eye, which became iconic on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard (and continued operating until 2017). While in Portland, by 1985 Jack finished penning The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which he had printed on hemp paper. Soon Jack was on the road traveling the country for years preaching and advocating for cannabis reform. Impressively, the book is now on its 12th printing.
According to Paul Stanford, his long-time friend, fellow traveler, and founder of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF), “No other single person has done more to educate people all across the world about industrial hemp and marijuana as Jack Herer. His book is translated into a dozen different languages, and it’s a bestseller in Germany.”
The Emperor Wears No Clothes continues to be a best-seller to this day, having sold more than a million copies. The book has been so influential that more than any other book, it has inspired many thousands of cannabis enthusiasts and medical marijuana patients to become activists. Jeannie Herer, Jack’s widow, noted that reading the book became a defining moment for many in the movement, a time that they became woke about the absurd prohibition of cannabis by tyrannical governments across the world.
“It completely changed my life, and so many people have written to us over the years and said that, too,” Jeannie Herer once remarked. “It’s the most amazing book in the world as far as being able to change people overnight.”
Activists would regularly cite the book or even hand out the book to skeptical authority figures, police, teachers, and even parents. In the book, Jack makes an unassailable defense of weed.
According to High Times and Big Buds writer, Steve Davis, the book exposed a number of “earth-shattering tidbits,” many of which are now axiomatic, but unknown to most Americans for years. Davis cites the following points as some of the book’s most significant:
- Cannabis hemp was of equal — if not more — importance to the American agricultural industry as cotton.
- Cannabis is the most useful and versatile plant on earth.
- For thousands of years, humans have been using this incredible plant for a wide array of purposes: medical, holistic, nutritional, recreational, and spiritual.
- Cannabis has been illegal for a very brief time in history. In fact, cannabis was legal nearly everywhere until 1937 when a union of racists, xenophobes, corporations, and government actors persuaded Congress to make it illegal.
- American forefathers like George Washington had been commanded by a succession of kings in England to grow hemp to be used for food, rope, paper, and clothing.
- Throughout America’s history cannabis has played a vital role and is woven into the very fabric of our history. Literally. The initial drafts of the U.S. Constitution were written on hemp paper, and our earliest flags were woven out of cloth produced from hemp fibers.
- The U.S. government actively encouraged farmers to grow cannabis hemp during WWII (even though it was technically illegal) to use for producing materials for the war, like sails and ropes.
Jack’s legend and influence continue to this day across the world, thanks not only to his writings but the popular strain that many of us have come to love. Since 1994, the eponymously named, Jack Herer Strain, has consistently won awards, including first-place wins at the High Times Cannabis Cup. And, in 2003, at the 16th, ‘Conspiracy’ Cannabis Cup, Jack Herer was inducted into the Cannabis Hall of Fame.
Although its initial breeding remains elusive, many Jack fans conclude that the slightly sativa-dominant strain hails from a cross of Haze (sativa), Skunk #1 (a sativa-dominant hybrid), and, Northern Lights #5, (an indica-dominant hybrid). With that breeding, the Jack Herer strain evokes an intriguing melange of fresh pine, citrusy lemon candy, with a hint of clove. Given the fact the strain was first created in the early/ mid-1990s, its complexity was well ahead of its time.
With a healthy amount of THC (high teens to low 20s) and even a good amount of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant cannabinoid, CBG, Jack Herer is popular among both medical and recreational users. Its characteristic high is most consistently described as being uplifting, cerebral and heady while making users happy, creative, and energetic.
If Jack were still alive, June 18 would mark his 79th birthday. Let’s make sure we keep his memory alive beyond the strain named after him; let’s make sure that his legendary service to the movement forever lives on. Unfortunately, Jack didn’t live long enough to see cannabis legalized.
How proud he would be to see cannabis legal throughout much of the west, including Colorado, Nevada, and the entire West Coast from California up to British Columbia and Alaska. Of course, there’s much work that still needs to be done.
How would Jack want us to honor his birthday? Let’s show him the warmth and generosity he showed the community, but tirelessly fighting on until cannabis is legal throughout the entire U.S. and around the world!
Remember his words: “ [Cannabis] will be the future of all mankind, or there won’t be a future.”
Don’t forget to check out Have a Heart Belltown’s menu for your favorite strains which, of course, includes Jack Herer!