My Long-Lost Interview With Jack Herer Part 2

This transcript is excerpted from a longer conversation mostly concerned with the details of the emerging hemp industry, circa 1995. Most of this talk has grown cold, but I’ve preserved Jack’s comments on the founding of the Hemp Industries Association earlier that year.  The HIA is still in business and a quarter-century has passed.  Jack’s opinions from that time no longer pertain, but I include them now because his words are wise and still have resonance in our new-fangled, newly-regulated, 21st Century cannabis space. His singular voice is powerfully missed:

RC:  In your most acid-laced revelations did you ever think you would get to a point when Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren would be mainstreaming your ideas?

JH:  I will tell you.  In 1973/74 when we came across the information that hemp and marijuana were the same plant we thought that would happen.  By the end of ’74, early ’75, when we realized that hemp was the greatest source of paper and fiber and food and so forth we thought for sure that everyone would know within a year.  In 1980 we accidentally discovered that all the fuel — the fuel that runs the world! – can be made with this one fucking plant!  That was a mind blower!  So we thought, Fuck! This is going to be — We thought everyone was going to know in a year or two.  I never thought Calvin Klein or anybody like that, but it seemed obvious to me that hemp had to win out.

RC:  What happened?  Why is hemp just starting to become popular just now?

JH:  We put out this information.  We came out with the Emperor in ’85.  My partner and I figured that we’d come out with this information, and the world would just go with it.  But the truth of it is that this information was just so great that nobody took it seriously.

RC:  What made them change their mind?

JH:  Well, I think that the new editor of High Times, Steve Hager, read a copy of The Emperor in, oh, ’87 and he flipped out.  He didn’t know any of this information.  He had just been made editor of High Times and he read the book, and he fucking flipped out.  He ended up publicizing it.  We already had a million followers; all of a sudden we had five million followers – followers are people believing the information.  [Until then] we had to hold our ground against the world, literally, because everybody – a lot of people, especially the established organizations like NORML – thought we were wrong.  Not only though that we were wrong but thought that we were assholes, schmucks…

RC:  That you were hurting the cause…

JH:  Right.

RC:  How’s your relationship with NORML now?

JH [A pause is followed by a smile]:  I don’t exactly know why they made me Man of the Year two, three years ago.

RC:  They did?

JH:  Yeah.

RC:  That sounds like a sea change.

JH:  And then I was voted Man of the Year by the Drug Policy Foundation this year [1995].

RC:  Yeah, I saw that.

JH:  And I’m on the best-selling front cover of High Times that they’ve ever had.

RC:  You must feel terribly vindicated after all this time?


JH:  Well, I guess I’m not a really popular character but I’ve stayed on.

Editor's Note: Actually, the April, 1995 issue of High Times featuring Jack on the cover remains the magazine's best-selling cover of the modern era (meaning after 1979). The best-selling High Times ever was the December 1977 Christmas issue published when High Times founder Tom Forcade was still alive.

I don't give a shit. Anyone who would leave someone in prison for their own pecuniary reasons once they knew this information isn't fit to smoke a joint with anybody, let alone with me.

Jack Herer

JH:   At the first HIA meeting last year in Arizona I didn’t like part of the organization because about 55 percent, 60 percent of (the membership) didn’t want to be involved in legalizing pot.  They wanted to be business people who just wanted to be into this product without giving back to hemp legalization.  Most all of them started out working for the legalization of marijuana and then they got into the business, and pretty soon they didn’t want the legalization as much as they wanted their businesses to work.  They were afraid that if they got too legal too quick they would be swept aside by the large companies.  This wasn’t true of 100% of them, but it was true of half or a little bit more than half.  And a lot of them didn’t make sense.  Out of one side of their mouths they were pro-marijuana; on the other side of their mouths it was ‘Let’s not move too fast!’  And I stood up and I told them to fuck off and die and that I was ashamed that I ever smoked a joint with them.

RC:  That’s telling ’em!

JH:  I’m sorry and I wish I could vomit right down their fucking throats.  They didn’t want to legalize pot.  ‘Well, we’re just business people that happen to be in the pot issue.’  I said, ‘You wouldn’t be in this issue.  There wouldn’t be a hemp movement if the — Oh, there were lots of hemp organizations in the 30s!  They were forced out of business!  I mean, everybody had been force out of business, and the only reason you can go back into it now is that it is totally devoid of leadership, the people who would have normally held those positions, the farmers and the manufactures who would have still been active.  You guys are now taking over those empty positions – They’ve been empty these 60 years because of the laws – and you’re saying you’re not responsible for the laws or anything else, and you don’t want to do anything about it!  Personally, I don’t want to fucking hang out with you!’

RC:  Do you see anything to be gained by factionalizing and gaining ground where you can?

JH:   I don’t — Listen, I don’t give shit.  I mean I don’t give one fucking whit about factionalizing.  I just don’t want to have to hang out.  I don’t want to have to break bread.  I don’t want to have to be nice to a motherfucker that wants to leave a person in prison.  It ain’t funny to me.  It is never fucking funny to me that a person can go to prison, and it’s okay with fucking clothing manufacturer — Got a little clothing company now making hemp goods!  — but it’s okay to leave somebody in prison for him to make a living.  I fucking don’t give a shit what happens to that motherfucker, and if I can do anything to trip him up or to make him fall down a mountain, I will.  I don’t give a shit.  Anyone who would leave someone in prison for their own pecuniary reasons once they knew this information isn’t fit to smoke a joint with anybody, let alone with me.  Are you clear on that?

RC:  Yeah. I’d say that was fairly —

JH:  That’s exactly what I told them.

My daughter, Dylan (left), Jack & an unknown sprite, Seattle Hempfest 2008
My daughter, Dylan (left), Jack & an unknown sprite, Seattle Hempfest 2008

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