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The Funeral of Jack Herer, American Cannabis WarriorBonnie King Salem-News.com
Cannabis activists joined together with family and friends to celebrate the life of Jack Herer in southern California.
(MISSION HILLS, Calif.) - What a life. The journey of Jack Herer was one of struggle and uncertainty, exhilaration, passion, generosity, appreciation- and happiness. He joined this earth June 18, 1939, and passed through the door to eternity on April 15, 2010.
He was a legend, an icon, a good American.
On April 25th, friends and family from near and far met in southern California to celebrate the life of the renowned author, speaker, mentor, and father, Jack Herer.
The service was held in beautiful sundrenched Mission Hills, California, at the Eden Memorial Park. Crowds gathered on the grounds prior to the service, welcoming each other, offering comfort where needed. By all accounts, at least 420 people were in attendance.
After an opening prayer, several notable speakers took the pulpit and shared their remarkable, personal stories over the course of nearly two hours.
At first a solemn event, the tone lightened up quickly as each speaker brought their colorful stories to life, all receiving a round of applause, and some, standing ovations.
The speakers began with Kentucky activist/attorney and gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith, "I will quote Margaret Meade, 'There is no doubt, that a small group of committed individuals can change the world, in fact it’s about the only thing that ever does.'
“Well as far as I’m concerned, Jack Herer was one small committee that changed it just about as much as any group of people ever has,” Galbraith said.
“He stood for human freedom, as far as I can tell, in this generation moreso than just about anybody else that I ever heard of.”
J.J. Greenfield said, “When I first met him, that very first day, I realized that I had a brother in beliefs and certainly about the fact that God gave us this plant.”
Greenfield received raucous laughter as he told the story of Reagan’s visit, “When Ronald Reagan came to the federal building in West LA, and Jack was demonstrating. They had all these signs and pictures. When Reagan got inside, he asked his closest advisors, why all these Canadians were so upset.”
At the time Ronald Reagan didn’t know what a marijuana leaf looked like, and mistakenly thought it was the maple leaf of Canada. It's an iconic story in legalization lore.
“Carry on the fight,” Greenfield reminded the group, “and hopefully the truth will set us free.”
Dan Skye (aka Malcolm MacKinnon), Executive Editor of HIGH TIMES magazine began with the proclamation, “I shot all three covers of Jack Herer, for the cover of High Times. So, I want to be known henceforth as the man who shot Jack Herer.”
He relayed the first time he met Jack Herer. “This was about my third year with the magazine, and I still thought High Times was really just a temporary stop for me. I didn’t take the marijuana industry or the movement that seriously- it was just a stepping stone. I went down to Arizona, met all these incredible hempsters who were starting up the group, the Hemp Industries Association, and there was Jack. Jack was not really a part of the hemp association, because he was whipping them."
“He wanted them to put down on paper a very, very cogent statement in support of marijuana in all its forms. They dragged their feet a little bit, and there was a big debate, and Jack took on the whole room. He said, ‘Until these people are out of jail, until this plant is legal in all its forms, you guys have a responsibility.’"
“We’ve got to get hemp growing in American soil, and we’ve got to get all these poor people out of jail.”
Jack left more than an impression. He was a force to be reckoned with. Chris Conrad, editor of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, first edition, said the first time he met Jack, the two of them were arguing within minutes.
“If you never got mad at Jack, and Jack never got mad at you, then you probably didn’t know Jack very well,” triggering an eruption of laughter and applause from the audience/congregation.
“In some ways it feels like it’s the end of an era, but in another way, Jack’s life marks the beginning of an era. An era where people woke up to what’s going on around them. I want to people to go out of here, knowing this is the year- not the end of Jack’s legacy, but the beginning of a world of hemp freedom!”
Next, Dan Herer, Jack’s second-oldest son, took the mic. Starting off with an emotional few moments, he carried on with an admired stature.
“My dad would be very proud right now,” said Dan Herer, choking back tears. With encouragement from the congregation, he continued, and shared many touching and comedic moments of living in the shadows of Jack Herer.
“Long before all of this, he was about as straight and completely ignorant, of everything that he came to love. He once chastised my mother back in the sixties because he found her smoking pot. ‘If you ever smoke pot in my home again- we will be getting a divorce!’"
Smiling, Dan said that his father was an “ex-military, ex-Barry Goldwater-loving, very misguided soul.”
Jack’s cannabis introduction, education and transformation were exemplified in the anecdotes Dan shared on behalf of the whole Herer family.
“He was a husband to few,” as he counted up to four on his fingers. “He was a lover to many, but he was always a father to us.”
“By no big surprise, he was also the blacksheep of his family,” intimating the naivety of Jack’s siblings in regard to his sudden fame, specifically when he appeared on the cover of HIGH TIMES as Santa.
“My aunt said, ‘I don’t understand, he’s Jewish. And what’s with the broccoli?’”
There were times when being the kids of an educating cannabis crusader was in itself a challenge. Like when their father announced he’d be coming to their school the next day to begin teaching at the ground floor level, grade school. These things and more made growing up with Jack Herer a unique experience.
“He was misunderstood, even by us,” Dan said. “But we loved him. And for the millions of voices who have not been able to stand up for themselves, he seemed to channel all of their love and their energy into his being.”
“He was more of a teacher, he was not a business man,” he said, bring rounds of applause and laughter in agreement.
“Everything he did, he sold…I mean, have you ever seen my dad drive a new car? That was frivolous to him. It was a van, or a car, with a broken radiator or blown tire, or head gasket issues but somehow they always got fixed, to get to the next show.”
“He spent every day of his life doing what he loved, with the people who he loved and respected, for the people that he loved. And all of you will remember him as a teacher, and a leader, but for us kids, simply, he was just our father.”
Once outside, Dan turned to the Rabbi, acknowledging the uniqueness of this event in the Jewish temple, and laughed, “You guys have never seen anything like this, right?” To which the older Rabbi laughed in agreement.
Elvy Musikka, and old friend and one of the only Federal Medical Marijuana patients in the United States, explained how she felt when she realized the absurdity of marijuana laws.
“I knew we had a responsibility to end it. Especially the arresting of our brothers and sisters, the war on drugs – the war on us, which they call the war on drugs. That’s a lie, right in itself. But I know, he will not rest in peace, because we will not be resting in peace! We have to make a change, because it’s overdue,” Musikka said.
Hanna Herer brought out the most emotions in the audience. The daughter of Jack’s oldest son, Barry, Hannah said, “My grandpa would give me slobbery kisses,” bringing the audience to tears, then, “And the best part is- he’d give me a hundred bucks!” erupting the group into laughter.
George Clayton Johnson was friends with Jack for over thirty years. Renowned author of Oceans 11, Logan's Run, the premiere episode of Star Trek, several Twilight Zone episodes and much more, Johnson relayed the story of Jack’s and Captain Ed’s oath to end prohibition.
“Jack and Ed told me the story of their conversion, which came in the back of the head shop, Heads and Highs. They were cutting up a kilo of marijuana and talking about the virtues of marijuana.
"Suddenly they looked at each other in stunned surprise, and they said, ‘Well hemp is everything. Hemp could save the world.’ And they looked at each other and they really comprehended what they were saying. They realized it, and it became real for them.
"And that’s when they swore that they would work every day of their lives to free the plant, until they were 84, and then they could have a break.”
At the conclusion, Barry Herer, Jack’s oldest son, slowly carried the ornate urn housing the ashes of his father out of the temple, procession of family following behind. He paused frequently as dozens of people reached out to reverently touch the urn as they exited.
Tears flowed and sacrament was passed among the mourners. The mood lightened up, as the mourners lighted up.
A white van led the convoy with Jeannie Herer holding Jack’s urn as they made their way up the hill for graveside services, scores of cars in tow.
The urn was placed in the ground; the family performed the ritual of being the first to put dirt on the grave, and others followed by throwing in joints, handfuls of hemp and even some hemp cloth. The group formed an OM circle at 4:20.
An unusual service, indeed. Perhaps exactly what Jack Herer would have expected.
Camaraderie Among Hippies
The kindness of the people at this celebration of life was beyond the norm, all differences set aside, even between those that otherwise would not have found themselves together.
The "cannabis community" is a colorful mix of people who have similar goals but see different paths. Jack had an indisputable talent of bringing all sides to the table, and there they found commonality bonding their causes and beliefs.
Jack Herer campaigned to legalize the industrial cultivation of Hemp and adult use of marijuana without limits or taxes, right up until his last speech on September 12, 2009.
"His book enlightened many people, opened millions of minds; it’s probably the single most important document in the struggle for hemp re-legalization.”
“We’re being short-changed,” said Barry Letzer, cannabisbusiness.com. “And Jack was somebody who showed us where we’re being short-changed."
Legalization for marijuana in all its forms was a life-long mantra for Jack Herer. Releasing victims of the drug war from jails and prisons was an utmost priority of Jack’s for forty-plus years.
“To lock them up for pot—is criminal,” insisted George Clayton Johnson.
“I mean, of all things, for smoking a fairly mild euphoriant, because that’s about the worst you can say of it, they are imprisoned and have their entire futures cut away from them. They lose all opportunity in life, because with that thing hanging on them, they go nowhere. They’re stuck like raisins in the pie.
"I am horrified by the way we tolerate things. You know, lying is a real criminal offense, that’s right there with cheating and stealing.”
Jack wrote an initiative that may appear on the California ballot this year if enough signatures are procured by the designated deadline.
The Jack Herer initiative differs from another cannabis ballot measure, and the pros and cons of each were discussed in a respectful manner at this event. Very little politicization took place. The disagreements and competition that could have existed took a break on this day.
The THC Expose’ was taking place at the LA Convention Center the same weekend as Jack’s funeral. The Expose’ hosted hundreds of vendors, exposing mainstream America to the value and benefits of the hemp plant, medicinal uses of cannabis, and the anti-prohibition message to end arrest and imprisonment of cannabis users.
At Jack’s service, the Expose’ was referred to as a feather in Jack’s cap, fulfilling one of his main goals in reaching the mainstream. By all accounts, much thanks to Jack Herer, cannabis has arrived.
Jack had more friends than most, from all corners of the world, all social and economic levels. A “big-hearted, passionate, dedicated man with an incredible capacity for joy” is one synopsis of the comments from attendees. One man that drove a thousand miles to attend the service, Dennis Osbourn, said “I talked to Jack many times over the years; we bartered a bit at Hempfest every year. It’s just not going to be the same without him, especially once the festivals begin this summer.”
Many couldn’t find words to describe their feelings about Jack, but their actions spoke for them. Hugs, smiles and laughter permeated the grounds.
One friend said that Jack Herer would not have appreciated enormous grieving; he would have expected this kind of turnout to use their energy to save the planet.
And so they shall. A commitment was asked of each person, to continue Jack’s work, to legalize the cannabis plant in all forms, for all adults, everywhere. That’s a tall order. But Jack had high ideals, and would accept nothing less from his friends and followers.
In the air, between the commotions, through the wisps of smoke, you could almost hear Jack’s booming voice, yelling, “Don’t give them one damn dime!” and “Hemp can save the world!”
Yes, Jack. We hear you.
Note: Video program includes a song by Jim Matheson, Tim Pate and John Cornett, "I Miss You", performed 4/17/10 during the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act "Hemp Is Earth Medicine Tour" as a tribute to the memory of Jack Herer. Courtesy: Ted Holden Audio Video
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