Origins of the Hemp Movement
When I came to High Times, most of the pro-marijuana rallies originally organized in the seventies had died out. There was one flame left, however, in Ann Arbor, and it was flickering.
Soon after becoming editor, I got a plea from some students living in a dorm at the University of Michigan, asking High Times to come out and rejuvenate the annual event, which had shrunk to a handful of die-hards. I’d recently been introduced to an unpublished manuscript, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and soon flew out to the valley where Jack lived. I wanted Jack to co-found a new legalization group with me. (NORML was not really interested in rallies at the time, as the images of old hippies created an image problem for them. NORML had also passed on Jack’s manuscript, which he’d offered to let them publish, and thought Jack’s claims were exaggerations.)
Of course, I wanted High Times to publish the book and Jack agreed I was the ideal editor. Jack also agreed to my plan of creating the Freedom Fighters. The idea of wearing tricorner hats as a publicity stunt to draw attention to hemp and away from recreational cannabis use was a big part of my initial vision. It also solved the “image problem” and added a fun element to the rallies. I wanted the Freedom Fighters to march into the rallies in a ceremonial fashion, in an attempt to take the flag back from the right wing. It was a very obvious attempt to flip the switch on the sigils they had been working by claiming the founding fathers as ours. At that first meeting, Jack and I discussed a Hemp Tour across the Midwest, that would start with the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, and include my ala mater, the University of Illinois, once the center of hemp processing in Illinois, and then home to a very strong NORML chapter led by Debby Goldsberry, (current Freedom Fighter of the Year).
Jack and I created the organization and held our first national convention a day before the next Hash Bash. How many attendees can you identify? And how many of the state chapter heads from the convention went on to do big things in the cannabis reform movement?