Lester Grinspoon
Lester Grinspoon

An Ode to Grinspoon – Why Lester Grinspoon was such a Champion for Cannabis

Who was Lester Grinspoon and what did he mean to the cannabis community?

Posted by:
Reginald Reefer on Tuesday Jun 30, 2020

An Ode to Grinspoon – Why Lester Grinspoon was such a Champion for Cannabis

lester greenspoon cannabis marijuana leader

(Link to Boston Globe write up here)


On June 25, 2020 – the world bid farewell to a man who helped legitimize the cannabis movement in a time when it was considered taboo. A man who frequently rose to the occasion to defend the good name of cannabis when disingenuous studies were released to tarnish the reputation of the plant even further.


Dr. Lester Grinspoon – 92 – was one of the most prolific voices in favor of legalization and cannabis as a medicine, and is directly and indirectly responsible for the growth within the industry we know today. He has written twelve books on cannabis since the 1970s and served as one of NORMLs board of directors up until his death.


Activists used his quotes as weapons when confronted by naysayers of the benefits of cannabis. For example;


Cannabis is remarkably safe. Although not harmless, it is surely less toxic than most of the conventional medicines it could replace if it were legally available. Despite its use by millions of people over thousands of years, cannabis has never caused an overdose death. – Dr Lester Grinspoon


This quote has been utilized thousands of time to legitimize an argument when debating the validity and safety of cannabis. It is one of the “go to arguments” when talking about the lethality of cannabis.


I have come to doubt whether the FDA rules should apply to cannabis. There is no question about its safety. It is one of humanity's oldest medicines, used for thousands of years by millions of people with very little evidence of significant toxic effects. More is known about its adverse effects than about those of most prescription drugs. – Dr. Lester Grinspoon


Dr. Grinspoon was also not a big fan of the FDA and their relationship with cannabis. In fact, he openly spoke about it considering that cannabis is a medicine that has been used for thousands of years with little evidence of “significant toxic effects.”


We in this country have to make up our minds -- -- we can not have it both ways: we cannot be both drug-free and free. – Dr. Lester Grinspoon


Additionally – Grinspoon was a major activist of freedom and understood the hypocrisy of a “drug-free world”. The concept of being Drug Free implies that one must relinquish some level of “freedom” to obtain it – and even then it would be difficult to achieve. Grinspoon’s rationale played a heavy influence in my own writing and relationship to the idea of drug laws. 


I began to study marijuana in 1967... I had not yet learned that there is something very special about illicit drugs. If they don't always make the drug user behave irrationally, they certainly cause many non-users to behave that way. – Dr. Lester Grinspoon


This savage observation pointed out the irrational behavior of the “anti-drug crowd” – yammering on about the dangers of drug use having zero personal experience. These quotes gives us insight into the mind of a champion for civil liberties and good medicine.


Once Upon a Sagan


Grinspoon wasn’t always a fan of cannabis. It wasn’t until his friend Carl Sagan told him to “seriously look at the evidence” that the spell that blinds so many academics wore off. Grinspoon began looking objectively at cannabis and it wasn’t until his son – Daniel Grinspoon – was diagnosed with Leukemia that he saw the power of cannabis firsthand.


Since then – Grinspoon started campaigning for cannabis and became a royal pain in the ass for Nixon, and subsequent presidents, who had  hard-ons for a drug war. In fact, Grinspoon was one of the first to review the national literature on cannabis and came to the conclusion that there was empirical evidence to suggest that the nation has been misled.


If it wasn’t for Carl Sagan – Grinspoon may have been one of the world’s most prolific “drug warriors” and probably an asset for prohibition – but a series of events led him down the path of activism. If it weren’t for these events – we may not have ever reached the degree in which cannabis is tolerated today


An Activist till the day he died


Another amazing quote I remember of Grinspoon goes as follows;


I've been smoking marijuana for 44 years now, and ... I think it's a tremendous blessing. - Lester Grinspoon


Unlike many academics – Grinspoon actively professed that he smoked weed. This is the equivalent of “coming out of the closer” within academia. Cannabis – especially during the 80s and 90s was considered highly taboo.


Grinspoon never shied away from his cannabis use. This elevated his status even higher considering that he was an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard School of Medicine and the American Psychiatric Association. For cannabis activists – Grinspoon was a pioneer and if you have the opportunity to buy some Grinspoon Strain in a dispensary – smoke a blunt in honor of this great man – that weed you’re smoking is partly due to his activism.


So thanks Lester – we appreciate what you did for us all and we honor you today and forevermore – a saint amongst the stoners, a hero of hemp. May your name forever be exalted as a champion of freedom.


We salute you!









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