Honoring the passing of the godfather of medical marijuana, Dr. Lester Grinspoon.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and the godfather of the medical marijuana movement, has died. He passed away peacefully yesterday morning, at his home in the suburbs of Boston with his wife of 66 years Betsy at his side, after just having celebrated his 92nd birthday the day before.
Born June 24, 1928, in Newton, Massachusetts, Grinspoon attended nearby Harvard Medical School, where he received his doctorate in Psychiatry and went on to teach for decades before retiring in 2000 as an associate professor.
“He’s one of the most important people in the history of marijuana reform,” notes former associate publisher of High Times and World of Cannabis advisory board member Rick Cusick. “His book started the movement.”
When he began work on Marihuana Reconsidered in 1967, his original intention was to study marijuana’s harmful effects and caution people of its dangers. But after thorough research—and with the counsel of his dear friend (and closeted cannabis enthusiast) Carl Sagan—Dr. Grinspoon eventually determined that “there was little empirical evidence to support my beliefs about the dangers of marijuana,” and instead became one of the plant’s most respected and outspoken advocates. “I have concluded,” he later wrote, “that marijuana is a relatively safe intoxicant which is not addicting, does not in and of itself lead to the use of harder drugs, is not criminogenic, and does not lead to sexual excess,” also noting that the only real harm associated with cannabis was, in his opinion, “the way we as a society were dealing with people who use it.”
Interestingly, Dr. Grinspoon had never actually tried cannabis until two years after the book’s publishing, around the time he began using it to help his young son Danny, who was dying of leukemia and suffering the ill effects of chemotherapy.
In 1990, Dr. Grinspoon received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship and Writing from the Drug Policy Foundation. He’s also had two awards named after him—NORML’s Lester Grinspoon Award (their highest honor), and High Times’ Lester Grinspoon Award for Lifetime Achievement. He’s even had a cannabis strain named after him—“Dr. Grinspoon,” a pure sativa heirloom strain released in 2010 by Barney’s Farm in Amsterdam.
We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Dr. Grinspoon’s family. He left the world on pretty much the same day he came into it—an extraordinary end to a truly extraordinary life. His legacy and memory will never be forgotten.
Bobby Black is the executive director of the World of Cannabis Museum Project and author/host of the new cannabis history blog/podcast Cannthropology. He’s also a former senior editor, columnist, and 21-year veteran of High Times magazine, host of the potcast Blazin’ With Bobby Black on Cannabis Radio, and co-founder of Higher Way Travel.