Jack Herer’s Son Shares Family Stories and The Future of Hemp
This week Casey Jones sat down with Dan Herer, son of famed cannabis enthusiast and activist Jack Herer. Dan saw his father’s voice growing silent after his passing, and decided to continue his message. Jack once said, “I’m not saying that hemp is going to save the world, but it’s the only thing that can” – and his son Dan realized that this message is more important now than ever.
Check out the full podcast interview here:
Or read the shortened transcript below.
For those Unfamiliar with your Father Jack Herer, Can You Give us Some History?
My father started off a young bright kid in Buffalo, New York. He believed everything that the government ever said. He became a military MP in the Korean war, and believed that America was the greatest country on earth and would never lie or deceive it’s citizens. That the USA was always the most righteous and the most correct.
His views on cannabis growing up were what he was taught – that cannabis was the most dangerous plant on the planet and that anybody using it was evil.
He married my mom and had three kids. After their divorce he found my mother smoking cannabis after she had come home from work – they were already living separately and he came over to drop off money for child support.
He couldn’t believe that she was smoking pot in a house where his kids slept. He was literally thinking of turning my mother into the authorities.
What Changed His Mind On Cannabis?
He confided in somebody who was a law student that he had a crush on about sending his ex-wife to jail for cannabis. He didn’t know, but she also consumed cannabis. She told my father that he was out of his fucking mind, that he didn’t understand what it is that he was talking about and his truth was not the truth – that he needed to educate himself.
She let him know, If you want to hang out, you’re going to have to smoke some marijuana with me.
After a bit of time, my father engaged in cannabis with her. He had the greatest experience listening to music, eating food or having intimacy with her. His mind was immediately changed.
How could this plant be illegal when I just had that experience? He felt betrayed by this country. that he had been misled.
So he set out to change things. He started writing about cannabis in the early 1970s. He started supporting cannabis legalization which he did in 1972 with the original prop 19, which in California was the first initiative to legalize cannabis since prohibition. It got 38% of the vote in 1972 during the Nixon administration.
So he then became the proponent of every Cannabis initiative in the state of California up through 1996 is proposition 215. He was supportive of Dennis Perrone’s initiative. My father had an initiative in that same year, but my father put down that initiative and joined Dennis.
Tell us About Your Father’s Book The Emperor’s New Clothes?
During that time in the 1980s he wrote a pretty infamous book that was in many respects a catalyst for the marijuana movement. It was a document that for the first time illustrated and documented all the things that we believe cannabis is what would and could be.
With that power that was in this book folks here in California started finding their voice. Now they could stand up against those who would oppose their opinion and their evidence and say, this is the truth. This is my truth. This is the truth of cannabis.
This gave the hemp and cannabis communities truth for the first time.
The book helped people to defend themselves and to fight for this plant. It became, in a sense the cannabis and hemp Bible. My father’s life was that of a preacher, you know?
This book is 35 years old, but it’s still as important today as the day that it was written. In fact, even more important because now we have access to developing cannabis with real understanding.
Obviously in States like Colorado and California, it’s a little bit more mainstream culture at this point. But it is still absolutely counter-culture, not only here in America but the world over.
Is there a story behind the nickname The Hemporer?
I don’t know if there’s a story behind that so much like somebody anointed my father the hemporer. I don’t think it was like that. The reality is when my father started educating himself, he became more educated than those who were fighting for the rights of people to smoke cannabis.
I’m talking about the folks that started Norml – Keith Stroup and Bruce Margolin here and in Los Angeles. My father became too radical. My father was considered bad for cannabis because his views were so extreme. By deep diving into history, he realized that hemp was the most important crop on this entire planet.
If there was one crop that you could use for anything – the tree of life – what plants can build a home, clothe you, feed you, create your medicine, create your books and Bibles? It touches everything that we are, it gives us everything that we need.
My father said, “I’m not saying that hemp is going to save the world, but it’s the only thing that can”, and that was such an extreme. The people that were fighting for cannabis thought that that was dangerous because how could anybody declare that cannabis could save the world? We have armies for that, you know? We have missiles. How could a plant save the world?
“I’m not saying that hemp is going to save the world, but it’s the only thing that can”
So my father was shunned within the space. After years and years people started educating themselves. It took about eight or 10 years before those who thought that my father was this great distraction realized that he was more of a prophet.
How are You Taking That Ethos and Putting it into Practice Today?
My Father’s voice was silenced by his passing. I didn’t realize that he was my hero until after he had passed. I didn’t make that correlation because I was just a kid. As his voice silenced, I began to feel the great need to express mine. I started finding out that my voice was similar to his.
My father was a bear. He was fierce and unstoppable. When he spoke, he spoke loud out of anger because it was so frustrating to see people incarcerated for something like cannabis.
For me, the first thing I did was try to educate folks. I started the Jack Herer Foundation and I quickly realized that starting a foundation and funding foundations are so different. I started the foundation regardless, and I funded it myself.
I realized that there were so many folks out there that had just co-opted my father’s name and started using it for themselves. That legacy that he built with his name and the importance of what he did as a human within this space should really be driven by this family. So I started a cannabis company andI figured if cannabis was going to be sold with my father’s name, that it should benefit this family.
Getting Back to the Idea that Cannabis can save the world, What are some of the cool hemp products that you’re turned on to?
One of the common things that everybody is fighting for today is Toilet paper. But in order to make it reasonable, you also have to have scale.
You have to have lots of farmers growing hemp and the ability to process it – that doesn’t exist. So it doesn’t really apply today yet.
On the other side of this same company who made the paper product for this paper manufacturer also makes chemicals that are extracted from the hemp plant. Those have been turned into things like sugars, which could make anything from beer and wine to Bulletproof vests and armored vehicles or stealth air fighters. This material is technically stronger than composites that are made today through petrochemical and can be made using hemp.
They have the ability to take cannabis and have it break down molecularly in a program time. Let’s say that you wanted a piece of plastic to last for a month before it started to generate biodegradability. I’s programmable biodegradability – during the process of processing the hemp, you can process it to break down quicker or you can have it last for 300 years.
Are there any regulations against producing hemp composites and hemp toilet paper?
One is that farmers have trouble with plants growing hot. Which means that they’re growing above the 0.03% threshold. This is all just a made up number. Hemp and cannabis has always been the same. Whether you use it for industry purposes or whether you use it for commercial, or personal use.
The FDA plays a huge part in whether this becomes a scalable product. If you’re putting it out there for human consumption, everything has to be tested. Everything has to be verified.
The people that are making decisions are still being affected by the lies that created prohibition. That’s why this book – it’s so fucking important. It’s just as important as you breathing today. It’s as important as what you put in your body. It’s what we need in order to take another step.
What Are Your One Five and 10 Year Industry Predictions?
Year one – turmoil, devastation, and extraordinary difficulties.
Year five -I think the cannabis industry, be it hemp or cannabis will start to thin out. Companies are going to fail and the ones that are surviving are ones that are branded and financially stable.
Big business comes in and does something that we can’t because we don’t have funding and they do. Once they come in with their money, they already have access to the commercial spaces that we want to be a part of, but they already control those spaces. The only way for us to compete dollar for dollar with them is to figure out how to coexist with them. Sometimes that might even mean partnership with them.
If you look at what’s happening in the food industry or in the pet or in the soda industry or the beer industry, they are all eating their young. Kentucky fried chicken owns taco bell, Carl’s jr has the green burrito and McDonald’s has X, Y and Z and Pepsi, Pepsi Cola might have Gatorade and Aquafina. All of these companies continue to buy up other companies and make them part of their portfolio.
I think that in large part is going to be the future of cannabis, unfortunately. I think many people in the cannabis industry are going to be just worker bees. I don’t think that governments or industry are going to allow people, like farmers and small brands to exist and have a voice.
Because we shouldn’t be able to put a seed in the ground, put some water to it, and then end up being powerful with a voice that could change the world because that’s what their money does.
They know better than us cause they’ve already made that money. If we want to come and play on their field, we’re going to have to go learn to play by their rules.
But, just like in basketball and football, sometimes rules change. Things do change and there are ways to coexist. I don’t know what that really looks like. I just know that it’s going to be difficult.
It takes energy in order to change things. It takes energy in order to keep the right things being spoken about in public. It takes the will of this community. I’ve spent my life since I was 10 years old around the cannabis community and I fight every day for it.
I fight for it because I believe in it and I don’t believe that it’s set in stone. But as a society, for the most part, we can become very complacent and very lazy. We have to realize that we still have a voice and there’s still work to be done. If we exercise our voices, we can still change what it is that’s necessary to build a future that doesn’t belong to corporations.
But if we don’t do it, just like global warming, if we don’t do what’s hard, if we don’t do what is necessary – it won’t look good for the little guy.
Cannabis is about community not commodity. If we build our companies with that thought process, we have a much better chance of being able to grow it forward.
How can people find you? How can people find the book?
On Amazon, the emperor wears no clothes for Kindle. Anything that’s printed in the book that is in black ink is original text. Anything that is blue has been added because I didn’t want to change my father’s original words.
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