(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Just when the legalization struggle had reached its nadir, however, there emerged an improbable hero who championed cannabis as a multifaceted sustainable resource, an eco-friendly source of food, fiber, medicine and recreation. Jack Herer, a charismatic, barrel-chested Korean War veteran and former Goldwater Republican, was instrumental in catalyzing a renewed interest in the many forgotten industrial uses of hemp, a plant once prized by America’s founding fathers. In his influential underground bestseller The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Herer maintained that hemp—marijuana’s versatile, nonpsychoactive twin—possessed a near-limitless potential for replacing petrochemical and timber products and phasing out environmentally destructive industries. Herer’s boisterous marijuana evangelism widened the scope of the drug-policy reform movement and inspired a new generation of cannabis activists.