Thank You and Farewell, Dr. Grinspoon
Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s been a rough year for everyone, the cannabis tribe included, despite various gains such as cannabis being deemed an essential service and legalization taking place in multiple places throughout the world.
Last month however ( yes, this is coming a few weeks after the fact, but better late than later), we lost a legend in Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard psychiatry professor, author and pioneer in the field of cannabis research who to many in the cannabis community has become synonymous with medical marijuana advocacy and legalization. I first came across Dr. Grinspoon while watching an episode of the TV show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, specifically on the topic of the drug war/cannabis, after which I can recall seeing him in several other reports and documentaries on the same topic. What made that story so moving to me was the family’s unwavering attempt to bring comfort to their young son, Danny, who was suffering from leukemia and crippling nausea as a result of his chemotherapy treatments. Danny didn’t respond well to the chemotherapy so the family decided to give cannabis a try, which provided immediate relief and allowed him to have a semblance of a normal life, despite his illness.
It was a bold, pioneering thing for the family to do at the time, especially considering this happened during the presidency of Richard Nixon, who Grinspoon infuriated with his science and advocacy (Nixon wasn’t exactly a fan of cannabis, much less accurate research on the topic). Despite the criticism and stigmatization, Dr. Grinspoon was adamant in using this natural medicine to treat his dying son. The irony of the situation is that Dr. Grinspoon started out as a strong critic of cannabis and began to conduct research to “prove” its harmfulness. When he discovered that the dangers of pot were way overblown and that its efficacy and safety were grossly understated, he became an advocate for its medical applications. He wrote articles on his findings in Scientific American and in 1971 he published “Marijuana Reconsidered”, a pioneering book which scientifically refuted the many myths about cannabis propagated by the U.S. government over the preceding decades and included an essay by another famous smarty-pants pothead, Carl Sagan, who became a friend to the whole family.
Many other people have suffered the same fate as the late Danny Grinspoon since the moment his father decided to see what cannabis could do for his condition, but Dr. Grinspoon opened a pandora’s box with respect to medical cannabis. Medical cannabis patients all throughout the world have faced an unbelievably steep uphill battle over the years, however what Dr. Grinspoon was able to achieve goes way beyond providing relief to cancer sufferers. He helped kick off a global movement that is still growing to this day and thanks to his scientific background, he was also able to combat the stigma associated with cannabis and demonstrate its true benefits to the medical community. His efforts inspired not only members of the cannabis community (the seed company Barney’s Farm even developed a strain in his honor), but his own family (his youngest son, Dr. Peter Grinspoon is also a medical cannabis advocate and drug addiction specialist).
Farewell Doc, and enjoy whatever it is you are smoking with Carl Sagan right now. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that room!
Thank You and Farewell, Jules
In other sad if not horrifying news, the cannabis community lost another prominent member a couple of weeks ago when activist and pro-cannabis freedom fighter Jules Stobbs, one half of the South African pro-cannabis lobbyist organization Dagga Couple was shot and killed in his own home near Johannesburg. He and his partner Myrtle Clarke had been fighting the South African government for years for access to legal cannabis or “dagga,” as it is known in the country. Attackers entered their home at night while the couple were sleeping and fatally shot Jules, took two phones and two laptops but left Myrtle unharmed. The Dagga Couple were very active and very vocal about their views on cannabis and had just finished recording an episode of their podcast The HotBoxShow before the incident took place. Jules’ memorial took place on July 18th. Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families, friends and the cannabis community that they played such a significant role in.