By LeeWEpstein

June 26, 2020


One day after celebrating his 92nd birthday, Dr. Lester Grinspoon passed away yesterday morning, June 25.

As a physician, researcher, author, educator, and activist, Lester Grinspoon will remain an imposing figure in the medical cannabis movement and campaigns for the legalization of cannabis for adults.

His book Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) is considered a seminal work on the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a medicine. He continued to write on the subject for fifty years, while speaking at conferences and in the media, providing expert testimony in numerous trials and government hearings. He also served on the advisory board of NORML, one of America’s leading pro-legalization associations.

Lester Grinspoon son Peter, also a doctor and cannabis legalization activist, announced the death of his father yesterday morning.

Marihuana Reconsidered

Lester Grinspoon interest in cannabis dates back to 1967, when he asked himself if he could do enough research on the subject to convince his best friend, astronomer Carl Sagan, to stop using so much cannabis. Determined to compile as many anti-cannabis arguments as possible, he went to the Harvard Medical School library. But instead of finding the reliable data he had expected, Grinspoon had a revelation: he had been “brainwashed on cannabis.

He spent four years researching the subject further before publishing Marihuana Reconsidered in 1971, a best-selling book detailing the government’s propaganda campaign to ban cannabis at all costs.

Coming at a time when only 15% of Americans were in favour of legalizing cannabis, and nearly 25 before the first US state passed a medical cannabis law, Grinspoon book caused a sensation when it was published, while starting a reappraisal of cannabis by academics, governments and the general public.

In addition to a scientific refutation of the many clichés associated with cannabis, Marihuana Reconsidered also included an essay by Carl Sagan, written under the pseudonym Mr. X, which explained that his support for ending the ban on cannabis was not only political, but also deeply personal. Sagan concluded:

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an obstacle to the full use of a substance that creates the serenity and insight, sensitivity and camaraderie so desperately needed in this increasingly crazy and dangerous world. »

He testified for John Lennon

Alarmed by John Lennon’s plea against the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration attempted to deport the Beatle on the basis of a former drug offence in England.

Lester Grinspoon was called to testify at Lennon’s 1973 extradition trial as an expert on cannabis. When asked if hashish and marijuana were the same thing, he replied that it was incorrect. “I wasn’t going to do their job,” Grinspoon noted. “They were going to have to go fishing. “The government dropped the case because they couldn’t prove that hashish was the same as marijuana.

One of the first patients treated with cannabis

Dr. Grinspoon and his wife Betsy had the tragic experience of losing their son Danny to leukemia when he was a young teenager.

Quote from the White Paper on Medical Cannabis During Danny’s last year of treatment, they saw for themselves that cannabis was effective in helping him cope with the side effects of the high doses of chemotherapy he was receiving. This personal tragedy also shaped Lester Grinspoon belief that cannabis could be a valuable medicine.

In 1993, he authored the book Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, which calls for the legalization of cannabis so that its full medicinal potential can be realized. The Hemp Union’s White Paper on Medical Cannabis [editor’s note: co-authored by the author of this article] included one of his quotes in the opening pages.

Barney’s Farm has dedicated a cannabis variety in his honour, Dr. Grinspoon, which is typical for its unusually spaced popcorn flower structure.

Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

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