When I came to High Times, most of the pro-marijuana rallies originally organized in the seventies had died out. There was one flame left, however, in Ann Arbor, and it was flickering.
In 1987, I got a plea from some students living in a dorm at the University of Michigan, asking High Times to come out and rejuvenate their annual event, which had shrunk to a handful of die-hards. I knew NORML had engineered the demise of all pot rallies by claiming they were counterproductive and produced negative images (hippies smoking pot). There was a split inside NORML between the hippie activists and the lawyers who controlled the group.
I soon established the first national hemp rights group, The Freedom Fighters.
Jack Herer sent an 80-page manuscript to NORML titled, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, but NORML was not interested. They thought Jack was exaggerating the environmental benefits of hemp (which he was). Doug McVay, an intern at NORML came to visit and gave me a copy of the manuscript and I decided to run with it.
Eventually, I flew out to the valley in California where Jack lived. I wanted Jack to help establish the Freedom Fighters by becoming our leader. I planned some excerpts of his material and cover stories about hemp for High Times.
I wanted High Times to publish Jack’s book and Jack agreed I was the ideal candidate as editor. Jack also agreed to lead the Freedom Fighters and I photographed him wearing our signature tricorn. The idea of wearing tricorn hats was intended as a publicity stunt to draw attention to hemp and away from recreational cannabis. It also solved the “image problem” and added a fun element to the rallies. The Freedom Fighters marched into the rallies in a ceremonial fashion in an attempt to take back the American flag from the right wing. It was an attempt to flip a switch in the collective unconscious.
At that first meeting, Jack and I discussed a Hemp Tour across the Midwest, that would start at the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, and include the University of Illinois, as well as Madison Wisconsin, where Ben Masel was busy creating the Midwest Harvest Festival.
The Freedom Fighters held their first national convention a day before the 1989 Hash Bash. How many attendees can you identify? And how many of the state chapter heads from the convention went on to do big things in the cannabis reform movement?