David BienenstockJune 25, 2020

Just a few scientists who modified the world: Astronomer Carl Sagan, left, and psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon, proper, got here from totally different educational fields however bonded over a shared fascination with the science of hashish. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Peter Grinspoon)

Dr. Lester Grinspoon handed away peacefully this morning, only a day after celebrating his 92nd birthday.

As a doctor, researcher, writer, educator and activist, Grinspoon was a towering determine in each the medical marijuana motion and the grassroots marketing campaign to legalize hashish for all adults.

His ebook Marijuana Reconsidered (1971) is taken into account a foundational work on each the security and efficacy of the drug, and for 50 years following its publication he continued to write on the topic, whereas talking out at conferences and within the media, providing professional testimony in each legal trials and at authorities hearings, and serving on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Grinspoon’s son Peter, who can be a physician and a frontrunner within the modern-day motion to legalize hashish, introduced his father’s demise this morning.

He was involved about Carl’s…uh…consumption

Dr. Grinspoon’s preliminary curiosity in hashish dated again to 1967, the 12 months he endeavored to analysis the topic sufficiently sufficient to persuade his finest buddy—who simply occurred to be the astronomer Carl Sagan—to cease consuming a lot of it.

At the time, Grinspoon was an affiliate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, whereas Sagan was a rising younger star amongst Harvard’s college.

Not but a star, Sagan would go on to change into an internationally famend astronomer, bestselling writer, and host of the favored tv collection Cosmos. But on the time he was simply one other left-wing professor who occurred to often and enthusiastically get pleasure from consuming hashish together with a close-knit circle of like-minded teachers.

“My wife Betsy and I went to a party with Carl not long after we met, and it quickly became clear that marijuana was a regular feature of social life within his little circle in Cambridge,” Grinspoon recalled to VICE in 2013. “As a physician, I saw all that smoking going on, and I was really concerned about it. Doctors are supposed to automatically be experts on drugs, and so I found myself spieling off the stuff that the government was saying, but Carl, would just wave a joint in front of me, and reply, “Oh Lester, have a puff, it’s not going to hurt you a bit and you’ll love it.”

He set out to show prohibition was proper

This good-natured stand-off would stay unresolved till the fateful day when Dr. Grinspoon endeavored to go to the Harvard Medical School Library, decided to compile an authoritatively researched argument in opposition to hashish that might definitively reveal the medical and scientific foundation for the plant’s prohibition.

But as an alternative of encountering the exhausting information he’d anticipated, Grinspoon had an epiphany—he’d been “brainwashed about cannabis.”

But discovered the precise reverse was true

So for the following 4 years he would intensely analysis the topic, earlier than lastly publishing Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), a bestselling ebook that detailed a decades-long authorities propaganda marketing campaign undertaken to hold marijuana unlawful in any respect prices.

Arriving at a time when solely 15% of Americans supported hashish legalization, and practically 25 earlier than the primary US state would move a medical hashish legislation, Grinspoon’s ebook sparked a sensation upon publication, whereas starting an extended overdue reevaluation of hashish amongst teachers, the medical institution, and most people.

Even Nixon received riled up concerning the ebook

The ebook even caught the eye of then-President Richard Nixon, whose anti-Semitic rants about marijuana have been caught on tape within the Oval Office.

“Every one of the bastards that are out for the legalization of marijuana is Jewish,” Nixon fumed after studying a assessment of Marijuana Revisited in his day by day information abstract. “What the Christ is the matter with the Jews?”

Carl Sagan added an essay, as ‘Mr. X’

In addition to an authoritative, scientific refutation of the various myths then generally accepted about hashish, Marijuana Reconsidered additionally included an essay by Carl Sagan (writing below a pseudonym) that defined his help for ending marijuana prohibition was not simply political, but additionally deeply private.

“Cannabis,” Sagan wrote, “brings to us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.”

Meanwhile, Grinspoon grew to become an internationally acknowledged hashish professional—with out ever getting excessive himself, regardless of many, many presents. That was till, as he defined to VICE, he lastly determined to conduct an N+1 experiment on himself:

As I researched and wrote about marijuana, I knew I needed to have this expertise, however I additionally knew that if the ebook was profitable, I’d be known as upon to seem earlier than committees and testify in courtroom, and I didn’t need to compromise my place. So I waited.

Ever since Marihuana Reconsidered got here out individuals had been asking me: “Wait, you wrote a book about marijuana and you’ve never tried it?” And I’d reply, “Well, I wrote a book about schizophrenia too, and I haven’t tried that!”

On their first two makes an attempt at getting excessive, Grinspoon and his spouse Betsy didn’t really feel the results. But then, on their third strive:

We smoked once more, and I keep in mind Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was on the hi-fi, a report I’d really heard earlier than many occasions earlier than. My son would put it on and say, “Dad, you ought to get your head out of the Baroque and listen to the Beatles.” But I didn’t see the attraction. Until that evening, below the affect of marijuana, once I actually heard the Beatles for the primary time. And it was like an auditory implosion. I couldn’t imagine it.

Testifying on John Lennon’s behalf

Grinspoon would have an opportunity to return the favor to John Lennon a couple of years later, when he offered professional testimony at his immigration listening to.

Alarmed by Lennon’s latest anti-Vietnam-war advocacy, the Nixon administration (through the Immigration and Naturalization Service) moved to deport the ex-Beatle primarily based on an outdated drug bust again in England.

Called to testify on behalf of the protection, Grinspoon cleverly sowed doubt within the choose’s thoughts concerning whether or not US immigration legal guidelines pertaining to “marijuana” additionally pertained to “hashish.” That led to a key delay within the proceedings, which finally offered Lennon and his authorized crew with the time they wanted to mount a profitable protection.

In return, all Grinspoon requested for was a couple of signed albums and memorabilia to share together with his teenage son Danny, a devoted Beatles fan who on the time was struggling with what would show to be a deadly case of leukemia.

One of the primary medical marijuana sufferers

Danny had been recognized with leukemia in 1967, the identical 12 months his father started researching hashish. Although far much less was recognized on the time concerning the medical efficacy of hashish, Grinspoon learn literature suggesting it might assist with ache and nausea, together with anecdotal tales despatched to him by healthcare employees and particular person most cancers sufferers across the nation who’d learn his ebook.

But it was his spouse Betsy who finally made the choice to rating a joint for his or her long-suffering son earlier than considered one of his chemo classes, with seemingly miraculous outcomes.

“On a normal day of chemotherapy,” Grinspoon recalled a few years later, “I hoped we could make it home from the hospital before Danny’s vomiting would start, and we always had to put a big bucket next to his bed. But the first time he tried taking a few puffs prior to a round of treatments, he got off the gurney and said, ‘Mom, there’s a sub shop in Brookline. Could we stop for a sub-sandwich on the way home?’ And all I thought was, ‘Wow.’”

By permitting sure of his colleagues to witness this phenomenon firsthand, Grinspoon finally satisfied the pinnacle of the oncology division at Boston Children’s Hospital to undertake a 1975 research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That research demonstrated the efficacy of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.

1993 ebook helped California legalize medical

Then, in 1993, Grinspoon wrote a ebook known as Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine, which made the case for hashish because the most secure and most helpful therapeutic substance recognized to man.

Three years later, California handed Prop 215, changing into the primary state to legalize using medical hashish.

Ironically, regardless of all he’d performed to advance science, drugs and tradition, Grinspoon was to his demise denied a full professorship by Harvard Medical School as punishment for difficult the medical institution’s misguided orthodoxy in opposition to what he got here to name cannabinopathic medicine. His choice to challenged the standard knowledge was one he by no means regretted.

As an emeritus affiliate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he served as senior psychiatrist on the Massachusetts Mental Health Center for 40 years, as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Psychiatric Association, and as founding editor of The American Psychiatric Association Annual Review and Harvard Mental Health Letter.

But Lester Grinspoon’s true legacy will all the time be calculated by way of the hundreds of thousands of people that have benefited from hashish and the plant’s legalization.

David Bienenstock's Bio Image

David Bienenstock

Veteran hashish journalist David Bienenstock is the writer of “How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High” (2016 – Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast “Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean.” Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.

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