Cannabis Casts Complementary Spells At A Hemp Fest And Jack Herer's Funeral

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Ganjarden

Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
By its nature, a funeral brings the past and the present together. The burial of Jack Herer, who died April 15 in Eugene, summoned hundreds of his longtime comrades a week ago to a glorious hilltop in the San Fernando Valley, where they lay to rest a rollicking chapter in the modern marijuana movement.

But the future was a mere 25 miles away at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where the fruits of Herer's life of activism went on flashy display. A huge three-day trade show for the explosively expanding business of cannabis sativa heralded what could be in store for Oregon and the nation as more states permit regulated use of marijuana and consider legalization.

For decades, hemp festivals have been the political and commercial hubs of the movement. Usually they are in some pastoral setting, with local hempsters offering artisan food or clothing for sale.

The convention center scene, though, was a hemp festival writ large, hooked up to 21st-century technology and razzle-dazzle.

"Can you believe this?" said Herer's son, Dan, walking the trade-show floor. "This would have made my father so happy. But he would have been here reminding people that the work's not done yet. That's really what he was, a teacher."

Herer died at 70 from complications of a Sept. 12 heart attack that came moments after he spoke at Portland's Hempstalk festival. It was, on a certain level, fitting, for Herer had spent much of his energy in Oregon.

In the early 1980s, while living in Portland, he wrote what became the movement's scripture, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes." Herer argues that just as important as the right to get high is the necessity to start growing hemp again for food, fiber, clothing, paper, building materials -- which would do no less, he said, than save the world.

In 1987, he opened The Third Eye, a Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard head shop. In 1998, Herer campaigned to push Oregon's medical marijuana initiative to victory.

Because of Herer's decades of work, marijuana is no longer political sudden death. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia now allow marijuana for medical reasons, and half a dozen more are considering similar programs.

California has an initiative on the November ballot that would legalize marijuana and permit farmers to grow hemp. Oregon and Washington activists want to put like measures before voters this fall.

But perhaps more meaningful than political acceptance is the cultural embrace of marijuana -- and the THC Exposé at the convention center testified to that.

In only its second year, the trade show drew more than 300 vendors from around the world, such as the Dutch seed bank Sensi Seeds.

"Pot is hot," said Dan Skye, editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, the all-cannabis-all-the-time monthly and a trade-show sponsor. "This is entrepreneurship at its best."

Head-shop owners offered innovations -- self-cleaning pipes, hand-held vaporizers, cultivation systems that force plants to grow vertically. Other booths offered glossy reproductions of anti-pot propaganda posters from the 1930s and '40s -- "Women Cry For It! Men Die For It!" -- which now are kitschy collector items.

Better than a dozen of California's marijuana clinics and dispensaries brought in their doctors and staff members wearing white lab coats embroidered with marijuana leaves and flowers.

A purple-sequined trio of Laker Girls strolled the floor and posed for pictures. Other willowy young women who were staffing booths wore leis of silk marijuana leaves and not much else.

Hemp manufacturers rolled out their latest, such as luxury women's clothing, bed linens, even soft drinks. A resort in La Paz, Mexico, invited guests to its all-hemp hotel, with 400-thread-count bedsheets and a foundation made with "hempcrete."

Despite the visual overload, the trade show was missing one eternal component of a hemp festival -- that certain smell. The folks who paid their $10 a ticket to get in were warned that everyone was on camera at the time.

Herer was a hovering spirit in the convention center. His face appeared almost everywhere the eye landed, on T-shirts, on posters, even etched into the mouthpiece of a 2-foot-tall glass water pipe. Bins with his picture were set up around the convention center for attendees to help the Herer family defray more than $55,000 in funeral expenses.

Herer's six children decided to bury their father in Los Angeles, the city where he first inhaled in 1969 and made marijuana his life's work. So on the last day of the trade show, the movement's living history from around the country reunited at Eden Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery, to memorialize the man who had gotten them this far.

His comrades are grayer now, but many still passionately love their tie-dye. They took turns hugging Herer's wife, Jeannie. As the California sun dialed up the heat to nearly 80, the 350-seat chapel filled quickly and at least another 350 people stood outside and heard the memorial service through loudspeakers. The service also was streamed live on the Internet.

"We're not burying Jack Herer today. We're planting a hemp seed for the future!" Chris Conrad, who helped edit "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," told the gathering.

About 300 people traveled up a hill to the grave after the memorial service. The vista was wide open and spectacular, ringed by the mountains. The rabbi prayed the kaddish; the urn was placed in the grave. With a smile on his tear-streaked face, Dan Herer spoke up.

"I know this is probably a silly question," he said, "but does anyone have a joint?"

The crowd released a collective "ah!" and suddenly, a small fusillade flew through the air and plummeted around the urn. Many handfuls of loose weed followed.

For another hour, Herer's friends took turns making speeches and leading songs as others shoveled dirt into the grave. Then at 4:20 p.m., the past and the present came together; a man's voice called out, "It's 4:20, everyone!" time for a smoke.

So the funeral became an impromptu hemp festival of the bittersweet knowledge that Jack Herer would not see the movement accomplish his dream of restoring hemp to American life. But Herer left behind a formula that he believed would ultimately bring success, that the hippies and the hempsters would join forces to show the world, as at the THC Exposé, that the green of hemp is already generating billions in the green of cash. And in America, that can be the most persuasive political argument of all.


NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: The Oregonian
Author: Anne Saker
Contact: The Oregonian
Copyright: 2010 Oregon Live LLC
Website: Parallel realities: Cannabis casts complementary spells at a hemp fest and Jack Herer's funeral