The Passing of Hemp Legend Jack Herer 

Hemp activist Jack Herer died last week. Plus, legalization is more popular on Facebook than Schwarzenegger, Brown, Whitman, and Poizner combined.

Prominent legalization activist Jack Herer, author of the book The Emperor Wears No Clothes, died Thursday, April 15. He was 70 years old. Herer passed away after months of serious health complications from a massive heart attack in late 2009. California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer said Herer was an idealistic, hard-headed pioneer who had a voice louder than any PA system.

"Jack's big contribution was to raise awareness of hemp and the importance of hemp in American agriculture and industry before the mid-20th century," Gieringer said. "I saw an immediate impact when his book came out around 1990. I had just gotten involved in the marijuana movement and it was the height of the war on drugs. People would just avoid you like the plague. Then when Jack had his book come out, hemp suddenly became an environmental issue."

Herer's work became canon to a new generation of activists. However, his later attempts to change various states' laws via the initiative process failed. His initiatives proved too radical for the time. "He kept staying with his initiative and it always had problems," Gieringer said. "He was asking for a little bit more than the moon. It's ironic because he died the year full-scale legalization — I should say half-scale legalization – is on the ballot. My recollection is Jack wasn't particularly enthusiastic about it."

According to Herer, The Emperor Wears No Clothes has sold 600,000 copies. Herer also had a strain of potent cannabis named after him, called Jack Herer.

Legalization Outpaces Politicians

If you're not online, you're missing a key component of the legalization debate in California, where the writing is on 61,000 walls. Tax Cannabis 2010 had an impressive 61,000-plus fans on its Facebook page last week, more than Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman, and Steve Poizner — combined.

Sixty-one thousand individuals constitute a massive reformer army getting daily updates from the TaxCann2010 web site. They're also organizing to raise funds. The latest public target was $42,000 by April 20. Opposition groups like CALM or NipItintheBud2010.org on Facebook? Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

That might be to the opposition's detriment, said Larry Tramutola, veteran Oakland political consultant with no stake in the initiative. He says Facebook, Twitter, and other online networks are fast replacing the sometimes infantile dialog found in mainstream media outlets.

Meanwhile, the Tax Cannabis 2010 web site aggregates links to meaningful stories, and offers personal testimonies from cops and kids. Visitors can volunteer to endorse the measure, secure endorsements, host parties and fund-raisers, volunteer for phone banks, blog for the campaign, and further help organize online. The page looks clean and professional, and best of all, it works.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Groups like MMJ News on Yahoo and the Media Awareness Project aggregate daily headlines and disseminate them to activists who watchdog press and pundits. Bullshit gets called out.

In another barometer: California users of Google have been searching about equally for "Meg Whitman," "Jerry Brown," and "legalization" over the last year. The numbers are dwarfed however by the number of California residents who apparently aren't interested in voting and are just searching for "marijuana."

Oakland Takes Hard Line

The city appears to be taking an unnecessarily hard-line stance against the Oakland Patient Center medical cannabis dispensary, possibly even moving to shut it down, because of a dispute over a potential ownership change. Deputy City Administrator Arturo Sanchez revoked the dispensary's business license because the owners failed to notify the city that they're in the process of selling the club. But according to the Oakland Tribune, the dispensary's owners say the move was premature because the sale has not gone through yet.

Under Oakland law, medical cannabis dispensary owners must inform the city when they plan to sell their businesses so officials can complete a background check on the new owner. Sanchez decided to revoke the club's permit outright because he apparently believed the club had been sold. But the club's attorneys say the sale isn't final and is contingent on city approval of the new owner.

The whole issue appears to be one big misunderstanding. If the city objects to the new owner, then it has every right to block the sale. But it's not clear whether the city has even looked into the potential new owner. Sanchez also is now threatening $1,000-a-day fines.

Bay Celebrates 4/20

The annual underground holiday for the bay's greenest activists arrived Tuesday 4/20 with a free "CannaLand" at horticulture emporium iGrow, the Oaksterdam Spring Cup, and various smaller parties and after-parties. Over near the Oakland Airport, iGrow's "CannaLand" offered a free, 40,000 square-foot indoor/outdoor festival. Meanwhile, Oaksterdam's Spring Cup in downtown Oakland raised funds for Tax Cannabis 2010 with a pungent produce contest, as well as horticulture and cooking demos.

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