Behind The Name: You Don’t Know Jack

Written by BlackbirdGo April 26, 2018
The History

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.

Any sativa lover will immediately recognize the smell of Jack Herer. As soon as the bag is opened, an earthy, lemon-lime aroma radiates off the buds of this award-winning strain. Genetically, Jack is a three-way cross between Northern Lights #5, Haze, and Skunk #1. Despite having a lineage that is only one third sativa (Northern Lights #5 is an indica and Skunk #1 is a hybrid), Jack Herer serves up predominantly sativa-leaning effects. Most versions of Jack offer a slight body high that pairs well with the strain’s gentle, cerebral euphoria - an excellent strain for those new to sativas or for those who worry about feeling anxious from a stronger, headier sativa.

Jack Herer’s scent and its euphoric effects stem from the strain’s terpene profile, which is typically high in Myrcene for a hoppy, citrus-heavy aroma. Jack also boasts high concentrations of the terpene Limonene, which increases the strain’s heavy lemon/orange smells, as well as Pinene, which smells like conifer sap/resin. Upon exhalation, Jack Herer flower and concentrates deliver the strain’s signature headrush and gentle-yet-upbeat mood elevation, making Jack a go-to choice for anyone trying to boost their energy or manage the symptoms of depression.

While virtually every dispensary offers some variant of Jack Herer, such as Jack’s Cleaner or Super Jack, many cannabis consumers may not know much about the man behind the strain. In the mid-1990s, the cannabis seed company Sensi Seeds developed this sativa-dominant hybrid and named it in honor of Jack Herer, one of the key figures who helped turn the tide on U.S. cannabis prohibition. Herer (the person) was born in New York City in 1939, but he spent much of his childhood and adolescence in the upstate city of Buffalo, New York. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Herer moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and started working at a neon sign company. During his time in California, Jack tried marijuana for the first time at the age of 30. He loved the plant and its effects so much that he abandoned the sign industry to open a Venice Beach head shop and educate people on the joys and medicinal benefits of marijuana.

By the 1970s, Jack Herer had become a tireless activist in the fight to legalize cannabis. He conducted extensive research at the Library of Congress, reviewing decades of government-backed research on hemp fiber and marijuana use before publishing his landmark 1985 book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. His book went on to become the holy grail of weed knowledge for countless readers at a time when misinformation was widespread and government information was viewed with great skepticism.

Herer became known as the Emperor of Hemp, playing off the title of his famous book. Much of his written work focused on the hypocrisy of the U.S. government as well as the dubious claims used to justify cannabis prohibition, and his speeches generally tackled the same issues. Herer suspected that the US laws against cannabis were partly a scheme to keep industries and consumers alike dependent on paper pulp and rope fiber. He believed that hemp was the cash crop that would reinvent virtually every business, from manufacturing materials to food and fuel.

In addition to detailing his suspicion of the petrochemical industry’s involvement in cannabis legislation, Jack pointed out the racist motivations behind the policies that outlawed marijuana, digging back to the early days of prohibition. He discovered that as recently as the early-20th Century, cannabis oil was generally legal and was widely available for medicinal use at pharmacies across most of the country. All of that changed when a man named Harry Anslinger rose through the ranks of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Prohibition, a government agency that had been tasked with enforcing alcohol prohibition. With the repeal of prohibition clearly on the horizon, this major branch of the Treasury Department suddenly became obsolete. (You see where this is going.) Anslinger was appointed the first head of the Treasury Department’s newly-founded Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930. After the federal repeal of alcohol prohibition, Anslinger began a misinformation campaign to falsely tie marijuana use with immigrants and minorities, whom Anslinger and his narcotics squad aggressively characterized as “dangerous.”

These racist efforts were amplified by the media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose newspapers across the country published unfounded, overly-sensationalized editorials that demonized cannabis. Anslinger and Hearst stoked racist sentiments by publishing articles that sought to persuade white Americans that marijuana was a dangerous gateway drug used by immigrants and African Americans - a misguided notion that continues today. Since white police officers largely believed Anslinger’s lies that Black and Hispanic populations were the primary users and distributors of marijuana, these laws were used to harass minority communities, effectively making it a crime to be non-white. The damage was done quickly; one year after the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, African Americans had already become three times as likely to be arrested for cannabis use/possession, and Hispanic Americans were a whopping nine times more likely to be arrested. Sadly, this trend continues to this day even as states are actively rewriting their archaic drug laws, with disproportionate arrest rates across the country despite comparable rates of cannabis use among white demographics.

Jack was furious with the government over its hypocrisy, racism, lies, and misguided legislation. Publishing his book was just the beginning; he spent the ensuing decades touring the country to promote cannabis use, research, and legalization. He famously held 60 rallies across 48 different cities during the course of just six weeks in 1990 - an average of eight different cities each week!

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Photo: Brandon Marback

Herer eventually left Los Angeles, opening his famous (and now-defunct) head shop in Portland, The Third Eye Shoppe. But unlike other head shop proprietors, Herer did more than just sling glass pipes and blacklight posters. The Third Eye became a gathering place for cannabis activists. Oregon’s medical marijuana initiative, Ballot Measure 67, was drafted at Herer’s head shop on Hawthorne Blvd, and many leading figures in cannabis culture have spent time with Herer himself or in his head shop/activism headquarters.

After 40 years of cannabis activism, Jack died on April 15th, 2010 after complications from a serious heart attack seven months earlier. He collapsed next to the stage at a hemp festival in Oregon immediately after delivering a blistering polemic. His family said this was what Jack would have wanted: He gave an impassioned speech at a hemp rally, then as soon as he finished, he entered the final stages of his life.

People who knew Jack Herer acknowledge a certain ambitiousness and exuberance in him. It’s fitting, then, that the strain named after Jack should offer such intense euphoria and focused dedication to any task or project. Many cannabis consumers consider the strain Jack Herer to be an ideal morning or daytime smoke due to its uplifting, “go-get-’em” effects. However, Jack can be enjoyed any time - day or night. It’s great for parties when you have to be social, it makes a great companion for physical activities like hiking, and this strain is generally ideal for anyone in need of a physical or emotional pick-me-up. No matter what your marijuana needs may be, it’s worth remembering the last public speech that Jack Herer gave immediately before his heart attack: “You’ve got to be out of your mind not to smoke dope. It is the best thing the world has ever had.”

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