The history of cannabis is one fraught with controversy, and although the first recorded use of marijuana dates back all the way to around 500 B.C., it is a lot more talked about across the news and media today.
In 2018, we are lucky enough to say that cannabis has come on leaps and bounds, with thirty U.S. states having laws in place for the use of medical marijuana, and a further nine states allowing recreational use of the plant.
It is no secret that getting to the point we’re at today has been difficult, and at times felt impossible. We have gone from the cannabis prohibition that started in the 1920s and ran on for years, all the way to the complete outlaw of the plant in 1970.
Progress has not come easily, and there are so many people to thank for our current position in 2018. From those at the forefront of cannabis activism to the individuals who worked on the sidelines to make small changes that would have a significant impact; we have a lot to thank our cannabis ancestors for.
Today, we are going to look at five of the weed warriors who have paved the way for marijuana and changed the way we view the plant in today’s society, so stick around, because these legends are worth knowing about!
#1 Scott Tracy Imler
Let’s kick things off with Scott Tracy Imler, the medical cannabis activist who dedicated three decades of his life to the medical marijuana cause. Sadly, Imler passed away in his sleep in August of this year, aged just 60.
Imler has spent the vast majority of his life dedicated to medical cannabis and was a crucial player in the passing of Proposition 215 in 1996, which allowed for medicinal marijuana to be given to patients who were seriously ill in California.
What makes Scott Tracy Imler a true weed warrior is his dedication to legalizing medical cannabis through the face of adversity; as a gay man himself, he was passionate about medical marijuana for the treatment of AIDS symptoms, along with many other illnesses.
Imler suffered from epilepsy and was familiar with the benefits medical marijuana could bring him, but his real work was with those who have AIDS. He worked during the epidemic which started in 1981 and ran on for many years. It has been reported that Imler served up to 1000 AIDS patients, as well as those suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other debilitating conditions.
Imler was a pastor at the corner of Fountain and Fairfax in West Hollywood, and this soon became a safe sanctuary for sufferers of a range of conditions who needed support and medical cannabis. This was the first of its kind in California, and although federal officials eventually raided it, Imler had already made his mark.
Working alongside the late Dennis Peron, Imler was able to gather signatures to push Proposition 215 into success, and he did so successfully.
#2 Mary Jane Rathbun AKA Brownie Mary
Mary Rathbun is one of the lesser-known, unsung heroes of the cannabis world, but today we want to shed some light on the incredible steps she took to advocate medical marijuana.
Mary was a medical cannabis rights activist, but not your average political mover and shaker. Known to be somewhat unsavory in her choice of language, she became well known as a down to earth and approachable character with a passion for pot.
Certainly not to be underestimated, Mary was often overlooked due to her elderly appearance. But in fact, she was arrested on three separate occasions for her dealings with marijuana, and this only pushed the industry further into the limelight.
Mary was a true marijuana pioneer, spending years volunteering in San Francisco’s General Hospital where she became famous for doling out illegal pot brownies to AIDS patients.
Undoubtedly rough around the edges but with a clear goal in mind, Rathbun went on to lobby for the legalization of cannabis for medical use and had a hand in the passing of San Francisco’s Proposition P in 1991.
Awarded a volunteer of the year award in 1986, Mary spent almost her entire adult life making pot brownies for the ill, and using her arrests to catapult medical marijuana into the public eye. Her arrests even went on to generate interest from the medical community, which led to one of the first clinical trials looking into the effects of cannabis on HIV patients.
#3 Tod H. Mikuriya
Well-known psychiatrist and author, Tod H. Mikuriya has contributed a wealth of marijuana knowledge to the public over his career, including many marijuana medical papers.
Tod sadly passed away in 2007 at the age of 73; however his legacy will indeed last a lifetime, an outspoken advocate for the legalization of medical cannabis, he dedicated much of life to the cause.
Often referred to as the grandfather of the medical cannabis industry, Mikuriya played a vital role in the cannabis movement in California. As the director of non-classified marijuana research for the National Institute of Mental Health Centre for Narcotics and Drug Abuse Studies in 1967, there was little that he didn’t know about the world of weed.
From self-published books spanning from 1839-1972 around the topic of medical marijuana, right through to his work in the medical field, it’s safe to say that Tod garnered a lot of unwanted attention from federal police.
As a medical professional, Tod approved marijuana for around 9000 patients in his lifetime, and worked on the side to research the effects of the plant on a range of conditions, publishing his findings every step of the way.
The founder of the California Cannabis medical group and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, Tod’s passion for marijuana knew no bounds; he was a savior for patients and a menace for officials.
In Tod’s words, he was “fighting to restore cannabis” in America.
#4 Dennis Peron
Considered the father of medical marijuana, Dennis Peron was one of the leading cannabis activists in history, being responsible for co-writing the California Proposition 215.
Similarly to Imler, Dennis was a prominent face of the gay community, and thus had a particular interest in the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for AIDS patients. Peron was recognized as a pioneer of cannabis during the height of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.
Born in New York and drafted into the forces in the late 1960s, Peron reported that his time in Vietnam was when he first came into contact with cannabis. Following this, Dennis went on to found the San Francisco Cannabis Buyer’s Club in 1990 and became the owner of the nation’s first public marijuana dispensary.
Despite his success in changing the laws around cannabis use and advocating on behalf of a host of patients, Dennis still went on to be arrested several times, eventually joining other activists to put together Proposition P, which allowed for California to add marijuana to its list of approved medicines to treat a select few medical conditions.
Peron finished his days growing and selling pot out of a rental farm in Clear Lake in San Francisco, which he willingly gave away to anyone who needed it for medicinal purposes.
#5 Chris Conrad
Last but by no means least is Chris Conrad, who incidentally is still spreading the word of medical cannabis through his post as a teacher of the history and politics of marijuana at Oaksterdam University.
Throughout his career, Conrad has been at the front of education on cannabis, educating others on everything from growing marijuana to industrial hemp, medical marijuana, cultivation – the list goes on!
Conrad has given numerous presentations on the topic of cannabis and has played a vital role in the shaping of modern industrial and medical cannabis reform movements through his publications as well as his activist work.
It is vital to point out that Conrad is continuing the work of the weed warriors we have already discussed and kept it at the forefront during these modern times. Chris continues to work as the co-founder and first president of the Hemp industries association, as well as the founder of the Business Alliance in commerce and hemp.
From the legalities and politics to continuing the excellent work of his colleagues, Conrad is undoubtedly a huge part of the present and future of cannabis.
Final Thoughts – Weed Warriors Assemble
There is nothing more humbling or motivating than to reflect on our ancestors and how far people have come to make cannabis what it is today.
These are just a handful of some of the incredible personalities that have impacted the industry, and we would love to hear in the comments who your own weed idol is.