When trying to quantify the most important figures in cannabis history, it helps to have a framework to work off of, such as Mount Rushmore. When going through the list, I found that the idea of somehow ranking and deciding who is the most important is completely subjective. For some, efforts put towards legalization may be the unit in which to measure one’s influence. Others may argue that those responsible for researching cannabis as medicine are the true heroes.
Therefore this list has tried to take many things into consideration. It is by no way a definitive ranking of importance or significance, but rather an attempt at highlight 4 people whose efforts towards spreading all that is good about cannabis.
A mountain in South Dakota that’s home to a national monument, the 60-feet face sculptures of four of the best United States presidents. On Rushmore, from left to right, you have George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, as well as Abraham Lincoln.
The brainchild of Doane Robinson and created by Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, Mouth Rushmore honors the men that they felt shaped the United States to what it was when they built it in 1927. They were chosen to represent the nation’s birth and growth as well as development and preservation. The creators believed these men sacrificed themselves for the benefit of their people. A lot has changed since then, including how people view several of the men originally selected to be featured on it. We know more about their past and many people call into question whether or not we should be celebrating such flawed figures in history.
Be that as it may, the idea of Mount Rushmore as a framing device to celebrate important figures has transcended its original purpose and can be applied to almost anything.
So, with that said, here is our list of 4 of the most influential figures in cannabis. These figures may very well change, and they should, with time, as more people make their mark on the industry. That’s why the idea of literally carving these names into stone is a bit archaic. But hey, it was the 1920’s! People thought smoking cigarettes and literally wrapping themselves in asbestos was a good idea so let’s give them a bit of slack.
We have created our own Cannabis Mount Rushmore in honor of the four legends who shaped the history of cannabis to where it is today.
Bob Marley (February 6, 1945 to May 11, 1981)
If you were to die and somehow go to cannabis heaven, Marley’s discography would play on an endless loop. His music and the music he inspired has been associated with cannabis culture since the introduction of reggae.
Bob Marley, born in Jamaica, was a pioneer in reggae. His music has inspired people across the globe and influenced so many other reggae singers that came after him. The dude also LOVED cannabis and would tell anybody willing to listen.
To Bob Marley, cannabis was a sacred plant. It had the power to heal, evoke love and bring people together. He used cannabis to create his music and help him meditate and communicate with Jah, a Hebrew name for God.
Bob Marley is an icon in the cannabis world, not only for bringing cannabis to the mainstream but also for his advocacies on cannabis’ healing properties. He was also well-loved for his revolutionary views on human rights, especially of the poor, as he was incredibly generous with his money.
When a popular figure dies, people have a tendency to deify them. Then, sometimes years later, when the realities of their mistakes become known, people feel betrayed by this version of the person that they themselves have created. Bob Marley was a human and like humans, he had flaws. He made mistakes. There are those who may say that Marley does not deserve a spot on the Cannabis Mount Rushmore, however, his influence on cannabis and music is undeniable. We do not include him as some kind of holy idol, but rather as a human who had an incredible passion and appreciation for cannabis and used his voice and platform to fight for what he believed was right.
Mary Jane Rathbun (December 22, 1922 to April 10, 1999)
Unlike the original Mount Rushmore, we acknowledge and celebrate the women who helped get us where we are today. There are literally countless women who gave their lives to the cause and they are all heroes who deserve recognition. Today, we discuss one in particular: Mary Jane Rathbun. Nicknamed Brownie Mary, Rathburn was a staunch cannabis activist who fought for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Mary Jane Rathbun may be known for her signature polyester pantsuits and her legendary foul mouth, but it was her efforts towards treating the ill with cannabis and her fight for its legalization that makes her a hero today.
During the early 1970s, to make some extra money, she would bake brownies infused with cannabis. Not afraid of the consequences, she even advertised her products using printed flyers, which, of course, caught the attention of the law. She was later arrested for possessing and selling cannabis brownies and made to do community service for 500 hundred hours.
Work With Aids Patients
During her community service, Rathbun began working with AIDS patients. A relatively new yet incredibly frightening disease, AIDS was killing people, many of them homosexual men, at an alarming rate. There was little understood about AIDS and HIV in its early days, allowing those with homophobic agendas to create an unfounded link between homosexuality somehow causing and spreading AIDS.
At a time when homosexuals already faced a great deal of oppression and discrimination, AIDS was used by many as a device to create more of a gap between the general public and those in the LGBT community. Without a proper understanding of how HIV could be transmitted people began spreading rumours that it could be transferred by touching a sick person’s hand or even breathing the same air as them. This type of misinformation was not only hurtful, but it was also damaging and did more to isolate our brothers and sisters that were dying of an already terrifying disease, without also being demonized by the general public.
Rathbun did not let these scare tactics work her. She saw those suffering from HIV and AIDS for what they were; people. People who deserve love and compassion, like any other.
Rathbun already knew the medical potential of consuming cannabis as she had witnessed the effects on friends of hers going through chemotherapy. She recognized the potential in cannabis for treating AIDS and HIV patients. She began giving making hundreds of brownies every week, using cannabis donated from members of the community that believed in her cause. Mary took no money for the brownies, giving them all away to medical patients for no charge. She lived off her monthly Social Security cheque to survive, as everything else went towards her cause.
When the 90s rolled in, Mary Jane Rathbun became a full-blown cannabis activist, lobbying for the legalization of medical cannabis. Her tireless efforts significantly contributed to the passing of medical cannabis laws in the state, the opening of the country’s first medical cannabis dispensary, and research into the beneficial effects and effectiveness of cannabis on people suffering from HIV as well as AIDS.
A heroine in so many ways, August 25 is now known as Brownie Mary Day to honor a wonderful woman who helped push California to be the first state to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Without Mary’s efforts, cannabis may not have ever been accepted as a medical treatment and would have faced an tougher fight when it came to legalization. So much of the progress made on medical cannabis is thanks to Mary’s incredible work and tireless ethic.
Jack Herer (June 13, 1939 to April 15, 2010)
Jack Herer is not just a fire Sativa strain. The beloved Sativa is named after an even more beloved member of the cannabis community by the same name. The third pick for our Mount Rushmore, Jack Herer, was not born to be a cannabis activist. Far from it in fact. Herer was a military police officer during the Korean War. When he returned home, he identified as a conservative Republican, even naming his son after a famous anti-drug Republican politician. Herer even went as far as to threaten to leave his first wife once he found out that she had smoked cannabis. Dude was…not chill. Serious buzzkill in fact.
This all came to a change when Herer moved to Los Angeles. During his time there Herer was convinced by a friend to try cannabis. It is safe to say, the day Jack Herer tried cannabis was the first day of the rest of his new life. Herer dedicated himself to spreading the word of cannabis’ benefits and all the uses for hemp. Herer was not just upset that cannabis was not being legalized, he was upset that it was ever criminalized in the first place. He believed there was an effort by the American government to move away from hemp as a production material, despite its efficacy, and instead begin criminalizing it despite knowing better.
During a period of time spent in prison, Herer began writing ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes’. The book was Herer’s calling card, something he was incredibly proud of throughout his life. In it, he talked about cannabis and its many uses, how it was demonized, and why it should be legalized, rescheduled, and decriminalized. To this day, his book still serves as a good resource in the cannabis industry.
Nicknamed as the Hemperor or Emperor of Hemp, Jack Herer educated people about hemp and cannabis. He also talked about how hemp can help save the environment from the Greenhouse Effect and the effects of pollution.
Jack Herer died in 2010, however, he fought to the very end as a fierce advocate for legalization. It is interesting to note that Herer died on April 15th 2010, tax day in the US, despite having not paid taxes in over 30 years. An irony that would not have been missed by Herer and something he probably would have enjoyed. No Cannabis Mount Rushmore would be complete without Jack Herer.
Nevil Schoenmakers (February 2, 1956 to March 30, 2019)
Today we are fortunate enough to have literally hundreds of strains to choose from. We can follow the genetics of our favourite strains and find similar ones that work even better for us. This was not always the case. For a long time, you got what you got. The idea of growing specific sought after strains was a pipe dream for many.
Enter Nevil Schoenmakers. Nicknamed as the King of Cannabis, Schoenmakers was born in Perth, Western Australia before moving to the Netherlands in the mid-1970s. In the Netherlands where cannabis is legal (kind of), he grew and cultivated flower for his own personal use. However, he found that some strains like the African, Thai, as well as Colombian strains, couldn’t thrive well in the region’s colder climate, despite growing them indoors under controlled artificial lighting.
He knew that in order to keep these exotic strains alive, he would need the strongest genetics available. He began traveling around the world to collect high-quality seeds from Pakistan, the United States, and even Russia. He also created a seed bank for the distribution of premium cannabis seeds. A champion bird breeder, he also began crossbreeding the different strains to create new ones.
By the mid-1980s, he began selling cannabis seeds worldwide, sending them through the mail. In 1991, he sold his seed bank, then called The Seed Bank of Holland, to Ben Dronkers of Sensi Seeds. He went on to create Greenhouse Seeds, which we discussed in our blog on The Evolution of Indica and Sativa. Schoenmakers’ accomplishments did not come without sacrifice. The target of a DEA operation, Schoenamker was on the FBI’s most-wanted list for some time. It was not until the Netherlands refused to extradite him did they drop the case.
Nevil Schoenmakers’ concept of a seed bank has contributed a lot to the cannabis industry. Because of his dedication to finding and spreading strains throughout the world, there is incredible genetic diversity in cannabis. His talents in genetics have also given us some of the most prized, sought-after, and award-winning strains like Super Silver Haze, Northern Lights Haze, as well as Nevil’s Haze.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Mount Rushmore
These are our Cannabis Mount Rushmore. They each have left their own personal marks on cannabis history and helped shaped our present community. They educated and inspired us, and they brought us together. Long after their deaths, their contributions to the cannabis world will never be forgotten.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
~ Bob Marley