Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a cannabis advocate, author, and Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, died on June 25. He was 92. Grinspoon authored 12 books during his lifetime, including Marihuana Reconsidered and Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine. He also maintained the website Marijuana-Uses.com, which featured stories of individuals who have had positive, non-medical experiences with cannabis.
Grinspoon began his career believing that cannabis was a dangerous drug, but his position was challenged by famed astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a close friend of Grinspoon and a Harvard astronomer.
Grinspoon and his wife Betsy lost their son, Danny, to cancer when he was a teenager and during his final year of treatment, the family saw how cannabis was effective at helping Danny cope with the side effects of chemotherapy. The experience led Grinspoon to author The Forbidden Medicine in 1993.
In 1990 he received the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship and Writing from the Drug Policy Foundation. In 1999, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) board of directors established the Lester Grinspoon Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Marijuana Law Reform, and Grinspoon was the first recipient. He was also a long-serving member of NORML’s Board of Directors, including many years as board chair, NORML said, and he served as a member of the NORML Advisory Board until his death.
NORML founder Keith Stroup told L.A. Weekly that Grinspoon “made it possible for us to have an informed public policy debate leading to the growing list of states legalizing the responsible use of marijuana.”
“While there have been other medical and public health experts who have taken an active role to advance full legalization of marijuana, it is Dr. Lester Grinspoon who first led the way to insist that our marijuana policies be based on legitimate science.” – Stroup to L.A. Weekly
Peter Grinspoon, his surviving son, said states legalizing cannabis was “gratifying” for his father but “would have been more gratifying if hundreds of thousands weren’t still getting arrested for minor marijuana crimes.”