Riding back from Olympia to Seattle after advocating for homegrows in Washington State, my friend and brother in arms Don Skakie pondered “I wonder who the first marijuana activist was?”
I quipped “Probably the first guy to get arrested for pot,” and I wasn’t too far off. When I said those words, I had in mind, Samuel R. Caldwell, the first person to be arrested for cannabis due to the marijuana tax law. But I think he was too busy being imprisoned as a farmer and then dying after his release to be the first activist, which I learned from reading Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Marijuana, by Emily Dufton.
There was a first cannabis activist though, and his name is Lowell Eggemeier, who politely lit up a joint and asked to be arrested in front of police officers because he was starting a campaign to legalize marijuana smoking, but instead, he began a movement.
As Americans we are taught to believe in due process and that there’s justice for all based on common sense. That our purpose is for the greater good, but after almost a year in prison, Lowell Eggemeier learned that its a slow and painful process and never tried again, just like so many after them who thought due process and that American justice had to take place.
We learn from history, from the battles won and the reasons why wars began. We learn and try to avoid the mistakes of the past. Even though I didn’t read the book (at the time), I attended a conversation with Emily Dufton on her book Grassroots. Her presentation added value to my day, so I went out and bought the book as soon as I could.
Grassroots is an excellent reference book for talking points on legalization, as Emily highlights various arguments from those in the past who knew early on that the prohibition of cannabis was going to be harmful to the people, making it bad for the country. This book is one of the most well-researched books on the history of the legalization of cannabis in America and the people who have tried, by being on the right side of history when it comes to marijuana along with explaining the origins of the counterpoint.
If you’re looking for a go-to book on legalization, I highly recommend this for a read.