My Time with Jack Herer, the “Emperor of Hemp”
By Andrew DeAngelo
Industrial hemp was forgotten for decades until Jack Herer wrote his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, in 1985. The story of that book being researched and written could fill many volumes. I only got to be with Jack on a small part of that journey when he did volume 2, and it went something like this:
I graduated college in 1989, in the Los Angeles area, and I needed some weed to sell. Or I had some weed and needed to sell it, one of those two. My older brother, Steve, was a friend of Jack’s and knew he lived nearby. He hooked me up with the “Hemperor,” so I could carry on spreading the seed that would save the planet, a popular phrase of Jack’s in the book. It was how I made a living.
I remember meeting him for the first time in a parking lot in the Valley. It was a hot, smoggy day that you could cut with a knife. I showed him the weed sample, or he showed it to me, and the discussions of a deal began to unfold. After the terms of the deal and the logistics of the transaction were settled, Jack was hungry and wanted to get a hot dog from a nearby stand.
He ordered two dogs with everything and two more for me before I could let him know I didn’t eat meat. When Jack made a decision and began to voice it, there was no turning the man back, and it was virtually impossible to say no to him. I was only 21 at the time, Jack was already a legend, and I needed to sell or buy some weed from him.
I ate the hot dog.
Before I could finish two bites, he had finished both of his in the most exuberant eating habit I had ever witnessed before or since. Jack didn’t eat his food; he devoured it ravenously. And he talked the entire time he did so. He would spit out rather large pieces of food and get them all over his beard as he talked, or more accurately, preached. Then, without any warning at all, he grabbed one of my hot dogs, engulfed it and continued talking. He did not ask or even gesture if it was okay to eat my hot dog. Before I could protest, the hot dog was gone, and he was making a move for what was left of the one I was eating. Somehow, I fought him off and got the rest of it down my gullet.
It was at this moment that I knew I was in the presence of a man possessed of divine madness. Jack was stone cold crazy and I damn near freaked out and ran away. The truth was, I was pretty crazy myself and that was what it took to stand by the cannabis plant in 1989, the way Jack and I did. You had to be a little crazy to take those risks and carry that message. There were plenty other ways to make a living, that’s for sure.
That summer I worked on editing his book and creating the bibliography with him. Jack would insist on large doses of cannabis or other visionary plants as we worked. At the start, I tried to explain to him that this was fairly organizational work and it might be best not to consume those offerings, but that was quickly and ferociously rebuked, and we carried on high as kites.
It took an enormously long time to finish the edit and bibliography but we eventually did.
Andrew DeAngelo, like his brother Steve, has been a longtime cannabis and hemp advocate. He is Cofounder of California’s Harborside Health Center, and also served as VP of Ecolution, a hemp clothing company. As a former college professor, he taught theater and film at Chapman University. Andrew and his brother Steve were featured on the Discovery Channel reality TV series, Weed Wars.