From the Archives: Michael R. Aldrich (1998)

in Culture

By Gregory Daurer

Michael R. Aldrich has planted the seeds of many great ideas. A longtime teacher and historian to America’s cannabis movement Aldrich presented the first conference dedicated to legalizing marijuana. He was instrumental in organizing 1972’s California Marijuana Initiative and 1996’s Proposition 215. Aldrich gave Jack Herer a packet of hemp rolling papers in the early ’70s and explained hemp’s industrial uses to him. A decade later, he edited an early edition of Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes. He resides in San Francisco with his wife, Michelle.

HT: What led you from Rapid City, South Dakota to studying philosophy at Princeton in the early 1960s?

Michael Aldrich: A full scholarship. I was a debater in high school. In the Midwest, debate is sort of the national sport for boys with glasses. A special breed, you understand. I had traveled a lot during high school to debate tournaments and extemporaneous speaking and oratory events. I still have my “I Speak for Democracy” award. And I’m still speaking for democracy, damn it! It’s just the rest of the country, the government, that’s gotten too far behind on democracy. “Freedom Is the Issue,” that was our motto for the ’72 marijuana initiative in California.

What do you recall about your first marijuana experience?

I started smoking in 1963, because of a lovely woman named Betty who was going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who I remember as sort of a Beat chick. She wore all black and danced like a snake, and I dearly loved her. She handed me my first joint in Harvard Yard on the evening of August 6. It changed my entire life. I was at Harvard summer school taking a graduate-school class in English and studying poetry with Desmond O’Grady.

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Author: High Times / High Times

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