Smoking Weed in the Face of Authority: A Brief History

Smoking Weed in the Face of Authority: A Brief History

At the time this article is being written, there are several stories in the news about a man named Spencer Boston.  Boston is 20-year-old man who is, at the time this is being written, facing a marijuana charge in Wilson County, Tennessee. A simple marijuana possession charge isn’t a “big thing” anymore, cannabis legalization has spread over most of the US. Unfortunately for Boston, not in Wilson County, Tennessee.

Spencer Boston's mugshot!  Seems like a happy guy!
Spencer Boston’s mugshot! Seems like a happy guy!

“The People Deserve Better”

That might be why he decided to take a simple possession charge and use it as a stage to promote legalization.  As Boston stood in front of the judge, he began expressing his views on why cannabis should be legalized.

And then… he reached into his jacket, slipped out a joint, pulled out a box of matches, and lit the joint right in front of the judge. Fortunately for Boston he got a few hits before they escorted him out of the courtroom.

As he was escorted out of the courtroom he turned around and declared, “The people deserve better!”

I must be honest. When I first heard the story, I debated on whether to write about Boston.  To be responsible proponents of cannabis legalization we need to sit down and analyze our actions. 

What was Boston doing?  Was he trying to be a proponent for progress or was this just a stunt to make headlines?

I don’t know Boston’s true intentions, and it is debatable that there are more responsible ways to spread your message.

However, extreme acts such as these have been major proponents for change. 

Truth is…. Smoking weed in the face of authority started the entire cannabis movement!

Now that we have visited the story of Spencer Boston, let’s look at the story of a man named Lowell Eggemeier. 

“I Wish to Be Arrested”: The Beginning of the Cannabis Movement

It’s not a long story.

There isn’t much info on Eggemeir.  He was known as a simple “peacenik” and a “hippie” at a time right before being a “hippie” was such a well-known nomenclature.  A quiet bearded man who enjoyed spending time with his dogs.  

On August 16th 1964, Eggemeier calmly walked into the downtown San Francisco Hall of Justice, lit up a joint, and politely asked to be arrested for smoking pot.

“I am starting a campaign to legalize marijuana smoking. I wish to be arrested.”

And that’s it for Eggemeier.  He spent a year behind bars.  Did he intend for the chain of events that would follow would spark the cannabis movement? 

It did!

Eggemeier’s hired James R. White as his attorney. While researching the case, White complied quite a bit of info on why cannabis should be legalized and became a strong proponent for its legalization.  White when on to find LEMAR (short for LEgalize MARijuana), which was the first organization in the US dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition. A famous poet named Allen Ginsberg was in attendance at the first LEMAR rally, and later founded NY LEMAR. Ginsberg’s writings and “Pot is Fun” protests, helped to inspire the opening of more LEMAR chapters and more legalization groups.

Allen Ginsberg, famous poet and cannabis activist, during one of NY LEMAR's "Pot is Fun" protests
Allen Ginsberg, famous poet and cannabis activist, during one of NY LEMAR’s “Pot is Fun” protests

The New NORML

Later, groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Amorphia would form.  These groups were all inspired by LEMAR and distributed the same info White compiled for the Eggemeier case.

Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), smoking a joint!
Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), smoking a joint!

Smoking weed in the face of authority can very well be a stunt!  However, a stunt like that can and has inspired whole movements for change. Hopefully, Boston’s situation can inspire change, or will it just be a stunt for headlines?

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