Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Carl Sagan’s Best Friend and Cannabis Community Giant, Passes Away at 92

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has been one of the most important voices in the cannabis community, helping speak truth to power, passed away this morning, the morning after celebrating his 92nd birthday. Grinspoon’s status as a Harvard professor and his friendship with renowned scientist Carl Sagan were instrumental in dispelling common cannabis myths and stereotypes.

Dr. Grinspoon’s 1971 book, Marihuana Reconsidered, about the real effects of cannabis and its place in society was a landmark publication for the movement to reform our nation’s unjust laws. Just two years later, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize personal use, kicking off a wave of decriminalization laws across the nation and laying the foundation of our fight for freedom and science that still continues to this day.

Lester Grinspoon’s son, Dr. Peter Grinspoon, who has followed in his father’s path in promoting science and truth, posted about his father’s passing on Twitter:

Vice Magazine profiled Grinspoon’s relationship with the late, great Carl Sagan, and cannabis, back in 2013:

Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s interest in marijuana dates back to 1967, the year he decided to research the subject sufficiently enough to convince his best friend—who just happened to be Carl Sagan—and a few other associates to stop smoking the stuff. While the internationally renowned astronomer never publicly acknowledged his use of cannabis, the bestselling author and host of “Cosmos” did partake frequently and enthusiastically in private, invariably encouraging his straight-laced companion Lester to join in.


Four years later, despite facing pressure at Harvard not to touch the subject, Grinspoon published Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) to document his findings. The bestselling book described, among other things, a decades-long government propaganda campaign undertaken to keep marijuana illegal at all costs.

In addition to an authoritative, scientific refutation of the many myths then commonly accepted about cannabis, the book included an essay from a man in his mid-30s identified only as Mr. X. Writing under a pseudonym, Carl Sagan explained that his support for ending marijuana prohibition was not just political, but also deeply personal:

I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate. Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrises and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness. Both of these senses of the absurd can be communicated, and some of the most rewarding highs I’ve had have been in sharing talk and perceptions and humor. Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.

Everyone working to end cannabis prohibition today stands upon the shoulders of giants who sacrificed so much before us. Dr. Lester Grinspoon is one of those giants. All of us enjoying more freedom today owe him a bit of gratitude. May the legendary giant rest in power.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful sentiment posted by his son. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

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