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You Don't Know Jack Herer

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The following article was originally published in August 2007. Jack Herer passed away on April 15, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon at the age of 70. His pivotal book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, has sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide.

You Don't Know Jack Herer

Many people, when they think Jack Herer, aptly think hemp—both the kind you smoke and the type you wear. His pinnacle book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes launched the Buffalo-raised Californian to fame both within and outside of the marijuana movement. The 2005 documentary Emperor of Hemp has brought Herer’s message to an even wider and more mainstream audience.

Jack Herer in San Francisco in 2007.
Jack Herer in San Francisco in 2007.

Although Herer has worked tirelessly more than half his life to bring awareness to his belief that hemp can save the planet, there’s more to this 68-year-old cannabis crusader than meets the eye. More active than many in their 30s, Herer continues to throw his weight behind several West Coast projects—all related to cannabis and hemp, of course.

"The thing that can save the Earth if it's savable—will be 100% legalization of everything hemp." — Jack Herer, 2007

But do you really know Jack? For some, Herer is "some guy they named a type of pot after." More seasoned fans of the culture cite his book (now in its 11th edition). But most people don’t know the story behind the strain (yes, it was officially blessed by the Hemperor) or the story of the sexy pocketable wooden pipe that produces dozens of cool hits from a single bowl. If you’d like to exclude yourself from the ignorant, read on.

Jack Herer's Double Barrel Pipe

In 1998, when Herer was visiting Jacksonville, Florida, he met a marijuana activist who showed him a unique pipe made from aluminum. "Each hit was the perfect hit. But there was a problem; it got hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter," Herer told me in an interview from Lake County in Northern California in 2006. Herer and one of his sons have sold more than 30,000 units in the past nine years. The unique paraphernalia is marketed as a "double barrel, double venturi, ricocheting vortex" effect pipe.

Designed for Cool Hits

It just so happened that, at the time he discovered the aluminum pipe in Jacksonville, Herer owned a small company that manufactured pipes. He and his employees experimented with a variety of designs, all driven by the central goal of avoiding the heat buildup of the aluminum model.

After six months of obsessive experimentation—involving more than 700 test units—Herer and his compatriots finally held in their hands a pocketable wooden pipe capable of delivering the Holy Grail of toking: Cool hits—every hit. The air dynamics of this "double-barrel" (double-hole) smoking implement deliver air that’s 1/3 the temperature of a standard, one-hole pipe.

The Jack Herer Pipe.
The Jack Herer Pipe.

All this in a pipe that never requires cleaning (the design inherently retards resin buildup) and consumes only 1-1.5 percent of a gram of herb per hit (each bowl delivers 30-40 hits). Herer explained how conventional, single-hole pipes burn 15-30 percent of a gram in only one or two hits. "We got it cooler than a water bong. And it never gets dirty! After nine years, they’re still not dirty," Herer told me.

Another fact that, on the surface, seems too good to be true: Not only does the pipe deliver up to a few dozen hits off a single—albeit elaborately packed—bowl, but each hit is fresh. In other words, the pipe’s air flow dynamics mean you’re never smoking ash. "Each hit is the first hit. 90 percent of each hit is green," said Herer. Perfect for parties and group settings where you don’t want to be rude to your guests.

"Each hit is the first hit. 90 percent of each hit is green," said Herer.

Slow Packing Only Dry Pot

With all of the amazing qualities of stretching your herb supply and requiring no cleaning for literally a decade, all in a pocketable form factor that delivers hits cooler than a water bong. What’s the catch? Not price ($60 US). "You have to use dry, cured pot. Which is what you should smoke anyway," Herer said.

These unique pipes must also be carefully and diligently packed, layer after layer, using a regimented technique involving a special wooden packing tool. Be warned: This pipe isn't a quick toke before the concert when you’re running late. Impatient potheads won’t be thrilled with the time required to pack the bowl, an exercise somewhat symbolic of Herer's personal spirituality toward the herb.

How To Use a Jack Herer Pipe

To enjoy the benefits of one of Herer's greatest non-literary contributions to the culture, one must properly pack the bowl. As Herer told me, "You don't know Jack if you don't know how to pack the pipe."

  1. Collect 1/3 to 1/2 of a gram of dry cannabis.

  2. Crush/grind the herb and separate it into six equal piles. These will be used to pack the bowl, layer-by-layer.

  3. Place the first of the piles into the bowl. Smash it down with your finger to create an even layer across the screen.

  4. Using the narrow end of the wooden packing tool, apply pressure to the edges of the bowl. Herer recommends considering the bowl as the face of a clock and compressing it at eight different spots (corresponding to a cycle of 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 followed by a round of 1:30, 4:20, 7:30, and 10:30).

  5. Repeat this process until the bowl is full.

  6. When lighting the pipe, hit only a corner; don’t torch the entire bowl. The self-carbureting action of the pipe means it typically stays lit long enough to casually pass down the line without everyone scrambling for a Bic.

The Jack Herer Strain

If you're lucky, you've had a sample of some well-grown and properly dried and cured Jack Herer, a strain bred and introduced by Sensi Seeds in Amsterdam. In 1994, Ben Dronkers, owner of Sensi Seeds, approached Herer about lending his name to a new choice strain from the company. "It was Northern Lights #5 x Haze and two or three other strains, bred together. [Ben] said, 'Don't tell anybody,' so I said okay," Herer told me.

A sample of the pot strain Jack Herer.
A sample of the pot strain Jack Herer.

"We talked about royalties, and I said, 'Oh, that's okay, when I come to Amsterdam, take care of me.'" Dronkers asked Herer if he was sure he didn't want royalties instead, but Herer refused, not thinking much of it.

To the detriment of Herer's wallet but the solidity of his legacy, the Jack Herer strain has been one of Sensi Seeds' best sellers, generating more than $10 million in revenues. In the thirteen years since its introduction, it always fetched a price deserving of its energetic sativa-dom high type, smooth onset, and solid potency. "If I had taken a royalty instead of the red carpet when I'm in Amsterdam, I'd be about a millionaire now," Herer said with a mildly self-deprecating laugh.

"If I had taken a royalty instead of the red carpet when I'm in Amsterdam, I'd be about a millionaire now," Herer said with a mildly self-deprecating laugh.

The Curmudgeonly Cannabis Crusader Continues

For millions of people around the world, when they think Jack Herer, they think hemp. More important—and due in large part to the popularity of his groundbreaking book—millions of people who may never know who Herer is will still get his message.

Herer told me that there is one thing, above all others, that he most wishes readers would remember. It isn't his unique and economical pipe. It's not that one of the world's greatest strains of sativa bears his name.

Rather, Herer wishes that hemp can prevent the destruction of the rain forest and completely replace petroleum as society’s fuel of choice.

The Jack Herer Pipe.
The Jack Herer Pipe.

"I'm going to get pot legal all over the globe," Herer told me with conviction. "The thing that can save the Earth—if it’s savable—will be 100% legalization of everything hemp," he emphasized, adding, "Who has died from it?! Only those who were shot by cops!"

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