05/16/2013 01:05 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

Remembering the Godfather of the Hemp Revolution: Jack Herer

As we enjoy the incredible momentum within the cannabis law reform movement, it's important to remember one of the founders of the movement. It's hard to imagine being where we are today without the life and work of Jack Herer.

A longtime activist and champion of hemp, Jack wrote The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which was published in 1985 and has sold over 600,000 copies to date. The book chronicles that many uses of hemp and the story of why it was outlawed in the first place, along with its cannabis cousin, marihuana. It even provides a history of hemp and its long-standing place in society, especially in the first 150 years of the U.S. being a country.

"If you substitute marijuana for tobacco and alcohol, you'll add eight to 24 years to your life." -- Jack Herer

Hemp has so many uses, Jack wrote a whole book about them, so for us to try and fit that into an article would be futile. So here is one excerpt from Jack's book, focusing on how hemp can save our forests.

"In 1916, USDA Bulletin No. 404 reported that one acre of cannabis hemp," Jack wrote, "in annual rotation over a 20-year period, would produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres of trees being cut down over the same 20-year period. This process would use only 1/7 to 1/4 as much polluting sulfur-based acid chemicals to break down the glue-like lignin that binds the fibers of the pulp, or even none at all using soda ash. All this lignin must be broken down to make pulp. Hemp pulp is only 4-10 percent lignin, while trees are 18-30 percent lignin. The problem of dioxin contamination of rivers is avoided in the hemp papermaking process, which does not need to use chlorine bleach (as the wood pulp papermaking process requires), but instead substitutes safer hydrogen peroxide in the bleaching process.

"Thus, hemp provides four times as much pulp with at least four to seven times less pollution."

But instead of American farmers growing hemp -- a crop grown by several U.S. Presidents -- companies in this country have been forced to import hemp from other countries for decades.

"The only dead bodies from marijuana are in the prisons and at the hands of the police. This is ridiculous." -- Jack Herer

The 420 Times spoke with Jack's widow, Jeannie, who met him in 1994. She said Jack would talk about hemp everywhere he went, and she still hears from many whose lives Jack touched. "People contact me all the time to tell me how much he meant to them," she said. "I always love to hear it."

And if Jack were alive today, what would he think of the cannabis law reform movement? "If he were alive today," Jeannie told us, "I'm sure he'd be happy about Washington and Colorado, but not the DUI part. He'd be trying really hard to get his own initiative on the ballot. It was super important to him that we get all the people out of jail/prison who are in there for non-violent pot offenses."

"Growing hemp as nature designed it is vital to our urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases and ensure the survival of our planet." -- Jack Herer

Every movement has icons that continue to be leading figures long after they pass; for the hemp movement, that icon is undoubtedly Jack Herer, as he is for the cannabis law reform movement as a whole. The successes these movements are enjoying would not be possible without Jack.

So thank you Jack, from all of us who continue to try and make your vision come true. The final goal is in sight.

Freedom is coming.