There are a lot of strains named after important figures in the modern history of cannabis – Rene, Ringo’s Gift, and of course Jack Herer. But one name always stood out to me – who the heck is Dr. Grinspoon?
Turns out, the answer is a lot more interesting than a B-list Griswalds rip-off! Dr. Lester Grinspoon is Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and, among other pioneering work, was the first American physician to prescribe lithium for mania associated with bipolar disorder. But it’s not his just his work in psychiatry that brought his name to the fore; Dr. Grinspoon has also been a steadfast and passionate cannabis activist who helped legitimize its use as a safe herbal medicine.
As a psychiatrist in the 1960s, Grinspoon was leery of the plant and sought at first only to discourage its use. He “had no doubt that it was a very harmful drug that was being used by people who would not listen to or could not believe the warnings about its dangers.” When Dr. Grinspoon’s friend – noted cosmetologist extraordinaire Carl Sagan – offered him a joint, Grinspoon’s reply was always an emphatic “no.”
However, his research in the intervening years didn’t align with that assertion. As he reviewed the existing literature on the subject, Dr. Grinspoon reached the conclusion that he and the general public had been misinformed.
Soon after this, his 16-year-old son Danny was diagnosed with leukemia. Dr. Grinspoon was horrified to witness the harsh effects of chemotherapy, and his wife Betsy suggested they try cannabis. Although Dr. Grinspoon initially refused, Betsy went to her son’s school and had one of her son’s friends procure her a few joints, which she and Danny smoked together. When Dr. Grinspoon walked into the treatment room later, he was surprised to find Danny and Betsy laughing! Since that day, Dr. Grinspoon has been a tireless advocate, publishing a number of works on cannabis and other psychedelics.
At 86, Lester Grinspoon is still unapologetically consuming and advocating for cannabis, even putting out publications to help shed light on cannabis – “Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine,” and “Uses of Marijuana.” And, of course, you can find his name attached to to the creative and introspective sativa strain known as “Dr. Grinspoon!”