Lester Grinspoon, MD–Tribute to a Revered Cannabis Advocate

Written by Caleb Summeril

The world of cannabis lost a legend last month with the passing of Lester Grinspoon, MD. Dr. Grinspoon was an early advocate of cannabis research and use long before widespread mainstream acceptance was commonplace. He was also a respected psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center for 40 years and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Early in his career, Dr. Grinspoon himself was leery of cannabis until personal experience and research led him in a different direction. This was in the late 1960s/early 1970s when cannabis was simultaneously wrapped up in the American counterculture movement, while also a very stigmatized drug in many parts of the country. Seeing a worthy topic for study and investigation, Dr. Grinspoon published his findings in the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered. This work was an objective and in-depth look at the research, and lack thereof, both on cannabis use and its criminalization.

Like all good activists, Dr. Grinspoon’s work ruffled feathers in his academic and political circles. Yet, he was always able to navigate both worlds and employed a scientific approach to his support of cannabis and push for its legalization. His advocacy to a then very controversial issue resulted in hurdles and challenges in his personal life, no doubt, but also afforded a credible supporter of cannabis that was surely needed.

A prolific writer and researcher over the course of his 92 years, Dr. Grinspoon authored several books and many scientific articles. He served on the advisory board for NORML and ran two websites, Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine and Uses of Marijuana, that highlighted anecdotal cannabis benefits, as well as answers to a variety of common questions related to the plant and its use.

Dr. Grinspoon lived a full life and was actively involved in his studies and work, both in psychiatry and cannabis, until his final days. He opened many doors and was a pioneer that consistently pushed for and eventually paved the way for the current legal status of cannabis in many parts of the world today. Cannabis consumers of all varieties can thank Dr. Grinspoon for his commitment, dedication, and scholarly approach in supporting and promoting further research into a plant that has come a long way, in no small part, due to his tremendous efforts in this regard.

Image Credit: NORML

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About the author

Caleb Summeril

Caleb Summeril writes creative copy, stories and songs from the mountains of Colorado. When not working on words, he can be found on global gallivants which fuel future endeavors. Learn more about his writing services at