Story by Ken Krayeske • 9:00 AM EST
Marihuana Reconsidered - Grinspoon's seminal book about pot, perhaps the foremost book on cannabis published in the 20th Century.
Simon and Sally Grinspoon's first son, Lester, was born June 24, 1928. The choleric Lester giggled once the doctor changed his formula. Lester laughed so much his family dubbed him Chuckles.
Lester and his brothers Martin, Kenny and Harold shared a small room in a house on Perry Avenue in Boston. The boys played football together, and learned about hard work and neighborly love from their parents.
When a neighbor called Simon a dirty Jew, he poured the anti-Semite a long concrete walk still used today. Another neighbor wished Hitler on the family. Simon enlisted Lester's help to build that neighbor a garage.
"My father was a real Gandhi," Lester says.
"My father was a humanist and a believer in justice," says Harold. "We were just kids when he died. Chuck [Lester] was 21. I was 19. My father was a hard working, very moral, honest type of guy. My mother was hard working. Lester picked up those habits."
Even in grade school, Lester tried to do right, Harold says. "He was well respected in schools," Harold says. "In junior high school, Lester was head of the student patrol that helped children cross the streets. He was friendly and warm. He was a tough act to follow."
Harold pulled it together, though. He runs Aspen Square Management, which owns and operates rental housing units in 22 states. Like a brother, Harold says Lester can be "a little biased" on some issues. Yet Harold applauds Lester's quest to understand marijuana. "I think it's great," he says.
The first draft of Marihuana Reconsidered questioned the widespread belief of marijuana's toxicity. The now-defunct Journal of Psychiatry published it whole. A shorter version in Scientific American generated considerable response.
As the magazines reached newsstands, the Harvard University Press asked Grinspoon to write a book on how cannabis evolved from a valuable medicine to a mythical Mephistophelean agent of personal destruction.
To the chemical descriptions of THC, and its psychological effects, Grinspoon added an exhaustive deconstruction of the marihuana bibliography, especially the French literature from "Le Club des Haschischins" of the 1840s.
The footnote-laden analysis, which became Marihuana Reconsidered in 1971, cracks the lens of the French hashish eaters and the subsequent century of prohibition.
Poets like Theophile Gautiere libeled ganja with lurid descriptions, hyperbolic hallucinations and hellish highs. They were "largely products of effusive imagination under the influence of copious amounts of hashish," Grinspoon claims. The "teachings" of Harry Anslinger, our first drug czar, echo the French writings.
In laboring through the utterly dense Reconsidered, Allen St. Pierre, the current executive director of the NORML Foundation, consulted many reference books for context.
"We go through cycles throughout humanity," St. Pierre postulates. "It looks like one of the things Grinspoon's pointing out is that intellectuals of the day skewed to a large degree the future understanding of marihuana. If we advance the clock 100 years, we are still in the same mess.
"I describe myself as Grinspoonian as to how I came to arrive at my particular views and opinions," St. Pierre testifies. "Lester is an out-of-the-box thinker."