After decades of countless silk robes, controversy, and millions of fans who ardently swore they read his magazine only “for the articles,” Playboy’s founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief, Hugh Hefner passed away in the Southern California home that has been known as “The Mansion” late Tuesday. He was 91 years old.
Hef will be remembered largely for his role in bringing sexuality to America’s mainstream, and the battles he fought in the name of freedom of the press, but here at MERRY JANE we’d like to take a minute to salute Hefner for a oft overlooked aspect of the magazine magnate’s life; his longtime cannabis advocacy, and support in the fight for legalization.
Starting in the 1970’s, the Playboy Foundation, under Hefner’s direction, awarded a $5,000 grant to Keith Stroup and his burgeoning cannabis advocacy group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). In a video from 2011, NORML founder Keith Stroup tells the story of almost leaving the world of cannabis activism for a more mainstream job before Playboy’s $5,000 donation inspired him to keep up the good fight.
In 1980, Hefner spoke about his own marijuana use with author Patrick Anderson for his book High in America: The True Story Behind NORML and the Politics of Marijuana, telling the world that “Smoking helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses.” He also added, “I discovered a whole other dimension to sex.”
As the millennium turned and cannabis gained more mainstream traction, Hefner did not waiver in his support for further marijuana law reform, using a 2010 Fox News interview to restate his support for nationwide legalization.
“I don’t think there’s any question that marijuana should be legalized because to not legalize it, we’re paying the same price we paid for prohibition,” Hefner said. “In other words, it is a medical concern and it should be handled that way.”
In a final act of playboy celebrity, Hefner will be laid to rest in Los Angeles, in a mausoleum drawer directly adjacent to Marilyn Monroe.