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Seeds of the Future

Greetings, In Shakespeare’s Henry IV (Part 2), he writes “There is a history in all men's lives, Figuring the nature of the times deceased, The which observed, a man may prophesy, With a near aim, of the main chance of things As yet not come to life, which in their seeds And weak beginnings lie intreasured.” While we admittedly slept thru a few English lectures during college, we see this passage as a reminder of the importance of history and, more specifically, how studying history can both help us make sense of the present and prepare us for the future. With this spirit in our hearts, we’d like to tell the story of Dr. Lester Grinspoon (great name), a Harvard psychiatry professor who passed away recently at the age of 92. Dr. Grinspoon is one of the “godfathers of cannabis legalization”, starting when he published his book Marihuana Reconsidered in 1969. But Dr. Grinspoon was not some pot-smoking hippie chilling on Harvard Yard; he was a hardcore academic who believed strongly in the medical dangers of cannabis. In an odd twist of fate, his cannabis journey started when his friend and fellow professor Carl Sagan (yes, that one) offered him cannabis, which he dutifully declined. This interaction piqued his curiosity, however, sending him on a scientific journey to better understand cannabis, and more specifically, whether the facts supported the consensus. After a thorough review, Dr. Grinspoon concluded the opposite; cannabis was a “safe intoxicant” (like alcohol) and should be regulated as such. But Dr. Grinspoon didn’t stop there. Rather prophetically, he wrote “the greatest potential for social harm lies in the scarring of so many young people and the reactive, institutional damages that are direct products of present marihuana laws. If we are to avoid having this harm reach the proportions of a real national disaster within the next decade, we must move to make the social use of marihuana legal.” So, not only did he challenge the medical establishment over the dangers of cannabis, but he also challenged the government over its legalization and enforcement policies. A pioneer, indeed. Dr. Grinspoon (who failed to get his high school degree) graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1955 and then worked for the United States Public Health Service prior to doing his residency at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center – where he remained for over 40 years. During that time, he also was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. After Marihuana Reconsidered was published, Dr. Grinspoon joined the fledgling National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) as a board director and scientific advisor. Fun fact: his pro-cannabis credentials also led him to testify on behalf of John Lennon during his deportation hearing related to a cannabis arrest (Lennon won the case). A strain named Dr. Grinspoon soon followed. It is quite easy to recognize Dr. Grinspoon’s impact on both the medical and policy reforms that were to come about approximately 40 years later. But just as importantly, we can be inspired by his courageous example to challenge conventional wisdom, even when it comes at a cost (Dr. Grinspoon was never made full professor at Harvard). And when those challenges to consensus do emerge (Shakespeare’s “seeds of the future”), we must remember to listen openly and thoughtfully, no matter where they come from. Who would have thought that a nerdy, psychiatry professor who did not use or believe in cannabis would become the godfather of its legalization? Thanks for tuning in, and until our next update, please stay safe and healthy. Cheers, Mike, Kip, and Austin Co-Managers, Presidio View Capital

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