For many years, Hugh Hefner symbolized a certain lifestyle embraced by many in the 1960s and 1970s who were rebelling – quietly and otherwise – against what they saw as a repressive “establishment” culture. In that regard, Hefner, who died last month at the age of 91, had no equals.
Hugh Hefner Supported Marijuana Legalization
He’s best known, of course, as founder of Playboy magazine and the empire he created around it. That included film, television, books and many “life style” products. But another area where Hefner was far ahead of the establishment and most everyone else was legalized marijuana.
In an interview for the book “High on America,” Hefner said, “Smoking helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses. I discovered a whole other dimension to sex.”
But his support went far beyond his own personal enjoyment.
After his death, marijuana legalization advocates remembered his early and steadfast support for the cause.
When the National Organization For Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was formed in 1971, Hefner gave the fledgling organization a $5,000 grant. NORML founder Keith Stroup wrote about Hefner after the Playboy founder’s death.
Stroup said Hefner went far beyond that initial grant, becoming “our primary funder all during the 1970s.”
Hefner also published articles in Playboy magazine about marijuana laws and the incarceration of those who possessed marijuana. In short, he was an early opponent to the War on Drugs, particularly where marijuana was concerned.
In addition to money and editorial support, Hefner also provided marijuana advocates the media playbook for changing pop culture. Playboy moved sexual topics into the mainstream. High Times magazine, which started in New York City and recently moved to Los Angeles, used Playboy as a template to bring issues surrounding marijuana into the mainstream.
Why The Support?
The above quote shows that Hefner, such like scientist Carl Sagan, found a connection between marijuana and sexual experience. But his support for legalization went far beyond that.
In addition to the money and support within Playboy, Hefner also publicly spoke out against drug laws. Things got especially bad in the 1970s, when his then-secretary committed suicide after being given a 15-year sentence on drug charges. The New York Times provided details on the incident in 1975, including Hefner’s comparison of federal drug agents to the people who ran witchcraft trials in the Middle Ages.
Hefner told The Independent in an interview in 2009 that marijuana laws are not based on “rational justification.”
“These laws are truly hurtful to society. Prohibition gave us organized crime. Our laws in terms of drugs not only put all kinds of people who have drug problems in prison, but in the process completely corrupt entire countries,” Hefner said.
Although he had less influence in his later years, interviews such as that reflected the views of many in the 21st century. As Stroup wrote, Hefner was a “fearless cultural crusader.” Whatever people’s opinion of Hefner – and there’s plenty to criticize – there’s no debating that point.