Digital Commonwealth

Lester Grinspoon Papers, 1962-2011

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives

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Lester Grinspoon, the Harvard psychiatrist who became a celebrated advocate for reforming marijuana laws, was born June 24, 1928, in Newton, Massachusetts. A veteran of the Merchant Marines and a graduate of Tufts University and Harvard Medical School, he trained at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute but later turned away from psychoanalysis. Senior psychiatrist for 40 years at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Grinspoon is associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In the mid-1960s, struck by the rising popularity of marijuana and its reputed dangers, Grinspoon began to examine the medical and scientific literature about marijuana usage. To his surprise, he found no evidence to support claims of marijuana’s harmful effects, and his resulting 1969 Scientific American article drew wide attention. His research ultimately convinced him of marijuana’s benefits, including enhanced creativity and medicinal uses. His own young son, undergoing chemotherapy for the leukemia that eventually took his life, found his severe nausea greatly eased by marijuana. By his 40s, Grinspoon had gained renown as an outspoken proponent of responsible adult use and legalization. The Lester Grinspoon Papers comprehensively document Grinspoon’s advocacy and activism, including his role as a board member of NORML; his research and writing of the books Marihuana Reconsidered and Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, numerous articles, two web sites, and more; his position as an expert witness in criminal trials; and his relationships with friends, colleagues, and many others, such as Carl Sagan, John Lennon, Keith Stroup, and Melanie Dreher. The collection comprises correspondence, research material, drafts and publications, clinical accounts, clippings, ephemera, scrapbooks, and audiovisual materials: photographs, as well as videotapes and DVDs of Grinspoon’s appearances on television and in documentary films.

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