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Remembering John Sinclair

Photo of Sinclair by Wayne Dabney

NORML Is saddened to report the passing of longtime marijuana and countercultural activist John Sinclair. He was 82 years old.

Sinclair was a lifelong poet, musician, and marijuana law reform advocate. In 1969, he received a ten-year prison sentence in the state of Michigan for providing two cannabis cigarettes to undercover law enforcement. His severe sentence led to one of the first ever national protests against marijuana prohibition: the “Free John Sinclair“ rally (featuring John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, and others) held on December 10, 1971 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Shortly following the event, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered Sinclair’s release on bond, which had been previously denied by the lower courts; and on March 9, 1972 the court overturned his conviction.

Following his release, NORML Founder Keith Stroup and Sinclair began speaking together at college campuses and other forums on the need to end cannabis criminalization. Sinclair was also an invited speaker at NORML’s first ever national conference, held in 1972. Stroup and Sinclair maintained close ties for the better part of the following four decades — sharing the stage together one final time in 2019 at that year’s Ann Arbor Hash Bash.

“I count him among the early heroes and martyrs of the marijuana legalization movement,” Stroup said. “May he rest in radical peace.”

Appropriately, John Sinclair was the first person to purchase recreational marijuana when it became legal in Michigan on December 1, 2019. “To me, this is all for other people,” Sinclair told reporters at the time. “I’ve been able to get weed every day since 1962. But I’m glad for the average person, that they don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

NORML offers its condolences to the friends and family of John Sinclair.

This article was reprinted via NORML.