The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Remembering a Pioneer: Exploring the Legacy of Dr. Lester Grinspoon

Dr. Lester Grinspoon

The Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries, are hosting an online event to honor Dr. Lester Grinspoon (June 24, 1928 - June 25, 2020) on Thursday, June 24, 2021, 7-8:30 p.m. EST. The event, a conversation among experts and activists mentored and inspired by Dr. Grinspoon, will focus on his life, activism, and work, including his groundbreaking research on cannabis use, psychedelics, and other drugs, in the 50th-anniversary year of his book Marihuana Reconsidered.

This free virtual event, on what would have been Dr. Grinspoon’s 93rd birthday, will formally launch a campaign to raise funds to process and digitize the Lester Grinspoon Papers, one of the major collections related to drug policy and social change held in Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.

It will feature an expert group of people who knew Grinspoon and drew inspiration from him:

Richard M. Evans, Esq. (moderator), a western Massachusetts lawyer since 1973, authored the first comprehensive cannabis regulation/taxation plan introduced as legislation in any state. In the 1990s, while serving on NORML’s board of directors, he was the moving force behind the organization’s Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use, now adopted worldwide. He was given NORML’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. His numerous op-eds and other writings helped shape and propel the counter-prohibitionist narrative. In 2016, Mr. Evans chaired the Massachusetts Yes on 4 initiative campaign committee and served on the drafting committee, which produced the first legalization law to include a social equity mandate.

Rick Doblin, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and has been researching uses of cannabis and psychedelics for 35 years. He received his doctorate in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he wrote his dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana and his master’s thesis on a survey of oncologists about smoked marijuana vs. the oral THC pill in nausea control for cancer patients. A certified holotropic breathwork practitioner who studied under Stanislav Grof, Dr. Doblin is interested in helping develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise healthy people. He founded MAPS in 1986, lives in Boston with his wife and dog, and has three grown children.

Peter Grinspoon, M.D., is a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, a certified health and wellness coach, and a member of the board of directors of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR). He spent two years as an associate director of the Massachusetts Physician Health Service helping physicians with addiction and mental health issues and is the author of the memoir Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction.

Staci Gruber, Ph.D., director of the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core at McLean Hospital’s Brain Imaging Center and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has studied the impact of recreational cannabis use on the brain for more than two decades. Her research focuses on the application of neurocognitive models and brain imaging to characterize risk factors for substance abuse and psychiatric conditions. Given inherent differences between recreational and medical cannabis users, in 2014 Dr. Gruber launched Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND), the first program of its kind designed to clarify the specific effects of medical cannabis use. MIND supports numerous projects, including clinical trials, designed to address the impact of medical cannabis on a number of important variables such as cognition, brain structure and function, clinical state, quality of life, pain, sleep, and other health-related measures.

Allen St. Pierre ’89, during his long tenure at NORML (1991-2015; executive director 2005-2015), established himself as one of America’s hardest working cannabis law reform activists, helping to turn public opinion from anti-pot to anti-pot prohibition. He has made thousands of media appearances; published significant pro-cannabis law reform public policy reports; organized national conferences, legal seminars, public protests and pro-reform festivals; met with elected officials; and testified before local, state and federal legislatures. His writings have appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including more than 200 columns for High Times, and—post-prohibition—in Cannabis Business Executive and Cannabis & Technology. After leaving NORML, Mr. St. Pierre has been a vice president of Las Vegas-based Freedom Leaf, a partner at Boston-based Sensible Alternative Investments, an advisor to cannabis-centric software company getAmbr, and curator of the WeedMaps Museum of Weed. Currently he serves as board chair for the California-based cannabis cultivation company Cypress. An alumnus of UMass Amherst, where he majored in legal studies, Mr. St. Pierre was instrumental in the development of SCUA’s drug policy archival collections. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife and two children.

Genester Wilson-King, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist with more than 20 years of clinical experience. In 2010, she founded Victory Rejuvenation Center (VRC), a private holistic and integrative wellness medicine practice that provides life-transforming management modalities and customized medicines to patients. She is vice president of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, a nonprofit that works to empower and educate healthcare providers on the use of cannabis medicine, author of two modules in the new SCC Cannabis Clinicians Training Curriculum, and co-director of the Training Curriculum. Dr. Wilson-King is on the board of directors of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR), the first and only national physicians’ association dedicated to the legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults. 

This event is a prelude to a larger event scheduled for June 24, 2022.