Will you be the next Jack Herer or Ben Dronkers?

Jack Herer and Ben Dronkers in front of the cannabis store

Jack Herer and Ben Dronkers shared a strong friendship and an even stronger passion, namely educating people about the many uses of Cannabis Sativa L. In this article we will look at the parallels on the path both men travelled, and how, together, they moved the cannabis community as a whole forward.

Jack Herer and Ben Dronkers in front of the cannabis store

Looking back at our 30 year existence, we at Sensi Seeds recognise what made it all possible: the cannabis plant, and the impact it has on all those acquainted with it. Just think about it. Can you remember your first encounter with the plant? Do you remember the first time you got high? We bet that you even remember where it happened and with whom.

It had the same impact on Sensi Seeds founder Ben Dronkers, an impact that led him to fight for the interests of the plant. The same goes for one of his best friends, Jack Herer. In this article we will look at the parallels on the path both men travelled, and how, together, they moved the cannabis community as a whole forward.

Jack’s introduction to the plant

Jack Herer reached the most significant turning point in his life in 1969. Until that moment he had been a conservative right-wing American who was a proponent of the Vietnam War and who wanted nothing to do with cannabis and the related hippie culture. His love for a woman, who convinced him to smoke a joint anyway, helped change his mind. The first few times he smoked – presumably due to his resistance to cannabis and because he did not know what to expect – he felt nothing. His girlfriend did not give up however, and purchased the best of the best, which led to Jack’s first ever high. The connection he made with the plant never left him, and it only became stronger until his death.

Ben’s introduction to the plant

Ben Dronkers had his first cannabis experience a few years earlier. A friend of his had got his hands on a piece of hash and Ben smoked his first joint together with him. It was a fine experience, but not overwhelming. Ben certainly didn’t understand all the commotion about cannabis. However, the same thing happened to him as Jack, which is that he only really perceived the effects after the second or third time.

For Ben there was an extra element to his acquaintance with cannabis. He inherited a love for plants from his mother. The fact that the dried flowers and the resin of a plant have such a good effect on people fascinated Ben. It encouraged him to further explore cannabis.

Ben Dronkers in Afghanistan in the 1970s
Ben Dronkers in Afghanistan in the 1970s.

Jack becomes increasingly involved with the plant

After Jack had discovered cannabis, he was suddenly open to the arguments of those who opposed the war in Vietnam. Jack became increasingly progressive, and in 1973, along with a friend, began publishing comics about cannabis. These stories were a hit and readers assumed Jack Herer knew a lot about cannabis. When Jack realised he would have to disappoint them, he decided to really immerse himself in knowledge about the plant.

A whole new world opened up to him. Jack Herer discovered that mankind had been using hemp for thousands of years. The more knowledge Jack gained about the plant, the more important it became to him and the greater his aversion against the ban and all the propaganda used to maintain it.

Ben becomes increasingly involved with the plant

Ben also developed a broader awareness and experienced the spiritual qualities of the plant. His aversion to cannabis and hemp prohibition also grew, albeit from a different perspective. In the early 1970s, Ben frequently travelled to Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he became acquainted with hemp as a material. Farmers there also gave him cannabis and cannabis seeds and Ben quickly realised that cannabis and hemp, which are banned and reviled in every corner of the world, in fact have a lot of good to offer the world.

Ben began growing and crossing species to combine their properties and developing new varieties. A sincere and deep connection evolved with the cannabis plant: a love for its beauty, its character, its versatility and its strength. This love brought Ben to all corners of the world, to places and cultures where cannabis and hemp had been part of the medicinal, cultural and spiritual heritage for millennia.

Jack Herer is arrested

In January 1981, a few days before the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, Jack Herer was collecting pro-hemp signatures along with five others near a federal building in Los Angeles, California. When Ronald Reagan arrived at the building, he first thought that a group of Canadians were there protesting, mistaking the cannabis leaf for a maple leaf; the symbol of Canada. When he found out that they were cannabis activists with permission to protest there, Reagan did everything in his power to have them arrested anyway. It worked. The five fellow activists were fined five dollars per person, while Jack was held in prison for two weeks. This is where he came up with the plan that would have a profound impact on his life.

Ronald Regan’s quote and his portrait

Ben Dronkers is imprisoned multiple times

During the same period Ben Dronkers was busy growing marijuana and crossing species to create new hybrids. During that time it was mainly hashish that was smoked in the Netherlands. Cannabis was relatively unknown and was mostly imported from Thailand or Africa in compressed, brown blocks. So when Ben tried to introduce his cannabis in the first coffee shops it was far from an immediate success. “They even called it spinach,” Ben said in his interview for the Sensi Seeds blog.

Jack Herer writes “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”

In 1974, Jack had a vision. A firm belief took hold of him, and became his life’s work. Jack wanted to convince the world that hemp could save planet Earth. Biofuel from environmentally friendly hemp can replace the fossil fuel industry, paper can be made from hemp and prevent deforestation. In addition there are hundreds of different products for which hemp can be used as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional, polluting materials.

As Jack was arrested and imprisoned again following a peaceful struggle for the plant, the urge to spread what he had discovered only increased. But how do you reach more people? Precisely – by writing and publishing a book. Behind bars, the foundation was laid for what has become one of the most famous books ever written about cannabis, hemp and activism, namely, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. This bestseller was first published in 1985 –  also the year Sensi Seeds was officially founded.

Ben Dronkers discovers a loophole

It was also during one of his stays in a police cell that Ben Dronkers came up with an idea while reading through the texts of the Opium Act. He realised that it was legal to sell cannabis seeds. But how do you get cannabis seeds if you aren’t allowed to grow the plant? Ben presented this classic chicken-and-egg story to a top lawyer who eventually had to agree with him. This led to the crucial moment in which Ben obtained the legal permission to cultivate cannabis for the production of cannabis seeds. By subsequently announcing this to the police and relevant agricultural institutions, objections could no longer be made.

His now highly developed love for everything related to the cannabis plant, his entrepreneurial spirit, together with his sense of justice and rebellious character were now fully activated. It was time to accelerate his fight to restore the plant to its rightful place in society. Nothing could hold Ben back at that point, and in 1985 he founded Sensi Seeds and opened the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum.

The meeting of two pioneers

It is clear that there are parallels between Jack Herer and Ben Dronkers’ stories and a meeting between these two fighters was clearly inevitable. Jack and Ben met on several occasions but it was in 1990 that the moment finally came for them to know each other better when Ben invited Jack to his home. At the kitchen table, they talked for hours about their experiences, their shared love for cannabis, hemp and the importance of disseminating accurate information; Jack through “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” and Ben through his cannabis genetics and the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. This meeting was incidentally filmed and can partly be seen online in SensiBilisation on the Sensi Seeds blog.

The launch of the legendary cannabis strain Jack Herer

After this very special encounter, they knew one thing for sure: the cannabis plant had established a very strong friendship. Not long after their momentous meeting, Ben came up with the idea of paying tribute to his fellow crusader and to their friendship. And for Ben, there was but one ultimate way to do that, namely to breed a new, unique and impressive strain that would bear Jack Herer’s name.

After several years of breeding and stabilising, the Jack Herer® strain was launched in 1994 during a ceremony in The Cannabis Castle. This was done in the presence of the most important figures in the cannabis industry and, of course, of the man himself, who triumphantly enjoyed this moment.

Sensi Seeds is still indescribably proud of this honour and of the status that this strain has in the cannabis community worldwide 20 years later. Part of Jack Herer lives on in the form of this cannabis plant, a plant that brings people together, which creates friendships, inspires and helps people.

Jack Herer and Ben Dronkers during the release of Jack Herer strain
Jack Herer and Ben Dronkers during the release of Jack Herer the strain.

Everyone can be a cannabis pioneer!

The above story is a particularly special one and we cherish it as one of the most important events of our 30-year existence. But is it a unique story? And do you think these experiences are only for the few? We think not.

We believe that anyone can be a cannabis pioneer! The fight for the return of cannabis to its rightful place in society is not reserved for the few. It is a struggle that affects us all, and one in which we are all involved. A struggle that begins with a single moment. Do you remember your first encounter with the plant? Where you were? What you felt? Who you were with?

Can you feel the connection you have with the plant? Can you feel how special it can be for you? All you have to do is express this. Radiate it into the world, trust the connection that you feel, celebrate the connection, immerse yourself in the plant and frequently think back to all the wonderful moments you had together. That is exactly what Jack Herer did and what Ben Dronkers continues to do.

You too can walk this path, bring the plant further and become a pioneer. Are you in?


3 thoughts on “Will you be the next Jack Herer or Ben Dronkers?”

  1. georgia swan

    Fabulous read! Thank you for all your work! New York Laws need to change as well!

  2. Robin Muller

    I remember well. I am 57 yrs. old and DO NOT want to be forced to support Big Pharm for my physical needs ie pain, stress, sleep, energy etc. I already support them more than I want. I feel it’s time my generation “come out of the closet” on our position about cannabis. Laws in Texas need to change.

  3. Benjamin Jaekel

    I love Jack Herer and the strain named after him. The book speaks for itself. People like these two fine Gentlemen made me want to be a pro active advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana and the cessation of imprisoning people. Constitutionally it is not legal to prohibit this natural event. I studied statistics and the history and clearly it is a medium of racist agendas. I can’t believe I can use it now, never thought I’d see the day. We’ve only just begun. Thank you Mr. Herer and Mr. Dronker you are my heroes!

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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