Hugh Hefner was one of the original cannabis and civil rights activists in 1971 when he helped provide the initial funding of NORML.
Although Hef has been a controversial figure in American culture, he helped to define an iconic Playboy brand and believed in the rights to sexual freedom, civil rights, privacy and the right to express yourself. Hugh Hefner will be remembered by all of us in some capacity, but the marijuana community can thank him by lighting one up and thanking him for helping to fund NORML.
Hugh Hefner, or “Hef” as he preferred to be called, played a crucial role in the early days of NORML. At a time when most Americans were accepting the government’s “reefer madness” propaganda, Hef, through the Playboy Foundation, provided NORML with our initial funding in early 1971, and became our primary funder all during the 1970s. And by focusing attention in Playboy magazine on some of the most egregious victims of the war against marijuana smokers, he helped us convince millions of Americans that marijuana prohibition was a misguided and destructive public policy.
Hefner was a fearless cultural crusader who believed deeply not just in the right to sexual freedom, but also in civil rights and the right to privacy. May he rest in peace.
The magazine was founded more than 60 years ago and created a niche upscale men’s magazine, combining images of nude women with in-depth articles, interviews and fiction by writers and subjects including Norman Mailer, Alex Haley, Bertrand Russell and Jimmy Carter.
Hefner reportedly founded the magazine with $600 and $1,000 borrowed from his mother. The first centerfold, a feature of the monthly magazine, was of Marilyn Monroe late in 1953.
“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom,” Cooper Hefner, Playboy Enterprises’ chief creative officer, said in the statement.
“He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history,” the son added.
“Hefner took a progressive approach not only to sexuality and humor, but also to literature, politics and culture,” the statement said, calling the “Playboy Interview,” or an extensive discussion between a big-name person and an interviewer, a “standard setter.”
Hefner also led free-speech battles, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court after the Post Office refused to deliver his magazine, the statement noted.
Read more: How Hugh Hefner started with $600 and created the $110 million Playboy empire.