Marijuana VIP: Hugh Hefner

Marijuana VIP: Hugh Hefner
Max Sargent

Get to know a little bit more about the late Hugh Hefner, and his contributions to both the cannabis industry and society.

Hugh Hefner may be well known as the founding father of the Playboy enterprise, but his contributions to society, particularly in the legalization of cannabis use, will be also remembered by many.

When someone mentions the name Hugh Hefner, one would immediately think of the Playboy Empire or the iconic bunny logo. Since Playboy’s founding in the 1950’s, Hefner helped open the American public’s eyes to sexual liberation, albeit being a highly controversial subject matter, back in the day.

Eventually, he became an icon through the succeeding decades and gained recognition throughout the world.

Hefner was also a known activist and philanthropist, mainly protecting the First Amendment rights for Americans. This is why his death has affected millions around the world, as the industry has lost a major figure on September 27th 2017. Hugh Hefner died a natural death at the ripe age of 91 years old.


As Hefner first launched Playboy magazine under the name “Stag Party” in 1953, he soon became a pioneer of the publishing industry. The first issue that came out in December of that same year featured the nude photos of bombshell Marilyn Monroe, taken from a 1949 calendar shoot that Marilyn did when she was out of work as an actress.

At the time, the American public was not as free-thinking, and such publications were not easily accepted. A decade after the first issue was published, Hefner was arrested for promoting obscene literature when the magazine put out the nude photographs of sex symbol Jayne Mansfield. Hefner went on trial in December 1963, where he himself took the witness stand.

While under oath, he argued that “each person should be his or her own judge of what is acceptable.” He also pointed out that Mansfield “posed to get publicity for a movie” and that she was not paid for the photographs that were printed.

In the end, the jury was in a deadlock, which resulted in the presiding judge to declare the case a mistrial.

As the decades passed, people eventually began to accept Hefner’s brand of entertainment, and the Playboy Enterprise began to flourish.


What is probably unbeknownst to many of his admirers is that Hugh Hefner was one of the key figures for the legalization of cannabis. Particularly, he was one of the main proponents in the establishment of NORML or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

When NORML was founded in 1970, Hefner, who made a $5,000 contribution from the Playboy Foundation, backed up its formation. As the organization grew and strengthened, Hef continued on with his role as one of the financiers, and it was reported that he went as far as donating $100,000 on an annual basis.

Hefner had been an advocate for the decriminalization and eventual legalization of cannabis since the 1970’s. This form of activism, however, put him in the crosshairs of law enforcement, who at the time, was under the belief that Playboy was just a “front” for a drug-dealing scheme.

Just like how sexual liberation was eventually embraced, America soon began being more accepting towards cannabis, in which Hefner also bore witness in his lifetime. When California eventually legalized recreational marijuana, Hefner simply stated that doing otherwise would make the people “pay the same price they did for alcohol prohibition.”


Just like the entertainment industry, cannabis aficionados and advocates were as devasted with Hugh Hefner’s passing. For NORML founder and legal counsel Keith Stroup, Hefner played a crucial role in cleaning up the demonized reputation of cannabis during the 1970’s and the “Reefer Madness” era.

Stroup also pointed out how Playboy essentially put its already heavily criticized reputation further on the line by advocating cannabis, which eventually resulted in the public being convinced that the negativity towards the use of the herb was plain propaganda.

In a recent article posted on NORML’s site, Stroup described Hefner as a “cultural crusader” who not only defended the right to sexual freedom but in “civil rights and the right to privacy, as well.”[1]

In the wake of his passing, Hefner was also honored by Todd McCormick, a medical marijuana patient who battled cancer as a child. He was also one of the first cultivators in the state of California who was raided by federal authorities, even after the medical marijuana law was passed in the state in 1996.

McCormick did serve his time in prison, but Hefner welcomed him in the Playboy Mansion with open arms afterwards. The two got to know each other better, and with Hefner’s passing, McCormick paid tribute to Hefner, noting the importance of “treasuring every moment” and “appreciating everyone around you.”


From a superficial standpoint, Hugh Hefner would probably be known simply as the man who owned the Playboy Mansion and had every month’s “Playmate” at his disposal. But in reality, he was a man who made major contributions to society as we know it today.

For what it’s worth, the world did lose a key figure in Hugh Hefner’s passing, and it can be assured that he will forever be remembered.

Hef, you will be missed...


  1. ^ NORML, On The Passing of Hugh Hefner, retrieved November-12-2018

Max Sargent
Max Sargent

Max has been writing about cannabis and psychedelics for several years now. With a strong belief that an open, honest attitude toward drugs and drug policy can improve the lives of many, he seeks to offer insightful and developed opinions on the subject.