John Sinclair, “Michigan’s hippie king,” walked out of Jackson’s State Prison of Southern Michigan on Dec. 13, 1971 after serving two-and-a-half years of what might have been a 10-year prison sentence for marijuana possession.
Surrounded by a cheering crowd, a television reporter quizzed Sinclair as he embraced family and friends outside of the prison gate.
“After all of the trouble you’ve gone through Mr. Sinclair, how do you feel about marijuana? Do you still feel…”
“I wanna smoke some joints, man!” Sinclair interrupted.
Standing well over 6 feet tall with a mane of curly dark hair, Sinclair was a minor celebrity in Michigan’s counterculture: the manager for the Detroit rock band MC5 and the gregarious chairman of the White Panther Party, a revolutionary organization named in solidarity with the Black Panther Party.
He proclaimed that marijuana was safe, the government was oppressive and young people were going to take over the country.
The press characterized him as “colorful and quotable.” Police labeled him a threat to public safety.
The Michigan Supreme Court found him convincing.
The court fight that followed Sinclair’s arrest for marijuana possession in 1967 — and the “Free John Now!” publicity campaign launched by artist and activist Leni Sinclair, who was John’s wife at the time — briefly overturned Michigan’s marijuana laws and gave hope to Michigan’s more optimistic marijuana enthusiasts that legalization was within reach.
Story by – Ryan A. Huey, for the Lansing State Journal
Published 7:30 a.m. ET Feb. 8, 2018