Oregon: Cannabis Legalization Legend, John Walsh, Passes Away

John Walsh, Oregon Capitol, July 6, 2012

Although his home was in Eugene, Oregon, John Walsh traveled the state collecting signatures and registering Oregonians to vote like Johnny Appleseed planted trees.

By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent

Today, January 3, the cannabis community lost a colorful and dedicated freedom fighter, John Walsh. Walsh collected signatures for the hemp and cannabis movement for the past thirty years and if asked, he could tell you exactly how many signatures he collected for each and every initiative and ballot measure that relates to hemp or cannabis throughout that period.

"It makes me terribly sad to say that John Walsh, one of the biggest cannabis activists in the country, and dear friend of mine has passed away. It was John that originally introduced me to SSDP during my Freshman year in college. Thank you for everything you have done to make this world a better place," said former University of Oregon President of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Sam Chapman.

Chapman worked with Walsh for several years and called him a “poster child” for medical marijuana, on which Walsh relied for his chronic pain. Though he could not walk down stairs and had to do most everything sitting down, Walsh worked tirelessly for the legalization movement. Chapman noted that it was Walsh who inspired him to become involved with the SSDP.

Another SSDP Member, Attorney Bradley Steinman stated, "RIP, John Walsh. Thank you for all your selfless work and hustle to end the war on drugs."

For decades the 60-year-old activist, originally from Rhode Island, has been involved with student groups on the University of Oregon campus, including the Survival Center and the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH). Most of Walsh’s days were spent at the university, trying to register students to vote and to advocate for legalizing marijuana.

Walsh single-handedly acquired more volunteer signatures in favor of the decriminalization and legalization of Marijuana in Oregon than any other person. According to a 2012 interview with Eugene's Emerald Newspaper, Walsh said his activism stemmed from the help he received from a group of “hippies” in the late 1960s. They reached out to help Walsh when he was being abused by his stepfather. “I would have been killed had they not helped me,” Walsh said.

The hippies moved to San Francisco in 1967 and took Walsh with them. He said he completely adopted the “hippie lifestyle” and began advocating for the legalization marijuana and hallucinogens, including LSD.

Walsh was not only known on the U of O campus but is well-known around Oregon and the United States for his marijuana activism. News of his passing has spread across the cannabis community. Many fellow activists have expressed condolences and gratitude for Walsh's lifetime commitment to freedom.

In a statement from long-time friend Danford Koozer, "John Walsh placed an ad on a bulletin board at the U of O to form a NORML chapter. I attended the first meeting and have been a re-legalization activist ever since. We decided against forming a NORML chapter at that time and formed our own group, the Cannabis Liberation Front. He lived for his political work. I'll miss him greatly."

Said Scott Gordon of PDX NORML, "Very sorry to hear the news of John Walsh passing! He was a gem and an amazing activist!"

"We lost a tenacious warrior in John Walsh," said Anna Diaz of Parents 4 Pot.

Walsh was the leading volunteer signature gatherer for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, a cannabis initiative known as Measure 80, which received over 47 percent of the yes vote in 2012. He contributed signatures for Oregon Measure 91, which ultimately passed in 2014. Walsh also diligently gathered signatures on Measures 57 and 67 in 1998 and Measure 74 in 2010.

Said Attorney Leland Berger of Walsh, "Unparalleled tenacity and dedication to ending prohibition defined his life and his passing is our great loss."

Attorney Paul Loney shared, "John was the rare human being who would always tell you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. In that way he was a true friend. I will miss him as an activist, but I will miss him more as a friend."

Expressing his sadness upon news of Walsh's passing, Paul Stanford of CRRH stated, "Our friend, comrade and tireless supporter has passed away this morning at our Portland outdoor garden home. According to the University of Oregon's Daily Emerald (the campus newspaper), John is a 'campus legalization legend.' Blessings and prayers for you John. You helped so many, and stood for liberty and justice your whole life. No one EVER said John Walsh did them wrong. He was a blessing for everyone he met. I will miss you John."

For his tireless efforts and unparalleled achievements in the history of Oregon cannabis petitioning, John Walsh was the 2009 recipient of the Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards Freedom Fighter of the Year Award.

CRRH is honored to have had John Walsh as part of our team. Every member of our organization will remember him, always.

"We Gotta Get Organized!" John Walsh, Cannabis Freedom Fighter, 1955-2016