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Activist and Poet John Sinclair dies at 82

Wayne Dabney / Wikimedia Commons /

Poet and activist John Sinclair has died. He was 82.

Sinclair’s 1969 arrest for marijuana possession and the ten-year prison sentence that followed, made Sinclair the spiritual father and eventually grandfather of Michigan’s marijuana movement.

He was the first in line to buy recreational marijuana in Michigan in 2019.

John Sinclair was a fixture at Ann Arbor’s annual Hash Bash, a celebration of marijuana.

“Our movement was a spiritual movement,” Sinclair told the Hash Bash crowd one year. “For me, it’s still a spiritual movement. We’re trying to get high.”

Sinclair’s contribution to Michigan extends beyond cannabis.

From his role as an early manager of MC5, to his later radical politics including co-founding the White Panther Party, Sinclair had a unique impact on his native state.

But always John Sinclair was a poet.

In a 2014 documentary, he spoke about what drew him to jazz poetry.

“In poems you can talk about whatever you want. And you can convey these ideas in a way that is fairly attractive...and also if you surround them with music...perhaps it makes it easier for people to listen to and be moved by,” said Sinclair.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005.