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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

James Garner, Actor and Marijuana Advocate, Dies at 86


The late actor and lifelong marijuana user believed it should be legal in place of alcohol.

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Actor James Garner, who was perhaps most famous for his role as good-natured gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s western Maverick and detective Jim Rockford in the 1970s series “The Rockford Files,” died on Saturday at 86.

In addition to being a prolific actor, appearing in over 50 films, Garner was a lifelong pot-smoker and a vocal proponent of legalization. “I started smoking marijuana in my late teens,” he wrote in his memoir, “I drank to get drunk but ultimately didn’t like the effect. Not so with grass. Grass is smooth. It had the opposite effect from alcohol: it made me more tolerant and forgiving.”

Garner also credited THC, the active ingredient in weed, with helping him relax and also easing his arthritis pain. “I smoked marijuana for 50 years. I don’t know where I’d be without it,” he wrote, “I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol should be illegal. But, good luck with that.”

Though a return to alcohol prohibition seems unlikely, Garner may have been satisfied to see how a growing number of states have been softening their marijuana laws over the past few years. Most recently, Washington, DC passed one of the most liberal state marijuana laws in the country, whereby low-level pot possession can receive only a $25 fine.