Happy Birthday Roger Adams


Today is January 2, 2023- the first Monday of the new year.  Holidays are officially over and people all over the world are making and breaking New Year’s resolutions as they settle back into their routines.  Aside from celebrating the start of yet another chapter in our lives, today we also celebrate the one hundred and thirty-fourth birthday of cannabis pioneer Roger Adams.  Adams discovered HHC while working with cannabis in the early 1940s, but who was this man and why was he conducting experiments on marijuana only a couple years after it had been federally banned in the United States by Congress?

Education and Early Work

Roger Adams was born in Boston in 1889 to parents Austin W. Adams and Lydia Curtis.  He was the youngest of four children, and attended Harvard from 1905-1909 where he majored in chemistry.  After graduation, Adams completed his PhD and then traveled to Europe to study in Berlin.  In 1913, he returned to Harvard as a research assistant and began his career as a chemistry teacher for a whopping $800 per year.  Three years later, he more than tripled his salary when he accepted the position of assistant professor for the University of Illinois Chemistry Department.  

In 1917, Adams relocated yet again, this time to Washington, DC.  Here, he worked with the Chemical Warfare Service in developing counter attacks to the poison gas that Germany was currently deploying in World War I.  Aside from absolutely crushing it in his career as a prominent chemist, Roger Adams also managed to find the time to marry Lucille Wheeler in 1918.  The two would have one child, also named Lucille.  He returned to the University of Illinois, where he eventually became the head of the chemistry department.  His teaching career flourished and this man continued to work his ass off by publishing seventy-three scientific papers and mentoring forty-five PhD candidates between 1918 and 1926.

Working with Weed

Needless to say, the guy was smart.  His career continued to be full of milestone achievements, and he was invaluable to the scientific program at Illinois.  Though he excelled in science, he was also an astute businessman and he even served as a consultant to Kellog and Coca Cola.  In 1939, Roger Adams received a license from the Treasury Department to work with marijuana at his lab in Illinois.  Marijuana had been banned by Congress just two years before, but that didn’t mean the government wasn’t interested in learning more about it.  His research would be used by the US during World War II, not because anyone was ready to get high recreationally, but because the government thought that pot could be used as a truth serum!  Turns out, marijuana is not an effective truth serum and these particular experiments were discontinued.

Because Adams was an absolute legend, he was recruited by the National Defense Research Committee shortly after World War II broke out.  No-nonsense FBI director J. Edgar Hoover actually prohibited his appointment for months because he suspected Adams of being a Communist sympathizer.  Why?  Because he was a member of the Lincoln’s Birthday Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom.  This was a group of other intellectuals who were against the “science” experiments and race theories that the Nazis were propagating at the time.  How anyone could have a problem with this is beyond me, but props to Adams for having morals.  After America eventually joined the war and Russia became an ally, the Communist issue wasn’t as important and Adams was finally allowed to take his job.

Discoveries Still Used Today

Roger Adams earned a patent for identifying cannabidiol (CBD) in 1942.  He also discovered HHC, and while he was unable to isolate it, was the first person to synthesize THC.  In case you thought Adams was all work and no play, he was actually criticized by his superiors for noting the “pleasant effects” of cannabis.  He published twenty-seven studies on cannabis in American Journal of Chemistry, and paved the way for future scientists to discover even more about marijuana once technology had evolved.  His creation the Adams Scale is still used today to measure the potency of cannabis.  After World War II ended, Adams was sent to Germany and Japan to direct the reconstruction of their scientific establishments.  He eventually returned to Illinois where he later died in 1971, leaving behind one daughter and four grandchildren.

In conclusion, Roger Adams was a cannabis crusader totally ahead of his time.  We have him to thank for identifying so many cannabinoids, and later understanding and discoveries regarding the best plant ever.  Enjoy the fruits of his labor with one of our HHC disposable vapes, and may that Roger Adams renegade energy inspire a happy and productive New Year for us all. Choose from indica, sativa, or hybrid. Think of how stoked Adams would be if he could puff and enjoy the fruits of his labor with flavors like banana cream, strawberry yum, and gorilla glue.  Special thanks to Freedom Leaf and the National Academy of Sciences for providing information on this fascinating figure.