In Memoriam, Dr. Hans Georg Behr

9 07 2010

Dr. Hans-Georg Behr, noted neurotoxicologist and author, passed away on the evening of July 7 2010, at the age of 72.

In 2009 Dr. Behr was awarded the International Cannabis Cultuurprijs in recognition of his fight against the prohibition of cannabis and against the demonisation of people who enjoy it. Although poor health prevented him from attending the award ceremony, his sense of humour was unaffected.

“I am as happy as Charlie Chaplin when he was given an Oscar,”  joked Dr. Behr when he received the news.

Hans Georg Behr’s work has not always been met with such appreciation. His book Von Hanf ist die Rede, Kultur und Politik einer Droge (‘Hemp is the Question- the Culture and Politics of a Drug’) was published in 1982 and remains a relevant and authoritative work on cannabis. In the storm of indignation which arose after the publication of his book, police searched Mr. Behr’s home and found 0.318 grams of cannabis.

Dr. Behr, who had never made a secret of being a ‘kiffer’ (cannabis smoker), was dragged before the courts. The show trial which followed lasted for 52 days and ended with  the dismissal of the charges against him. Despite this experience, Dr. Behr  could laugh about the collective panic of the times:  “Until now I have not properly described the phobia about cannabis. I name it the distinct madness of the Germans. Paranoia Germanica.”

Dr. Behr’s breakthrough to a mainstream readership came in 2001 with the publication of his autobiographical novel Fast eine Kindheit (‘Almost a Childhood’). The novel describes his early years as a child growing up in Vienna – amongs the high ranking Nazi, then under the Russian occupation of the city after the Second World War.

Happily, in his later years, Dr. Behr had no fear of being prosecuted by the German justice department:

“I’m very excited that I’m the only one in Hamburg allowed to smoke hash. People now leave me in peace; after all,  they blamed me and my kind more than enough in the past.”

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