James Garner was known for many things – perhaps best for playing the hunky, charming antihero on Maverick and The Rockford Files. He was widely considered one of the best American television and screen actors, and he helped create an entire genre of TV shows.
There’s something else Garner was known for, though much less so than his acting: He loved weed. And he was a prominent voice in the push for legalization.
Garner died in Brentwood, Cal., July 19 at age 86, leaving behind a storied career and a monumental Hollywood legacy. In his 2012 memoir, “The Garner Files,” he explained his love for cannabis and his belief it should be legal.
“I started smoking marijuana in my late teens,” Garner wrote. “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 Used for Half a Century
The actor said he started smoking dope in the early 1960s. He suffered from chronic pain for many years, and said pot helped treat the problem.
“I smoked marijuana for 50 years,” Garner said. “I don’t know where I’d be without it. It opened my mind to a lot of things, and now its active ingredient, THC, relaxes me and eases my arthritis pain. I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol should be illegal. But, good luck with that.”
Though Garner kept his weed use low profile through most of his career, it complemented his rebel persona, and his real life rebel behavior. He had a reputation for contention and once punched his abusive stepmother. She had it coming, he said.
There’s no evidence from his body of work – or his health – that marijuana ever caused any significant problems.
Garner Built Epic Career
Garner appeared in more than 50 films, from The Great Escape in 1963 to The Notebook in 2004. And his TV roles defined the antihero in American popular culture.
In Maverick, Garner played a weak-kneed card sharp who was always looking for action yet somehow managed to do the right thing. The series ran from 1957 to 1960, and it often beat The Ed Sullivan Show in the ratings.
In 1974, Garner started a six-season run as private detective Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files. The show, maybe best known for its famous “Rockford” auto stunt, featured Garner as another antihero – this time, a wrongfully convicted private detective who struggles to hold his life together after he’s pardoned.
It’s unclear whether Garner ever quit marijuana, but from all appearances he toked right up to the end. Here’s hoping it eased his passing.