Thomas Trower, a Lawrence icon who asked drivers to ‘honk for hemp,’ has died
photo by: John Young
Updated at 11:08 p.m. Tuesday
Thomas Trower, popularly known in Lawrence as the “Honk for Hemp” man, has died at age 70, the Journal-World confirmed with the Douglas County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday.
The office provided no additional details about Trower, who was well-known in Lawrence for regularly standing at the northeast corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets — dressed head to toe in hemp — with a large green and white sign reading “Honk for Hemp.” The sign and Trower’s enthusiasm elicited a familiar cacophony of car horns on weekends in downtown Lawrence for decades. For each honk, he would wave another sign in the shape of a large thumbs-up.
Trower, who retired from Del Monte Foods in Lawrence, continued to stand at the corner even after hemp was legalized in Kansas. He said that his activism was not just about hemp but to support the legalization of all cannabis plants.
He told the Journal-World in January of 2019 that he planned to continue his picketing until he could legally enjoy the recreational use of marijuana.
He said of his picketing: “It’s a futile and symbolic gesture, but someone has to do it until it’s fully legal. I want the right to grow my own — any variety I want.”
In the Kansas Legislature, some bills have been proposed to make medical marijuana legal in recent years, but it and recreational marijuana remain against the law in Kansas, despite having been legalized in about two dozen states — in a trend that Trower had described as “inevitable.”
In October of 2019, then-District Attorney Charles Branson announced that he would no longer file criminal cases for simple marijuana possession — a decision that came on the heels of the City Commission reducing fines to $1 for first and second convictions for marijuana possession in the city’s municipal court.
“I do not feel it is fair or just for Douglas County to criminally charge citizens with something they can do with virtually no penalty in the City of Lawrence and other surrounding communities,” Branson said at the time.
Trower, who has previously been named “Best Activist” in the Journal-World’s Best of Lawrence magazine, credited longtime activist Mark Creamer for getting the corner honking project going in the 1990s. As the Journal-World has reported, Creamer got national attention in 1989 for lighting up a marijuana joint in the lobby of the Lawrence Police Department building. Creamer eventually moved to Colorado, where marijuana has been legal for years. Shortly after being jailed for the joint, Creamer and Trower started their weekly picketing downtown in 1990.
According to information from the Barnett Funeral Home in Oskaloosa, Trower died at his home in Lawrence on Aug. 9.
He was born on Nov. 4, 1950, in Topeka. He was the son of Maurice Eugene Trower and Gladys Mae Trower. He graduated from Topeka West High School. He is survived by a brother and two sisters.
Private services were held at Winchester-Wise Cemetery in Winchester.