The HempBC Story

Marc Emery - HempBCMarc Emery – HempBCIt’s December 31st, 1994, and an incredible year for me at HEMP BC comes to an end. 1995 heralds a very ambitious program, but first, a reflection back…

In 1992 I left Canada in a pout and had no plans to return at all if I could pull it off. My wife, two sons and myself were going to live on my 9-year pension in various exotic Asian locales. Well, I was defrauded of my savings on a house-building deal in Indonesia, the guy I left in charge of one of my stores in London, Ontario buggered it up thoroughly and stuck me with alot of debt instead of monthly payments, and the Canadian dollar was devalued 22% over the 20 months we were in Asia. Thus I had to come “home” to Canada and begin working again. The one source of income that I hadn’t lost was the monthly stipend from my friends Jim & Theresa at the City Lights Bookshop, of London, Ontario, the store of which I was proud owner of from 1975 to 1992, when Jim & Theresa capably took over.

Crouched hopelessly one day in Singapore, crying, having heard that my money to stay abroad had evaporated, I decided to go make a life of it in Vancouver (a place I had seen for only 5 days in 1989) because I had read that there were more cannabis growers and smokers per capita in British Columbia than any other place in the world.
When I arrived in Vancouver on March 1st, 1994, I looked around, paged through a telephone directory and saw far too many antiquarian book shops (my trade for 18 years). There was not a single hemp or marijuana related business, nor an effective centre for cannabis legalization activity.

Well, that settled that. I asked Jim & Theresa of City Lights if they would buy two years worth of postdated pension cheques at a considerable discount. My plan was to raise money for an office and supplies in downtown Vancouver in order to develop a wholesale and mail order operation dealing in High Times magazines, grow guides, hemp clothes and anything else related to cannabis. None of these items were currently handled in British Columbia or most of Canada because there was a $100,000 fine for doing so.

The office opened April 15, and on July 7, I moved the nascent business to a small storefront at 324 West Hastings near Gastown, the historic and heavily touristed downtown Vancouver district.

Myself and new friend/Vancouver activist Ian Hunter were the two guys in the store July 7, opening day. We had just finished putting down the floor when it was time to open for our first day’s business. Much thanks goes to Ian, Glen Anderson and Mad Dog (yes, that’s what he likes to be called) for the help in those early days, oh so long ago.

But that was then, this is now. Seven people work full time at the HEMP BC store (doubled in size in October), we are Canada’s leading distributor of High Times (2,000+ a month) and marijuana grow guides, and in our first year of storefront business (July 1994 – June 1995) we are confidently on target to do over $1,000,000 in sales (wholesale, mail-order and retail), making us the most successful hemp shop in the world.

We have an on-line magazine (the Marijuana & Hemp Online Magazine) available on the internet, including the first on-line virtual cannabis store where a person anywhere in the world with computer, modem and credit card can order a bong, grow guide, hemp jeans, hemp seed soap, or anything else about or made of hemp. Tim Reid is our master of cannabis cyberspace (vapourspace!).

The Marijuana & Hemp Magazine continues to expand in scope and is now in a separate office of its own. The editor is Dana Larsen (that’s me! -Ed). It was simply too much for me to continue to get the magazine out alone, but I very much enjoyed editing the first 4 issues of the then named “newsletter”. Now I will sit in my hemp tower and pass this vital communications job over to full-time editor Dana. We have ambitious plans to rival High Times magazine in circulation, and we hope to present a more challenging magazine for the cannabis culture of North America. I hope you find this issue a good start, though I must caution readers that regular monthly issues (beginning with the next issue) will be 32 – 36 pages, and we’ll just see what happens. All 4 previous issues are completely sold out and will be reprinted as the Best of The Early Issues, available in March 1995. The renamed Marijuana & Hemp Magazine has its own separate office, telephone, and equipment, and I am very excited about this. Naturally, your contributions, subscriptions, and advertising are all encouraged, and all writers are paid for material we use.

Danna Rozek, our Hempress here at HEMP BC, has been busy organizing youth movements in Vancouver in addition to working here 6 days a week. Hempology 101, the local youth movement under her guidance has been distributing medical marijuana & Frankfurt Resolution pamphlets, amongst others, and manned an info booth at Simon Fraser University. Danna is responsible for ordering and buying all hemp cosmetics, smoking devices and hemp clothes for HEMP BC, while I am still the buyer for hemp paper, books, magazines, raw fabric, and new products.

The retail activity at HEMP BC is supervised by Mosse Mellish, our fantasy writer in residence, and Mark Bologna, who assists me in all wholesale orders as well. Retailers are encouraged to arrange your needs with Mark in my absence.

Ian Hunter & I are the Captain Picard-Lieutenant Riker, Rogers & Hammerstein creative team here at HEMP BC, although, of course, everyone pitches in.

The store has evolved in design over our first 6 months, but mostly it’s the work of Glen Anderson.

In the 6 months we have operated HEMP BC downtown we have funnelled $1,700 to pro-legalization groups in direct cash contributions, and we have pledged an additional $2,500 to NORML Canada for legal fees involved in tearing down Canada’s most vicious censorship law, section 462.2, the drug literature prohibition law.
The Marijuana & Hemp Magazine’s choice of Men of the Year would have to be the triumvirate of Umberto Iorfida (NORML Canada) and lawyers Edward Morgan & Alan Young. Together, these three took on long odds and no financial reward to successfully attack & destroy the vicious censorship law which levies a $100,000 fine on any individual or business who publishes what you hold in your hands, distributes or handles High Times Magazine, or in any way advocates the benefits of cannabis in print or on video. After two and half years in the judicial wilderness, Justice Ellen J. MacDonald released a decision on October 5, 1994 which sturck down as unconstitutional section 462.2 of the Canadian Criminal Code, known as the drug literature law. The paraphernalia prohibition remains in effect, but its authority has also been crippled by Justice MacDonald’s sledgehammer blow for individual freedom.

However, the government of Canada is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, thereby repudiating Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s 1981 remarks in Parliament (and in Hansard), whereby he promised to decriminalize cannabis possession and use. Nowadays, our Prime Minster doesn’t even want you to read about marijuana, unless it’s the government’s odious propaganda. Money and commitment are needed to defend this rare and major victory. See our detailed description of the decision inside this issue.

Other victories:

  • police had more stringent conditions imposed on them by a B.C. Court of Appeals decision.

  • Several hemp related stores opened across Canada, including Friendly Stranger (Toronto), Toronto Hemp Co. (Toronto), Crosstown Traffic (Ottawa), Hemphead (Niagara Falls), Shakedown Street (KItchener), High Times (Montreal), Off the Cuff (Victoria), Back to the Garden (Prince George, B.C.), Sure Thing (Kenora), Tropicana (Calgary), and at least one new hemp related store continues to open every month.

  • Hemp farmer Joe Strobel successfully harvested 10 hectares of industrial hemp in 70 days at his Tillsonburg, Ontario farm, without using herbicides or pesticides. (see article this issue)

Bill C-7, the imposition of further restrictions on the Canadian recre-ational enthogens scene, (we don’t say `drugs’ anymore) goes to third reading in February and must be defeated. Please call your MP to arrange an interview to discuss why punishing the cannabis community is WRONG! See our extremely useful analysis of Bill C-7, the most thorough review of this insidious proposed legislation yet done for a publication in Canada. It is possible to defeat this bill, register your OPPOSITION.

This magazine debuted in May 1994 at 8 pages, with the guarantee that “I will not stop until individual freedom is ours again and our stolen liberties restored.” I’m here for good, no more retreats, no more shirking the inevitable task that has befallen me: legal recognition of our inalienable right to put whatever stuff we want into our bodies, and I hope it has been clear to all that I am hellbent to achieve results. Look at us now -over 50 pages this issue!
I attended the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, the annual event now opened up to the general public, sponsored by High Times magazine. A review of the Cannabis Cup appears in this issue, and has already been posted on the internet to much interest. Sadly Steve Hagar, the editor of High Times and a person I regarded as a friend, took great exception to everything about the article. Executive Editor Peter Gorman also responded, and his brief but warm difference of opinion is included at the end of my original column.

Certainly I have annoyed many in the hemp movement. My editorial in the second newsletter “Where, oh where are the hemp professionals?” managed to infuriate everyone, as it was intended to do.

When the chorus of offended egos asked the big question: ” Well, what have you, Marc Emery, done?” I answered in that editorial: just watch me.

Six months later, I can proudly say there is no credible opposition to our HEMP BC technique. It is being imitated across the country as well it ought to. There is no movement that can accomplish objectives without an infrastructure of successful money management and subsequent economic clout, so we need an activist hemp shop in every city and town in Canada, each one financing local gatherings, literature drives, seminars, rallies, letter writing campaigns to MPs, effective news media relations, as well as providing meaningful career opportunities for proprietors and employees in the cannabis culture. (You’ll love a job like this, I guarantee it, IF you do it right!).

To that end, HEMP BC will likely look at other cities in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario to open retail outlets where there is not already an effective marijuana & hemp centre. Of course, it doesn’t have to be us opening a cannabis shop, YOU CAN TOO! $15,000 to $25,000 is what you’d need to put together a decent starter Marijuana & Hemp Centre, and it’s a career you’ll enjoy! No, we don’t franchise, you can do it yourself- borrow all or none of our ideas, they are offered to you free! Cities where I believe a future Marijuana & Hemp Centre would be immensely successful are: Kelowna, Nanaimo, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Windsor, Sarnia, Hamilton, Cambridge, Sudbury, Hull, Montreal, Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax and St. John’s.

We may be the only group that can keep this nation together! My Canada includes cannabis! If the government of Canada legalized marijuana, would the marijuana consumers of Quebec want to leave? 10% of Quebec’s adult population consumes marijuana, that’s a pretty big voting bloc. But what if Parizeau offered to legalize marijuana in an independent Quebec? One thing is for sure, if Canada fragments by the end of the year then at least marijuana will be legal here in British Columbia almost immediately, because only the federal presence here keeps up the prohibition. Thirty percent of adult British Columbians have admitted to smoking marijuana, and 12% of the adult population are regular consumers. That’s a great many individuals! That’s power and clout! Let’s agree to make lots of money in 1995, grow lots of pot, print lots of brochures, badger those MPs, get things shook up! Let’s make the victories of 1994 merely a prelude to total victory by the end of the decade!

Revolution through economic clout!

Power to us, the cannabis culture!

Let’s use it well in 1995.

Cheers & celebration,

Marc Emery

Publisher Marijuana & Hemp Magazine

Proprietor – HEMP BC.