The Hempsters Hit the Senate



On April 18th, the Senate Committee on Bill C-8 heard testimony from the hemp and marijuana lobbies. The hemp delegation was made up of Geof Kime, Dr Alexander Sumach, and Larry Duprey. The marijuana delegation was made up of myself, Marc Emery, Robert Hamon, Andy Rapoch and Nicholas Bureau.

The day’s hearings began at 10am, although many of the Senators drifted in between 10 and 10:30. First to testify was the hemp delegation.



Geof Kime is the partner of Joe Strobel, and in 1994 they were Canada’s first modern legal hemp farmers. Geof talked about the history of agricultural hemp in Canada, from its proud beginnings in 1606 to its current status as a banned crop. He took the Senators through hemp’s decline in the 1930s, followed by a complete ban in 1938.

Geof explained how the most recent research done into Canadian hemp was in 1971, by Dr Ernie Small. Dr Small grew 350 different strains of cannabis in Ottawa. His research concluded that there are different varieties of cannabis, and that it is possible to differentiate between cannabis hemp and cannabis marijuana.

Geof explained his difficulties in applying for a license to grow hemp, but was optimistic about the plant’s potential as a profitable crop, if released from the control of the Ministry of Health.



Dr Alexander Sumach is the author of Grow Yer Own Stone and Treasury of Hashish, and his work regularly appears between the pages of this magazine. He is also a member of the Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby, and has travelled to Europe on three separate occasions over the past twelve months to study the rapidly growing European hemp market firsthand.

Dr Sumach explained that Europe, and Germany in particular, are moving into first place in a rapidly emerging world hemp market. According to Dr Sumach, the Europeans “sell hemp
with confidence, and fully intend to take the lead over nations such as Canada, who are watching from the sidelines.”



Larry Duprey is the owner of Montreal’s Chanvre en Ville, and a member of both the Hemp Industries Association of North America and the Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby.

Larry spoke briefly about the health and environmental dangers of synthetic fabrics, then moved on to describe Canada’s over-reliance upon US cotton. He explained that cannabis is much better suited to the Canadian climate than is cotton, and that unlike cotton, which requires “more than half of all the pesticides and herbicides used in North American agribusiness,” cannabis is a hardy crop with few natural enemies, and thus requires few, if any, pesticides.



Marc Emery was the first to speak from the “marijuana delegation,” and he began his presentation by describing what a marijuana high feels like. He described it as a “warm, gooey, fun sensation,” which can lead to introspection, listening more attentively to his children, and getting more out of the trash on television.

Marc explained that prohibition found its beginnings in racism against the Chinese, and that Canada’s first drug law was passed in 1908 in order to allow for the deportation of Chinese
labourers who had become unnecessary after the railroad had been built and the gold mines were exhausted.

Marc brought the human tragedy of marijuana prohibition into sharp focus, carefully explaining how the government spends large amounts of tax money to degrade, humiliate, and persecute peaceful and hardworking marijuana users.



As usual, Marc was the most “extreme” of those who testified. For example, most of those on the panel were opposed to allowing marijuana to be advertised, while Marc enthusiastically supported advertising as a way of convincing people to turn away from alcohol.

Marc also disagreed about educating children to believe that drug use is wrong. He argued
that children will naturally want to experiment with drugs, and that for him to tell his child that marijuana smoking was wrong would be hypocritical. He explained that the first time his oldest son had smoked pot was when they were on a helicopter ride together, as he had wanted it to be a special experience for him, and not something his son would take for granted.



During my brief presentation I summarized eighteen months of correspondence with the government, much of it in the form of Access to Information requests. My research clearly shows that the federal government?s defence of prohibition is not based upon any sort of officially documented evidence.

I explained how the standard letter from the Department of Justice claims that if marijuana
were decriminalized the rate of its use would increase, that international treaties forbid decriminalizing marijuana, and that most Canadians support the current prohibitionist regime. However, the governmental records I obtained revealed that rates of marijuana use are not affected by decriminalization, that international treaties do in fact allow Canada to decriminalize marijuana, and that about 70% of Canadians support the decriminalization of marijuana in some form.



The Senators seemed attentive while we made our presentations, and the questions they asked showed that they had been paying attention, and that they had also spent some time reading our magazine and other submitted material.

Of the ten Senators at the hearing, five of them openly stated that they supported the decriminalization of marijuana. The others seemed supportive of the idea, and none of them expressed shock or anger at any of the statements made by Marc Emery or myself.

I have to admit that it was a refreshing experience to speak before the Senate. Most of my other communication with politicians has been frustrating to the extreme. Yet while testifying before the Senate committee I felt as if these people actually cared about what we were saying, and that they were possibly going to do something to help us end the prohibition of cannabis. I hope that my optimism is not misplaced.



The Senate Committee will hear the last testimony on April 24th, and then will begin its
clause by clause analysis of the Bill. This will likely not take more than a month, and so it is
possible that the Senate Committee will bring its recommendations before the Senate by the beginning of June.
For more information, or to get a copy of the trancgi of those who testified before the Senate, call 1-800-267-7362.