On thursday, August 15, 2002, I received a phone call from Dustin Cantwell, co-owner of Nelson’s activist and culture shop, Holy Smoke. Ian Hunter, a friend and fellow cannabis activist, was missing after a boat trip onto Kootenay Lake, and had been gone for over 24 hours. We began to organize search parties, but soon learned that his body had been found, floating beside the boat in open waters.
In the many conversations that I was blessed to share with Ian, he recounted to me his boldest adventures. In the early 90’s, he met Marc Emery and helped to co-found Hemp BC, a hemp and bong store on Vancouver’s Hastings St, which later was destroyed by Vancouver City Police during multiple raids. Ian Hunter was also instrumental in contributing to the early prototype of Cannabis Culture Magazine. Later, he split from the Vancouver crowd and founded a store in Victoria called The Sacred Herb. The name “Sacred Herb” had special meaning for Hunter: he – like myself – had become a reverend of the Church of the Universe, a religion that believes marijuana is the Tree of Life.
I remember how Hunter appeared at the magazine’s office in Gastown one day, an enigmatic and charming figure, and sat across from me at the large editor’s desk. From his white hemp pants, shirt and jacket, he pulled out one of his many colourful smoking boxes, a hand-chillum smoking stone and a lighter, and we shared sacrament and talked about one of the many theories that he dangled like jewels on his key chain, about the nature of the universe, religion and getting high. Afterwards, I made a point of calling him when he made the press to do news updates for the magazine.
In Victoria, the good Reverend Hunter shocked the scene with his vivid character, doing mass ritual to end the drug war, running for mayor, enduring arrest on cannabis charges and eventually challenging those charges as violations of religious freedoms enshrined in the constitution. Hunter once recounted to me a giant rave that he held on the steps of Victoria’s City Hall, which he believed led to threats from city counsel to remove the Sacred Herb’s business license. To save the store, he sold it to his close friends and business partners and eventually moved to Nelson, BC.
When I first moved to Nelson, Hunter was already there, living in his AMC Eagle, or on the couch at the Holy Smoke. Having renounced all religious title, he refered to himself as “the former Reverend Ian Hunter.” It wasn’t long before he was sleeping on a futon on my kitchen floor. During that time, he supported me in my federal electoral bid with the Marijuana Party, and along with Dustin Cantwell and I, he co-hosted the Church of the Universe Hour on Kootenay Co-op Radio. After the election, Ian’s resourcefulness was sparked, he rented a large mansion with two fireplaces, a sauna and a hot-tub and began to hold mega-parties, the latest series of which are called the “Seven Chakra Parties.” He surrounded himself with charasmatic people, studied yoga, seeded his expansive entheobotanical and psychedelic knowledge into the community and grew younger each day.
On wednesday, August 14, 2002, Ian told close friends that he was going to take the mansion’s small motor boat out onto the water for two hours. It was about 4:00 pm. I remember that the wind blew very hard at about 5:00 pm or so, because the doors of my home opened and slammed repeatedly, and I thought, “there are spirits in this storm.” I believe it was at that hour that Ian Hunter met his fate. He was at the height of his happiness, and I think it no coincidence that he was found with a characteristically chin-to-chin, peaceful, sparkling and childlike Ian Hunter grin to leave us all guessing about what is so amusing in the afterworld.
On behalf of myself and Ian Hunter’s many other friends, I would like to say one last time: We love you Ian! And, my friend, you will be sorely missed.
The supreme court vs the supreme being
Reverend Ian Hunter Fights for Freedom of Religion in the Supreme Court of BC
By Reverend Damuzi
Drug case taken to higher level
City man tries to convince justice drug laws are unconstitutional
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Times Colonist staff
Langford city hall votes to ban hemp
Ian Hunter of Sacred Herb Arrested for a Gram
High priest of pot loses his licence