Ian Hunter remembered

The recent death of BC cannabis activist Ian Hunter left many reminiscing over the gifts he bestowed to the cannabis movement, the human rights movement, and his friends.
In the many conversations that I was blessed to share with Ian Hunter, he recounted to me his boldest adventures. In the late 80’s he cut his teeth as a writer for a local paper in Squamish, BC. Then he championed the rights of children to vote, stirred up international interest, and did a stint with the CBC.

In the early 90’s, Hunter co-created Vancouver’s early rave scene above the legendary dealer’s caf? Crosstown Traffic and hosted a show on Vancouver Co-op Radio. With Dana Larsen, Hunter founded the short-lived Total Hemp Corporation in 1992. Hunter helped Marc Emery to found Hemp BC in 1993. Hunter also met Reverends Tucker and Baldasaro from the Church of the Universe ? members of which believe marijuana is the tree of life ? and was ordained.

Later, Reverend Hunter split from the Vancouver crowd and moved to BC’s capital city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, where he founded a hemp store called Sacred Herb.

The good Reverend Hunter shocked the Victoria scene with his vivid character. He popularized the term “4:20” by holding sacramental cannabis gatherings in the local park at that time of the afternoon. He also ran for mayor, endured arrest on cannabis charges and eventually challenged those charges as violations of religious freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

Hunter once held a giant rave on the steps of Victoria’s City Hall, which 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 in the fall of 2000, Hunter was already there, living in his AMC Eagle, or on the couch at Nelson’s activist and culture shop Holy Smoke. Having renounced all religious title, he referred to himself as “the former Reverend Ian Hunter.”

It wasn’t long before Hunter was sleeping on a futon in the dining-room of my tiny apartment. Over a morning herba matt?, he would share one of the many catchy and amusing theories that he dangled like crystals on his key chain, about health, spirituality, getting high and the nature of the universe. He would check the I Ching for direction or, if he was in a hurry, he would flip a coin, then he would be out the door.

While crashing in my dining room, Hunter supported me in my federal electoral bid with the Marijuana Party, and along with Holy Smoke co-owner 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 founded the Valhalla Institute for entheobotanical studies and spiritual exploration, rented a large mansion with two fireplaces, a sauna and a hot-tub and began to hold mega-bashes, the latest series of which were called the “Seven Chakra Parties.”

Hunter surrounded himself with charismatic people, studied yoga, seeded his expansive entheobotanical and psychedelic knowledge into the community and grew younger each day.

On Wednesday, August 14, 2002, Ian Hunter 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 pm.

I remember that the wind blew very hard at about 5pm or so, because the doors of my home opened and slammed repeatedly. I remember thinking, “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 sparkling and childlike Ian Hunter grin to leave us all guessing about what is so amusing in the afterworld.



  1. Eric The Red on

    This windy wet September 1st night I am thinking of my friend and brother from another, Ian. I wonder where he is and what he is doing. It is at times like this that I miss him deeply.

    A small story to share…in what was to be his last visit to Victoria, Ian made use of our couch and we were more than happy to have him. On the way out of the bathroom in the morning, clutching his Herba Mate, I couldn’t help but notice the sticker facing me which read “Ask me about drinking your pee”. I will always wonder what exactly was in the travel mug that morning and I never got a chance to ask.

    Rest in Peace my friend. I hope to one day see you again!


  2. Arne on

    Ian lived with me and a few other people at an alternative space on Hastings (above a head shop lol) from ’89 to ’91 that some of you will remember (hopefully fondly). He was one of the most frustrating people I’d ever met (at the time) and turned out to be one of the best people I;ve ever known. The fault for him being “frustrating” was entirely mine. He was such a beautiful soul and ALWAYS had the best of intentions with so little guile…

    He dreamed BIG. And while that didn’t always translate into an actualized reality, I remember very fondly my many long talks with him. He could be stoned out of his mind and still debate (well, usually lol) the finer points of human rights, politics and the on-going fight(s) for freedom from the vague oppression we suffer under this pseudo democracy (note: sometimes not so vague at all and you all should know what I’m talking about). I remember when he first introduced me to the idea of Children’s Suffrage – one of the high points of his life was a CBC Ideas Documentary about his ideas on this issue. At first I thought he was nuts… but it wasn’t long before he won me over to that cause by reasoned debate and constantly pushing at my ignorant and reactionary boundaries about the issue.

    I was there at the genesis of his relationship with Mark Emery (whom I do respect) and I can tell you that Ian in many ways help catalyse both Mark’s future and that of the decriminalization movement. But he was not a businessman… although he had an almost preternatural drive and determination he just lacked the “killer instinct”. Reverend Damuzi mentions at the close of his sweet homage to Ian that “that he was found with a characteristically sparkling and childlike Ian Hunter grin to leave us all guessing about what is so amusing in the afterworld”. This is how I will always remember Ian. He smiled so often and had that wonderful gift to be able to defuse your anger at him instantly with it.

    Oh and by the way Reverend, you forgot to mention that Ian was a long-time host on Vancouver Co-op radio and did some pretty cool things there (some I helpe with :-).

    His contribution to the movement cannot be overstated. I hope you will all post your thoughts and memories about him here or elsewhere to pay tribute to one of the best people you’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. If you care to reminisce, drop me a line at arne-at-hermann.ca.