A few weeks ago, I was in the stony palace of Willie Wortel Sativa coffeeshop in Haarlem, Holland watching Pot-TV on the Internet with a group of young people.
We were watching the Marc Emery show, hosted by the man who pays for Pot-TV, Cannabis Culture Magazine, Cannabis Kulture Magazine, Canada’s British Columbia Marijuana Party, a hard drugs anti-addiction center, the Cannabis Culture website, and dozens of causes and organizations with the money he makes selling hundreds of varieties of marijuana seeds to cultivators on every continent.
Sure, if it wasn’t for Marc Emery, I would not be writing this report for you today. He single-handedly created, founded and funded the Vancouver, Canada Hempire that has revolutionized the world of marijuana seed sales, political activism, ethical capitalism, and hard-core grassroots grass insurgency.
It isn’t because I want to flatter my boss that I write about him today – it is because his activities in the last six months, in the face of increasing threats from US officials and other drug warriors, have been an inspiration, a light of hope in a world of sell-outs, media propaganda, war, fascism, and cowards.
Watching the Emery show, I realized more than ever that there are only a few real “heroes” in the marijuana “movement.” One of them is the man who founded and owned the cannabis shop where the show was being broadcast – Nol Van Schaik.
Some people call Van Schaik “the Marc Emery of Europe.” That isn’t an exact analogy; Van Schaik and Emery are very different people who have risen to the top of the marijuana world by climbing different mountains in different ways.
But the core analogy holds true: both Van Schaik and Emery have made lots of money publicly selling quality marijuana products, but instead of hoarding their money like selfish capitalists would, they have spent all their money fighting vicious laws that make criminals of plants and people who love plants.
I’ve met people, most of them rival marijuana seed dealers and coffeeshop owners, who accuse people like Emery and Van Schaik of being egotistical grandstanders whose public works are all ego and braggadocio.
To be sure, there’s a vital and often hilarious element of theater and show biz in how Emery and Van Schaik have carried out their missions. Van Schaik started a decade ago as a penniless bodybuilder and construction worker who worked all night to make enough money to pay for his fledgling Willie Wortels Workshop, which became the flagship for his three potshops and pot museum in Haarlem.
To promote his ventures, Van Schaik once wore a bodybuilder’s bikini while riding a bike around the streets in front of his shop, while Emery opened Vancouver’s first coffeeshop, seed shop, and pot caf? and spat in the face of police who came to raid him.
These men want attention, of course, but they want it so they can change the face of marijuana politics and commerce- and they have. When Emery started his cannabis activism in Canada a decade ago, there was no marijuana movement in Canada, only a bunch of Canadians and expatriate Americans who fled the USA during the Vietnam era and who were now growing fine dope from the Pacific Coast to the interior mountains.
Today, Canada has marijuana political candidates, several seed sellers, marijuana hotels and businesses, marijuana bookstores, medpot compassion clubs, and a booming “BC Bud” industry that produces some of the finest cannabis in the world.
And although some jealous people won’t admit it, (and of course there were many other people who helped create this Canadian revolution) none of this would have existed if it wasn’t for the vision and funding provided by Marc Emery.
When Van Schaik started Willie Wortels, the Haarlem coffeeshop scene was sleepy, sullied by hard drugs, and disorganized. As revealed in “The Dutch Experience,” a fascinating new book about the history of the Dutch coffeeshop system that Van Schaik just authored and published, Van Schaik forced the police and town government to reconfigure its coffeeshop system, making Haarlem’s cannabis polices the most progressive in Europe.
Van Schaik also went to England last year and told the British government that its drug policies weren’t working. He demonstrated how a Dutch-style potshop could work in England, by opening one, and although the shop was shut down and Van Schaik lost lots of money trying to keep it open and keep his British comrades from going to prison, the British coffeeshop was another example of idealism in action.
In Haarlem a few weeks ago, the crowd gathered around the Internet computer was amazed to see a television show that featured Emery giving an anti-police speech in front of a phalanx of Darth Vaderish Vancouver police officers.
Emery stood there telling the police they were corrupt, stupid and vicious, while Pot-TV cameramen, agitators, authors, and activists Chris Bennett and David Malmo-Levine put their cameras in the faces of the police.
Close-up of police guns, batons, and communications devices gave the scene an ominous air of foreboding as Emery continued to challenge the officers, asking them why the Vancouver police have the time and money to bust non-violent marijuana users and growers in the privacy of their own homes while thieves, white collar criminals and murderers went unpursued. The footage showed that the officers were wound up, fists clenched, jaws tight, Robocop eyes steely and adrenalized.
“Damn, I think they are gonna bust his fucking head at any minute,” said a 22-year-old student from Nebraska. “Where I live, if you even look at the pigs wrong, they will kick your ass.”
Similar comments were made by other viewers- European and American alike-who agreed that Emery was either very courageous, or very stupid.
“I think it is fair to say that 99% of the people who smoke marijuana around this world are cowards about it,” said Daniella, a young Italian woman. “I see the environmental people, the globalization protesters, and the human rights people out in the streets willing to take their lumps about what they feel, but what I see this man [Emery] doing, I do not see it among the marijuana people I know. Most of us hide in our closets. We are ashamed, or scared, I don’t know, but we don’t do enough to get these laws changed and stand up for our rights as human people.”
When I told Emery that his courage was a hit with the hip young crowd hanging out at Van Schaik’s shop that day, he didn’t pause to drink in the praise. He was too busy!
In the last six months, Emery has been out on the streets 12 hours a day talking to Vancouver voters about his bid to become mayor of Vancouver. His wrists and hands are sore from handing out tens of thousands of marijuana freedom pamphlets, from shaking hands with thousands of people. His voice is a bit whispery and raw, like an aging rock n’roll singer, from doing so many interviews and from explaining, over and over, that marijuana is a blessing, not a curse, that the laws against marijuana, and the way they are enforced, amounts to genocidal war crimes.
While pounding the pavement for pot, Emery also helped fund a ballot initiative in Nevada that would have legalized possession of three ounces or less of marijuana. He’s funding a series of Canadian Supreme Court constitutional challenges that threaten to overturn the very foundations of Canadian prohibition, and he is widely credited for spurring the debate that led a Canadian government committee’s recommendation that marijuana be legalized.
When American “Straight, Incorporated” drug war profiteers came to Vancouver to hold an anti-medical marijuana rally last May, Emery and his Pot-TV crew were there to greet the Nazis, and were able to get mainstream journalists to report the facts about the impudent Americans who keep trying to force Canada to implement an American-style drug war.
When Emery heard that American drug czar John P. Walters (head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, or ONDCP) was coming to Vancouver to speak at a $500 per table luncheon sponsored by the Vancouver Board of Trade, he went on Pot-TV holding a 200-plus gram slate of Lebanese hash. He said he wanted to slip the hashish into Walters’ briefcase or coat pocket, and see if Walters would get busted by US Customs at the border.
Emery bought a table at the luncheon, and went inside with a cadre of activists. Before the luncheon, Emery went up to the Czar and asked if they could have their picture taken together. Walters agreed, the picture was taken, and then the drug warrior asked Emery who he was.
“I’m Marc Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture,” Emery replied.
Walters turned beet red and ran away, while his Secret Service agents eyed Emery with bad intent.
Walters later stood in front of the audience telling lies about marijuana and criticizing Vancouver’s proposed “safe-injection sites” for hard drugs users.
The contingent of activists at Emery’s table, which was described in national media as the “BC Marijuana Party” table, shouted “Liar,” and other accurate descriptions at Walters as Walters made outrageous Reefer Madness claims about “marijuana addicts” and blamed America’s urban problems on allegedly relaxed attitudes about marijuana.
Vancouver police officer Toby Hinton told Emery and his crew to shut up, but they didn’t. Walters also tried to shut up the “hecklers,” but the potheads could not be silenced.
And yes, the rumors are true: somebody lit a joint, and marijuana smoke was almost certainly inhaled by Walters as he stood there telling people that marijuana was evil. Guess who lit the joint?
It was all downhill from there for the US meanie, as Canadian reporters interrogated Walters about America’s attempts to militarize the US-Canadian border in order to stop the flow of “$5-6 billion dollars worth of BC bud that head for the USA each year.”
Finally, surrounded by the huge army of bodyguards needed to protect American official fascists from people who have been harmed by their policies, Walters fled the scene, just as his predecessor, US military General Barry McCaffrey fled the scene in London several years ago when the General tried to bring his “marijuana is heroin” roadshow to England and was greeted by an energetic cadre of British activists who literally chased the General from venue to venue.
When Emery had time to reflect on the Czar’s Canadian visit, he wondered why a group of Vancouver businesspeople would host a man whose goal is to take billions of dollars out of the Canadian economy.
“Marijuana is a clean industry, a major cash crop, a cottage industry, and, other than from the effects of prohibition, a safe industry,” Emery said. “If the US had its way and had shut down the BC bud industry in the last decade, Canada would have lost tens of billions of dollars in much-needed foreign exchange. That doesn’t sound like good business to me!”
With the mayoral elections behind him, Emery goes back to his normal duties, which include selling a massive assortment of quality cannabis genetics, funding a hard drug-addiction rehab center near Vancouver, providing financial assistance to worthy organizations, activists, and victims of the drug war, and doing media interviews that are noteworthy for their professional, articulate content.
Like Van Schaik, Emery is disappointed by the traitors, thieves, profiteers, weasels, undercovers, provocateurs, rip-offs, mental misfits, backstabbers, and other poor souls who want nothing more than for marijuana prohibition and the black market to continue forever so they can make a lot of money and spend it on lavish lifestyles while criticizing and ripping off people who make money and then spend it funding the fight for freedom.
I’ve met almost everybody who’s anybody in the marijuana world, and it is sad for me to report that about 75% of them are sleazy, dishonest, and cruel.
“The world needs more people like that Marc Emery character,” said the wise Italian babe in Willie Wortel Sativa after our coins ran out and the screen went blank.
Indeed, in a world run by people who love money, war and death, we desperately need more Van Schaiks and Emerys. Who will join them in the ranks of fearless, fun activism?
Could it be you?