I knew Michelle Rainey for about 10 years. We first met in 1999 when she started working for Marc Emery. I was living at Marc’s house on the Sunshine Coast at the time, it was a very busy place with many people staying, coming and going all the time. Marc was looking for a housekeeper, someone to buy groceries, make meals, clean up and keep his household running smoothly.
I remember Michelle being in Marc’s kitchen, telling him that it was her destiny to work with him. Marc had jokingly told me earlier that he “should hire someone who doesn’t speak English, as everyone we hire to clean up ends up moving on to other projects in our organization.” But Michelle was so passionate and insistent that this was her path, that she was the only one he should consider hiring, and that she wanted nothing more than to help Marc in every way. She had a good job at the local bank but she quit that just so she could be Marc’s housekeeper.
Michelle certainly did keep that household running smoothly, she was constantly shopping, cleaning, making food and taking care of everyone in Marc’s circle. Even though we were born in the same year, she always seemed like my mom, like everyone’s mom, and she often liked to call herself the “Den Mother” of our cannabis community.
But Michelle didn’t stop with being a housekeeper, she quickly became an integral part of everything Marc was doing. This was a busy time, a major raid in December 1997 and more raids in 1998 had resulted in Hemp BC being shut down. For the first time since he had come to Vancouver in 1993, Marc didn’t have a storefront any more and had shifted his seed business entirely to mail-order. It was busy though, money was flowing again and he had a zillion projects and expansions on the go.
Michelle was an integral part of our efforts with the Canadian Marijuana Party in 2000, and even more importantly in creating the BC Marijuana Party in 2001, which was a monumental task and a great accomplishment. She ran as a candidate, but also coordinated and helped many many newbie candidates get their paperwork in and run their campaigns. It’s impossible to describe the immense chaos and challenges and adventures that we had during that campaign, but it was a special time and it wouldn’t have been nearly as wonderful or successful without the effort and contributions of Michelle.
Pot-TV was birthed in Marc’s basement, in 2000, the early days of the Internet. Michelle was always there, making sure that ran smoothly, coordinating people and equipment, and doing her own shows as well.
The Tokers Bowl was another major project of hers. An annual event running from 2002 to 2005, the Tokers Bowl had 200 guests come to Vancouver for a series of amazing parties and events. At the time there wasn’t any weed-friendly clubs or vapor lounges in Vancouver, so finding venues where 200 stoners could eat and toke and enjoy entertainment was no easy task. This was a huge effort and for four years this was by far the best marijuana event in the world.
Marc moved back to Vancouver in 2002, and re-opened the Hemp BC storefront under the name of the BC Marijuana Party. This was also a huge project, and Michelle helped make that happen too, and seeing that store re-open where Marc had been forced out years before was an incredible experience.
Michelle was never afraid to take risks to further the cause. I know that at various times she put significant amounts of her own money and credit on the line to help Marc accomplish his goals. She also wasn’t afraid to get involved in the seed business, becoming an integral part of its operations, which resulted in her facing extradition after the DEA got involved.
Things became strained between Michelle and Marc in the years following the DEA bust of them and Greg in 2005, and I didn’t see her very often in person over the past couple of years. But I sure saw her work and presence as she was continuing as an untiring activist, helping on Treating Yourself Magazine, doing countless videos and promotions, appearing as a media spokeswoman, building alliances with prominent people, and teaching a great many sick Canadians how to apply for their medical marijuana permit and navigate through the tortuous Health Canada bureaucracy. Her “medicinal” t-shirts are now ubiquitous, a simple but powerful logo that carries a message wherever it goes.
One of the many things I admired about Michelle was her ability to speak with and rally together people of all sorts. She made friends and allies out of people from all walks of life and all levels of society. She was as comfortable talking to media moguls and celebrities as she was helping out impoverished and ailing Canadians in getting their medical marijuana license.
Michelle did so much more, it’s hard to list all of her accomplishments. I keep remembering new projects and aspects of things that she was involved in, it seems endless.
I know Michelle lived with Crohn’s Disease, a painful, difficult ailment to suffer with. Yet despite her living with this terrible condition, it never slowed her down, she was always full of energy, a dynamo who put everyone else’s needs before her own.
She encouraged my daughter Lily to remember her as “the blonde with the big boobies.” Along with her passion and energy, Michelle will be forever remembered for her bright red lipstick, her blonde hair and her buxom figure, a joint of Afghani Bullrider in her hand, giving of herself 200% to help others and spread the word about the wonders of medicinal marijuana.
Michelle was a remarkable, powerful, loving woman and I am honoured to have known her and worked with her. She inspired me and made me feel lazy in comparison to her non-stop energy. From what I have seen and heard, she faced her illness and her death with the same powerful spirit and goodwill that she lead her life. She is sorely missed, but her work, her spirit and her memories live on with us all.
Bless you Michelle Rainey, and thank you for being part of my life, for touching so many other lives, and for leaving the world a better place than you found it.