Last Wednesday, Seedsman met up with Marc Emery in London on the first location of his ‘world tour.’
Marc is widely known as ‘The Prince Of Pot’ in the industry and has been a cannabis activist for more than 30 years. Emery has faced controversy and even jail time for doing what he believes in and many see him as a great influential figure.
Marc, you’ve obviously got the reputation as the ‘The Prince of Pot’, you’ve been in this sort of industry for quite a while now. Going to prison, the controversy, losing masses of money, have you ever had second thoughts?
No, never. It’s been a great thing, I must tell you – you can find a tremendous value in going to prison. I’ve never regretted going into any of them, I’ve never had a bad experience. Just because you’re uncomfortable, doesn’t make it a bad experience. To me, it’s one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever endured in my life from losing lots of money, being busted, etc…But it’s been greatly beneficial.
When I was in prison for five years in the US for selling seeds; I learned to be a musician, I read one hundred and fifty books – and you know what? Since I’ve been out of prison four years ago, I’ve read two whole books. Just two.
The Cannabis Culture magazine & Pot TV has sort of the become the hub of the industry now, how did both of these come around?
Well, Pot TV was the first ever video channel – in fact it was one of the first video channels of all time on the internet. When Cannabis Culture came out, I asked “Is video possible?” This was in the year 2000. In fact, someone in 1999 asked me “Have you ever thought of having a video station on the internet?” And I said “But no one has one, is it possible?” He said “Theoretically it is possible.”
It turns out it was theoretically possible and there’s a reason it didn’t exist. On January 1st 2000 as a millennium project, we went at it, put it together and by March we were ready to broadcast – but here is the problem. Nobody had a connection that absorbed that bandwidth and fibre optics didn’t exist and data was unbelievably expensive.
So, we had to start with audio only in March 2000 but by May we’re broadcasting video and most people received choppy images because they don’t have the ability to get the speed necessary. We suddenly realised that if someone watches a 10 minute show, it would cost us 20 cents. So, if 1,000 people just watched 1 show, it’s going to cost us 200 dollars and we were putting out a news report every day. In 2001, a lot more people in Canada had fibre optics and we’re able to stream – but it was costing me about 20,000 dollars of bandwidth fees a month. Eventually I spent 1 million dollars! There was absolutely no revenue, the only benefit was the fact I could promote my seeds…and the seeds paid for everything.
You made a lot of money through your cannabis seeds business, was there ever a point that you thought “Maybe I should pull out? Cut my losses.”
No, never. I don’t need any money, I don’t take drugs. Possessions are not purposeful to me. To me, fucking things up, fucking with the system was the greatest pleasure I’ve ever had in my life. So, for me disturbing the status quo was the perfect purpose for money.
You’ve got quite the reputation for self-sacrifice. As part of your plea deal you made sure that both your business partners weren’t charged?
Yes, that’s right. Well; they originally wanted 28 to 40 years for me, Michelle (my partner) 10 years and Greg my other partner 10 years. 10 fucking years. Then they bought it down to 10 years for me and 2 each for them. And then the last offer was 5 years for me and the other two didn’t have to go to jail at all – they just needed to plead guilty, they’d kick them out the country but they won’t do any jail time.
That’s when my lawyer said to me, this is the best offer we’re going to get, you’re going to have to take this. So, that’s when I sucked shit and took the 5 years. It was important that Michelle didn’t go to prison because she developed cancer. We got charged in 2005 but by 2007 they told her she had skin cancer and that took her life by October.
Cannabis Culture, the controversy, Pot TV – you’ve basically made a career for yourself along the way, haven’t you?
Oh yes, civil disambdience has been my life. I have to be careful, I always tell people if you want to achieve something – always let people know what you’re doing, you have to be very transparent. Civil disambdience isn’t “I’m doing something illegal and I’m trying not to get caught”, that’s not civil disambdience – that’s just gaming the law.
You have to tell people “Okay, I’m breaking the law, here’s an advertisement, here’s posters and here’s why I’m doing it. So come and get me.” You can’t complain about it either. You can’t complain you got arrested. I’ve complained about the injustice but I’ve never complain about anything that I’ve endured.
What are your views on the current legalisation situation in Canada?
Selling seeds didn’t really exist when I started doing it, there’s about 1,000 people selling seeds now in Canada. Recently, the government have actually passed a new law making it a real penalty again, because they’re saying you have to buy your seeds from a legal seed dealer.
In a sense, my lawyer is currently helping one of my friends who sells seeds become legal – if it’s not going to be too much money or hassle, go ahead. But the problem with that is that it’s going to inhibit your sales and the government have all these taxes and licences and they kind of make it worse for people. Their legalisation is basically designed to have all the profits of marijuana go to the government, whether it’s in taxes, or whether it’s the cops on the boards of all these licensed producers.
Is legalisation going to get better? What’s the future for marijuana and seed banks?
In 3 or 5 years, it’s going to be good. Normally I don’t like these licensed producers because it’s like a special privilege they have and they’re also going to be urging the government to crack down on the non-licensed people because that’s just what they’re going to do. But I do believe they should be able to make money, they need to be able to sell it from their factory, have a factory store and they should be able to sell directly to the store.
Every last one of them except for one province (in Canada) has to go through a central government monopoly. Right? Well, first of all the packaging as such, there’s no real good information – you can’t smell it, you can’t see it and you can’t refund if it sucks. In my shop, you could’ve done all those things, you could see it, smell it, you could even look at my lab analysis, my tests.
The system is starting off very restricted but as time goes by, it’ll become less restricted.
What’s the future for Marc Emery?
Well, first of all – I’m going to travel internationally and meet lots of growers. The Caribbean, Africa, South America but also Asia. And, when I get back in May, I’m going to look at the landscape. By then, people would have been charged and challenged – they will need someone to help finance these cases, a lot of these are going to be people who’ve been pulled over at a driving stop with some weed and are being told you’re going to lose your licence. So, I’m going to be contributing money to these various court challenges.