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The Grande Dame of Cannabis: a Portrait of Michka Seeliger-Chatelain

Michka Seeliger-Chatelain is a writer, editor, adventurer, and activist, well known for her passion for cannabis. Born in France but identifying as a citizen of the world, Michka is a colourful character with a vibrant lifestyle. In this portrait of Michka, we reveal a woman of conviction, passionate about alternative medicine and spirituality, and who has been awarded the title of the “Grande Dame of Cannabis” by the global cannabis community.

An Adventurer

Born in 1944 in Domme, Dordogne, Michka grew up in Paris and studied at the Sorbonne. Tempted by a life of adventure, she left France after completing her studies to live in England. At this time, she discovered what was to become one of her life’s passions, sailing. With her partner at the time, she bought a boat built at the end of the 19th century, which they renovated before setting sail for the Mediterranean. The couple left for Canada and settled near Vancouver in 1970.

But the sea kept calling to them. Together, they built a new sailboat and sailed through the Panama Canal back to Europe in a year of ocean cruising.

The Mag-Mell in which Michka travelled from England to Mallorca

In Europe, Michka separated from her partner to find love again in the arms of the writer Hugo Verlomme. In 1978, the couple headed back to Canada and settled in British Columbia. There, they built a cabin deep in the woods. They lived without running water or electricity. They lit themselves with kerosene lamps, melting snow to obtain water and heating themselves with wood.

This simple life left a lasting impression on Michka, and she returned to her cabin every year to spend a few weeks away from the hustle and bustle of Paris.

This period had such a profound influence on Michka because it was there, near Vancouver, that she discovered cannabis. In France, she had been bathed in negative stereotypes about the plant, so she felt nothing but distrust towards it.

Uncomfortable in the presence of something she knew little about, she did not enjoy her first joint. But she had the courage, the lucidity and/or the intelligence to try again. This is how she fell in love with the plant and its many virtues.

She really had to love this plant to take on all of the work that went into its consumption. At the time, the herb was imported from Mexico and consisted of a shapeless mass from which a multitude of small branches and seeds had to be removed before the rest could be crushed into a consumable product.

In 1985, Michka returned to France with her partner and their two sons. She worked with various magazines, writing columns on organic gardening, of which she was one of the first apostles in France.

The Grande Dame of Cannabis

Michka in her garden in Paris

A Writer

In France, Michka wrote her first book, entitled Le Grand Départ et La Vie Sur L’Eau (The Great Departure and Life on the Water), which she published with Albin Michel.

But she soon decided to put her pen to good use for a cause close to her heart, that of cannabis: “I started writing 45 years ago so that people would discover that weed can be a friend and an ally, as I had discovered myself.”[1]

Her position on the matter is unequivocal: “There should be no special regulation, just as there is no law on access to tomatoes. Anyone can buy, eat, grow and sell them. I would like the same for all plants. I consider free access to plants to be a fundamental right of all living creatures.”[2]

Driven by a fierce will, a deep conviction and an immeasurable love, she wrote several books, the best known of which are Le dossier vert d’une drogue douce (1978 – in collaboration with Hugo Verlomme) and Le cannabis est-il une drogue? (1993).

In 2000, this lover of plants and nature founded the publishing house Mama, in collaboration with Tigrane Hadengue, with the mission of publishing books that ‘do good’.

In addition to Michka’s own works, her catalogue includes books on cannabis, such as the French translation of the biography of Howard Marks (Mr Nice) and books on spirituality, shamanism, and the links between humans and the cosmos. This publishing house also allows Michka to insist on another feature of her identity and her struggle: femininity, a central element if there is one since the very name of the publishing house refers directly to it.

The Grande Dame of Cannabis

Michka and Howard Marks at the first Cannabis Trade Fair, Cannabusiness in 1996 in Germany

Since 2000, Michka has published most of her texts with Mama Editions, including the famous Cannabis médical, Du chanvre indien au THC de synthèse, published in 2009 and selling nearly 47,000 copies. In this rich text, Michka takes stock of cannabis at the beginning of the 21st century. She iving the floor to some of the world’s greatest specialists on the subject, such as Denis Richard, Jorge Cervantes and Manuel Guzmán.

A Relentless Activist

Her passion for cannabis was not only conducted through writing. Her greatest achievement was her fight against Professor Gabriel Nahas in the 1990s. He was a WHO advisor and drug advisor to Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris. But above all, he was a fierce opponent of cannabis. He didn’t hesitate to tamper with certain studies and to distort reality to the benefit of his anti-cannabis ideology. Michka had already denounced his actions in 1978 in Le dossier vert d’une drogue douce.

In the 1990s, she realised that Nahas was still as influential and dishonest as ever; she took the bull by the horns and published an acerbic critique of him in the magazine Maintenant. Caught out, Nahas could only retaliate through the courts and sued Michka. She was finally ordered to pay him a symbolic franc. “In reality, given public opinion, it was as close to victory as one could hope for,” she said later. And she was not wrong. Her text and the ensuing trial made it possible to expose the shamelessly ideological nature of Professor Nahas’ studies.

The Grande Dame of Cannabis

Michka and Professor Nahas, as seen by High Times magazine (1995)

Michka Seeliger-Chatelain: The Grande Dame of Cannabis

This life spent fighting for cannabis has earned Michka the recognition of the cannabis community, gradually giving her the honorary title of the  “Grand Dame of Cannabis”.

But that’s not all. In 2017, the mythical Dutch bank Sensi Seeds created a variety in her name. The idea was to create a strain that looked like Michka and represented her in the best possible way. When Michka discovered cannabis, she smoked pure sativa from South America. She had a lifelong love of this specific high. It was this feeling that she wanted to find in the strain created in her honour.

Also, in the early 1990s, at the first High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, she discovered Sensi Seeds‘ Northern Lights #5 x Haze. It was the first time she had come into contact with a ‘modern’ strain, and she loved it. So she asked Sensi Seeds to create a pure sativa that was preferably a Haze.

And so “Michka” was born. A strain in the image of the Grande Dame of Cannabis. Feminine, because powerful but not violent, as Michka herself describes it.[3]

The Grande Dame of Cannabis

Sensi Seed’s Michka


[1] https://www.cannabis.es/pw/2018/10/08/michka-seeliger-chatelain-la-grande-dame-du-cannabis/

[2] https://canamo.net/cultura/entrevistas/la-mujer-de-la-eterna-sonrisa

[3] https://canamo.net/cultura/entrevistas/la-mujer-de-la-eterna-sonrisa

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This post is also available in: French

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