It seems that, at 60 years old, Vancouver's self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot” may finally be getting de-throned, ushered out of the cannabis industry spotlight in Canada by the #timesup/#metoo movement. But only after one last wild, online spectacle that's currently playing out.
Marc Emery came upon fame in the 1990s when he became known for his propensity to smoke weed on the steps of city hall and wag his middle finger at Canada's pot laws. This week the world learned a secret that many in his industry seemingly already knew: the guy is allegedly a creep.
Taking to Facebook on Wednesday, Emery shared a rambling, 1,800 word apology letter which seemed to be an attempt to take the wind out of an upcoming news article about him on The Huffington Post. A freelance reporter named Deidre Olsen from Vancouver had outlined some sexual harassment allegations in a Twitter thread, which prompted journalists to dig in and find out more.
The apology, timing and theme reads a lot like Jian Ghomeshi’s death rattle on the same social media platform, and it has revealed more than would have been reported had he not written it.
Some things of note in the letter:
- Emery admits that he has “only” ever had sex with three of his employees
- He's comfortable smoking pot with 17 year olds
- His wife Jodie Emery permanently "banished" him from hanging out in Cannabis Culture stores for unwanted sexual behaviour that made their staff uncomfortable
- He claims to have never had sex with anyone under 19
- He doesn't want social media outrage to tarnish his legacy, stating that "so, so many good things [he's] done... can get forgotten amidst Social Media indignation"
- "It’s possible other lurid stories may come to light of [his] behaviour"
Emery has always been outspoken in public, but not concerning sex; he's only ever raved about the injustice of cannabis laws when in front of a microphone. However after we reached out to a few people who work in his industry it became clear that the sex stuff was no surprise to any of them. None of these people wished to speak on the record, and all of them are happy to see stories of Marc's actions come to light so that they can move on to a more positive chapter.
If you were paying attention to Emery on social media over the years, there were some clues.
In 2014 he decided to shoot a creepy photo of a group of 14-16 year-old girls and post it to Instagram with the caption "A gaggle of teenagers and their lovely legs.". In his apology his explanation was that it was "meaningless" and that he was "taking photos of everything that day".
In 2017 he tweeted some thoughts seemingly defending artists throughout history having "inappropriate or age-sensitive sexual relationships with women". The series of tweets on that subject have now been deleted.
Emery doesn't seem to be sincerely apologizing to anyone but his wife. The Prince and his partner, Jodie Emery, have been waging a PR offensive online this week but so far don't seem to have spoken directly to media. Jodie has been retweeting historical stories about her work, highlighting the fact that she's been a vocal advocate for cannabis for the last decade. Marc has posted another letter to Facebook, as well as some tweets (one defending an email he sent to someone's grandma where he said he wanted to "f**k" them).
While Marc is apologizing to Jodie, she seems to think no apologies are necessary. As recently as last month, while responding to something she read in a politics column published here, she let us know that reporters trying to hold him to account was "getting old".
Former Georgia Straight cannabis reporter and author of The Little Book of Cannabis, Amanda Siebert, seems to feel differently. This tweet of hers below reflects a common sentiment in the cannabis industry this week.
Sony just dropped R.Kelly and it the Canadian weed industry is finally dropping Marc Emery. Fuck YES.— Amanda Siebert (@amanda_siebert) January 18, 2019
We've posted Emery's Facebook statements in their entirety below.
MARC EMERY ON FACEBOOK - Wednesday, January 16, 2019:
I have to make a public statement about assertions being made on twitter and possibly in the larger public sphere about my reputation and actions I am alleged to have done in my time as owner and operator of Cannabis Culture, particularly in the years 2005-2009. In 2009, the ownership and operation went to Jodie Emery exclusively.
Jodie Emery is the greatest woman I know, of dignity, kindness , with not a mean bone in her body. I am lucky to have been married to her since 2006, she has been a stalwart and balanced influence on my life.
We are now separated for over a year but the truth is Jodie and I have lived only 2 1/2 years of the last nine together, I was in prison five years ( when she was heroic) and when I got out of prison, things had changed and there was no role for me at Cannabis Culture. So I’ve been travelling after my 7 month stint as owner of the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been part of, my dispensary in the gay village in Toronto.
I was glad to go to openings of CC franchises and people loved our shops. Of course, adversity has affected all the dispensaries and finally the last 3 of CC’s will in Vancouver will close in a few weeks.
These businesses are vitally important to Jodie and she has put her life into the movement, the cause, her people, many employees at these great places.
So when I see Jodie hurting so bad for accusations made against me, that I will discuss, I feel very, very low inside. My wonderful best friend is heartbroken because I’ve brought this awful ordeal to her, and she is so innocent, Jodie is so full of good intent and could never knowingly hurt anyone. So I do feel bad for what I, one way or another, have inflicted on a truly wonderful woman, and I’m very, very sorry that after all you have done for me, above and beyond what any other woman would do, that I have let you down and brought shame to you, Jodie. I am so sorry.
What have I been accused of is here, this is a piece from the Huffington Post coming up.
That these things get publicly discussed and that Jodie has to see this and experience an attack on her business and her character, it is very hurtful.
Truth is, I’ve lived a very outspoken, provocative, possibly even outrageous life. I’ve thrived on controversy. And I’ve offended people. Lots of people. I’ve defended LouisCK, had arguments with the trans activists, have been sexually outspoken all my life, am seen around young women because I am popular with men and women, many of them young adults.
I would like to think my actions, I’m so very obvious and in the open, are always clear. I’d like to think I’ve taken care of every employee and every woman I’ve ever known, of every age, in an admirable and honourable way. I do say outrageous things but it is my sincere belief that I have never harmed anyone , or sexually aggressed anyone, in my life. I do write provocative things. I do talk about sex and in the old days 15 years ago I used to write about sex, but I have never ever had sex with anyone under 19. I have only ever had sex with three employees in those 40 years I was an employer (1975-2009) , two of them I married and one was a woman in her 20’s.
I did have 5-8 17-year old friends in 2014 and 2015 when I returned from prison that I smoked pot with.I never supplied anyone with “drugs” other than smoking pot with them. I’ve smoked pot with many young people at 4/20’s or rallies and speeches or appearances, and for me it’s not unusual to be comfortable smoking pot with 17 year olds. But Jodie did find this uncomfortable, along with occasional but upsetting blurting out of sexual remarks/innuendo/shocking stories that I would say aloud inadvisedly, Jodie asked me to go, for everyone’s benefit and peace of mind, she felt.
So yes, I don’t always get it right. I’ve had over 400 employees from 1975 to 2009, so I’d like to think I’ve been a very good employer who paid well and showed he genuinely cared about each one. Just very vocal. Sometimes inadvisedly so, as I said.
So I live in Toronto and travel, and Jodie lives in Vancouver and shepherds her beloved Cannabis Culture. Jodie has worried daily for nine years running that shop. That she told me to go in Feb 2016, , and Jodie cares deeply for me, shows you how much I was offending her with my exhibitionism.
I am a touchy guy probably. But I would like to think that it was modest non sexual touching always. Since it was always in public and not hidden away, I am touchy guy in the public sphere where everyone can see. It was only adult women or men I would be giving back rubs too. But this was one thing that also bothered Jodie, even if I was well meaning, it would be misunderstood or taken wrongly by any observers. Back in the 2002-2009 period, it didn’t seem out of place, but in 2014-2015, when it was Jodie’s effort and work for 5 years, it was not cool anymore for me to do my thing in her store and her lounge where she wanted her protocols to be respected. The staff Jodie has hired voiced concerns to her and she dismissed me and banished me ultimately.
Now, in the journalists questions , she says “ touching in the vapour lounge 2006-2011”. I was not in the vapour lounge from September 2009 to 2011, I was in jails and prisons and was not at Cannabis Culture. But yes, I remember rubbing the backs of some of my employees and probably customers and with their consent. I was admittedly endeared to them. I thought I loved them in a healthy way. I’ve always felt this way since being an employer since 1975. I’d like to think if necessary you would hear them say that. That it was obvious I cared for them. And my customers too. I have taken over ten thousands photos with admirers and Id like to think Id made a connection with each one of them. I can do it 97% of the time and people are happy. But sometimes one judges the situation incorrectly. Goes too far. Offensive. I can and have apologized, goodness knows I’ve said stupid things. But I’ve never done anything with a conscious intent to degrade or diminish anyone. There’s a stand-up comedian inside of me that is too anxious to shock, entertain as well as feed my own ego, which is a weakness I’m trying to correct.
I’ve never had sex with anyone under 19 ever, so this idea that I’m grooming young women is not true. Deidre and I had a pleasant correspondence when she was 17, nearly 18, as she wanted to work for Cannabis Culture. I never asked her for sex and offered to talk to her parents if she wanted to work at CC. I don’t know what grooming was going on. To this day I am affectionate with women in a similar way, except they are over 18. And I can be sexually explicit for men and women of all ages if they are adults and it comes up. I regret Deidre finds the experience now traumatizing. To you Deidre, I’m sorry I went out of bounds and the experience has become unpleasant. It was immature of me and bad judgment, but I only ever felt positive and glad to know you in our correspondence.
Now this final remark; did I write those few sentences about “anal sex” in a sex column I wrote on the Cannabis Culture forums in 2005. That’s 14 years ago. It’s a tongue in cheek comment essentially saying it’s going to work if you just go with the passion of the moment and not overthink it. The presumption is that I’m talking to people in relationships so consent is presumed. That is not how it could be interpreted today perhaps, but I can’t erase what I’ve written out there in the online world. Not everything I wrote in 2005 is what I believe today. Sex, politics, I’d hate to think I have to be responsible for things I wrote decades ago. But it’s there. Same with a photo on my Instagram. It’s from Amsterdam in 2014 and it’s about 15-20 European school girls, age 14-16, gathered around a magician who was entertaining them. I was taking photos of everything that day ( my first travel outside of north America since 1996) as we had just arrived and I thought just that youth is so fleeting. I put it on Instagram and Jodie said “ people will misunderstand, please take it down.” I didn’t, and that meaningless photo, because to me it was just a photo, it didn’t signify any thing but a moment, had been used to call me a pedophile and other scurrilous terms. And Jodie said once again “ Why? Why?” I guess for me, I didn’t want to be bullied and so its stayed there for 4 1/2 years just out of my stubbornness, because I don’t want to be intimidated by people saying something false. But it’s the real reason I’m sorry about that is all this pain I’ve caused Jodie by my irrational stubbornness.
It’s possible other lurid stories may come to light of my behaviour. But over a 60 year life, there’s many mistakes in there. And so, so many good things I’ve done that can get forgotten amidst Social Media indignation.
Any man or woman that was disappointed with my behaviour with them whenever I was with you is welcome to write me or contact me and I would always respond. I have never ignored a complaint about my behaviour except the many times I disappointed Jodie Emery. But for anyone else, I would listen and if you felt bad from something I did to you I would feel bad about that, apologize and be sincere.
Thank you for listening. And please be kind to Jodie Emery. The woman is such a great contributor to the human struggle for justice and she doesn’t deserve to be shamed for my behaviour or my attitudes.
MARC EMERY ON FACEBOOK - Friday, January 18th, 2019:
I’d like to point out that the accusers like Heather complained after being friends and attending my lounge over a 5-year period, but now, in hindsight, regrets the experience. Deidre Olsen had an 8-month correspondence with me and visited my lounge and presumably enjoyed the experience but again, now feels differently. None of these women complained at the time or asked for an apology.
What is happening is that, reflecting back on their experience 10-14 years ago, they feel differently. But this is a scarce minority viewpoint. I have employed over 400 men and women since 1975, and perhaps 10-20 regret the experience out of 400. Most of these people who worked for me went on to great success and happy careers. Some of those expressing regret were dismissed from their job and are/were bitter about it.
There is little I can do about people who enjoyed their experience when it happened but now want to vilify me because they have discovered a modern, contemporary interpretation of that very same experience. Now anyone with a grievance against me, often based on fabrications, can go on television and say what a bad person I was.
Ok, that’s the modern world we live in.
Remember, Jodie and I are pretty well all that stood between a completely government controlled corporate cannabis regime and a free market people’s cannabis existence.
Our dispensaries have been forced to close by this regime.
Lisa Campbell and all those who have always hated our existence are banding together to try to put nails in the coffin of the only real people’s voice this movement has and has had for 25 years.