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Canada: 'Prince of Pot' Marc Emery accused of sexual harassment
Tiffany Crawford and Glenda Luymes
Thursday 17 Jan 2019
Marc Emery, once hailed as the “Prince of Pot,” has come under fire after several women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against him only days before three of the Cannabis Culture dispensaries he helped start in Vancouver plan to close their doors.
The alleged incidents were made public on Twitter by Deidre Olsen, who was offered a job at Cannabis Culture in 2008, but did not take it. Emery owned Cannabis Culture in downtown Vancouver at the time, although ownership was eventually transferred to his wife Jodie Emery in 2009.
In an interview Thursday, Olsen said she was traumatized by sexually suggestive emails sent to her by Emery in the past.
“They made me feel weird,” she said. “I was always so worried that my mom or my boyfriend would walk in and see these creepy emails from a man who was 50, so I would delete them really quickly.”
Now a journalist living in Toronto, Olsen alleges Emery made unwanted sexual advances toward her when she was 17 and spending time at Cannabis Culture. She claimed it was common for Emery to invite girls as young as 15 to sit on his lap and smoke marijuana at the shop.
Olsen described Cannabis Culture as an old boys club where middle-aged men worked with vulnerable teenage girls and young women.
Olsen said many of the young women were homeless or from poor backgrounds and desperately needed the job.
“I was lucky. I came from a good home and had a very loving mother who pulled me out of (Cannabis Culture).”
Olsen never went to police and none of the allegations have been tested in court.
On Twitter, Olsen also published several accounts of alleged sexual harassment written by unnamed women. A HuffPost story published Thursday contained similar allegations made by another woman.
In a Facebook post late Wednesday, the self-described Prince of Pot denied he harmed anyone, but admitted he is a “touchy” guy who doesn’t always get it right when speaking openly about sex.
In the post, Emery said he has lived a “very outspoken, provocative, possibly even outrageous life” and has offended many people. He added that he is sexually outspoken, but denied that he ever had sex with anyone underage.
“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.”
He said it wasn’t uncommon for him to smoke pot with 17 year olds at 4/20 events, but denied ever suppling them with drugs.
Some of the allegation posted online claim Emery gave young women inappropriate back rubs and spoke about sexual exploits that made them uncomfortable.
“I am a touchy guy probably,” he said on Facebook. “But I would like to think that it was modest non-sexual touching always.” He added that some staff voiced concerns to his wife, who then asked him to leave.
Pot activist Marc Emery, shown here with wife Jodie Emery in March 2017, has responded to allegations of sexual harassment. Marc and Jodie Emery have been separated for more than a year, he said. (Photo: Jack Boland, Postmedia News files)
Pot activist Marc Emery, shown here with wife Jodie Emery in March 2017, has responded to allegations of sexual harassment. Marc and Jodie Emery have been separated for more than a year, he said. (Photo: Jack Boland, Postmedia News files) Jack Boland / Postmedia News files
Emery claimed he was affectionate with Olsen but never asked her for sex while she was at Cannabis Culture.
“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.”
Olsen said Emery’s post was trying to paint a picture of a different time and place, when it was seen as acceptable to sexually objectify and exploit young women.
Emery, who has been living in Toronto, said he and his wife have been separated for more than a year and only lived together for two-and-a-half years since they were married in 2006. Emery served five years in a U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds on the Internet.
In the Facebook post, he also lamented the harm he may have caused Jodie Emery with his actions and apologized.
Postmedia reached out to both Marc and Jodie Emery, but did not receive a reply.
Last year, the couple was charged with drug-related offences in Toronto after police raided pot dispensaries.
Earlier this month, Cannabis Culture issued 50 layoff notices to staff as it prepares to close its three unlicensed Vancouver marijuana stores by the end of January.
Before the legalization of cannabis in October 2018, the City of Vancouver tolerated marijuana stores and even created a set of operating guidelines for them. But all cannabis stores in Vancouver now require a municipal development permit, a provincial licence and a municipal business licence to operate. The city has said it will seek injunctions against all illegal pot stores.
‘They made me feel weird,’ Deidre Olsen says of emails from Marc Emery. ‘I was always so worried that my mom or my boyfriend would walk in and see these creepy emails from a man who was 50, so I would delete them really quickly.’ (Photo: Peter J. Thompson, Postmedia News)
A Vancouver Police spokesperson wouldn’t say whether police are investigating the sexual harassment allegations against Emery.
“For privacy reasons, the VPD does not provide information that could identify a victim, witness, or a suspect (unless the suspect has been criminally charged),” Const. Jason Doucette said in an email.
Reaction to the allegations online was divided, with some saying Emery remained a “hero” in the fight for access to marijuana, while others spoke out against him.
Cannabis activist and entrepreneur Dana Larsen said he has never seen Emery touch anyone in an inappropriate way.
“I’ve probably seen him hug someone under 18, but not in an inappropriate way,” Larsen said when asked if he had seen Emery touching underage women. “Never kissing.”
Larsen noted that the Cannabis Culture store has always been closed to those under age 19, although he admitted he has no way of knowing if that rule was followed.
“There were never any 15-year-olds in the store to my knowledge,” he said.
Larsen said he has known Emery for many years, although he hasn’t seen him recently. He once worked for Emery’s cannabis magazine and has attended parties with him.
Emery was “generous” at parties and distributed pot to friends, but “not to minors, to my knowledge,” said Larsen.
Emery is also well known for saying “outrageous things” and talking openly about sex. “Some people find that entertaining and amusing and some people find it offensive and bothersome,” said Larsen. “(But) I’m not aware of anything illegal.”
Larsen said he didn’t want to challenge or dismiss anyone’s experiences, but no one has ever come to him to complain about unwanted touching by Emery.
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