Cannabis Culture founder Marc Emery wrote a Facebook post on Wednesday evening addressing allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted teenage girls who worked for him.
Responding to a Twitter thread posted last week by Deidre Olsen, who accused Emery, 60, of grooming, harassing, assaulting and exploiting “vulnerable teenage girls and young women,” Emery said he has never harmed or “sexually aggressed” anyone and that he has not had sex with anyone under the age of 19. However, he said he is a “touchy guy” who would give back rubs to adult women and men at the Cannabis Culture store and vapour lounge in Vancouver.
Olsen, a freelance journalist who turned down a job offer to work at Cannabis Culture years ago, said Emery created a “toxic work environment” in the 2000s, hiring teenage girls to work in his store who would have to “put up with his unwanted sexual harassment.” (Disclosure: Olsen has freelanced for VICE.)
Olsen said Emery would have sexually explicit conversations in front of staff and hosted parties where hard drugs were pushed on teenage girls and young women. Olsen also posted screenshots from women Olsen alleges are former Cannabis Culture employees—their identities are not revealed in the posts—describing allegations ranging from groping to openly talking about anal sex.
Emery wrote that he does talk about sex and used to write about sex, “but I have never ever had sex with anyone under 19.” He said he has never supplied anyone with drugs “other than smoking pot with them”—and said he is comfortable smoking weed with 17-year-olds.
He said his wife Jodie Emery, 34, “did find this uncomfortable, along with occasional but upsetting blurting out of sexual remarks/innuendo/shocking stories that I would say aloud.” Jodie asked him to leave Cannabis Culture because of his behaviour, he said, noting the couple has been separated for more than a year.
Emery also responded to remarks he made in a 2005 Cannabis Culture forum about anal sex, in which he said “its [sic] Ok if the woman is uncomfortable, nervous, unsure about you ass fucking her sweet little bung hole, by the time you are a raging ass bandit, it'll be too late for her doubts to get in the way." In the same post he advised readers not to let a woman’s “wails deter you. Every woman wails and howls and cries or some kind of psychic resistance but this will be conquered.”
In his Facebook post Wednesday, he said those comments were “tongue in cheek.”
“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.”
He also referred to an Instagram post from 2014 taken from behind a group of girls; he captioned it “a gaggle of teenagers and their lovely legs” and commented on the “undeniable attractiveness of teenage beauty.”
Emery said his wife Jodie asked him to remove the post but he refused out of stubborness.
“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,” Emery said in his Facebook post.
“It’s possible other lurid stories may come to light of my behaviour.”
Emery founded Cannabis Culture magazine in 1995 and later turned it into a chain of dispensaries. He is widely known as the Prince of Pot for his cannabis activism—he spent five years in US federal prison for selling seeds—but has more recently become less relevant as Jodie Emery became the face of the company. The couple was convicted of trafficking-related offences in 2017 for operating illegal dispensaries. Cannabis Culture’s last three remaining dispensaries in Vancouver are being shut down by the city this month.
Jodie Emery did not immediately respond on Thursday to VICE’s requests for comment.
On Tuesday, she tweeted that Cannabis Culture employees had completed mental health first aid training. “Hundreds of people come to CC for community & support,” she wrote.
Recent Instagram posts show that Marc Emery is currently in Argentina and will be speaking at a cannabis conference in Buenos Aires in early February.
Correction: a previous version of this article referred to Deidre Olsen as a former Cannabis Culture employee. In fact, Olsen turned down a job offer to work at Cannabis Culture.
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