Cannabis Culture founder Marc Emery has responded to a VICE News story containing numerous allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment against him.
VICE News published a story Tuesday afternoon containing allegations from seven former Cannabis Culture employees and four other individuals who told VICE News Emery touched them without consent, spoke openly about his sexual exploits, hosted MDMA-fuelled “lotion parties” with teenage girls, had oral sex at work, and berated his employees. VICE News made repeated attempts to contact him and his wife, Jodie Emery, for comment on the numerous allegations against him. Last week, VICE News provided a detailed list of questions to the Emerys. Emery, through his lawyer, acknowledged receipt of the questions but did not respond before publication.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Emery addressed VICE News’ questions. He denied certain claims and provided some corroboration for others. He said that no concerns of a toxic work environment were brought to his attention, and that he wanted a “happy work environment and happy consumer experience.”
Emery spoke of the close relationship he had with Melinda Adams, a former employee who told VICE News she witnessed him touching employees without consent, berating them, and instigating so-called “lotion parties” with MDMA and other drugs. She said she was 17 when she started working for the Emerys. Emery stated that “no one under 18 received any psychotropic or psychedelic drug from me or in my presence.”
As for the so-called “lotion parties” that took place at Cannabis Culture described to VICE News by Adams and others, Emery denied any knowledge of them. “I have never heard of a ‘lotion party’, nor did I even know what that would be,” he wrote. "This never happened."
“The descriptions made about these alleged parties do not match the actual work space environment I was part of.”
He said Adams’ mother told him "Mel adores you. She’s homeless, and I'm in crisis and I can't look after her at this present time" at the Global Marijuana March in Toronto in 2008, prompting him to buy her a bus ticket to Vancouver.
“I have never heard of a ‘lotion party’... this never happened."
“Mel says now that she saw me naked in that time, but I was never aware of that happening,” Emery said. He said she “often wore the FREE MARC shirt” in response to his extradition to the U.S. and subsequence jail sentence. “Never once did she complain about me.”
Adams told VICE News she once considered Marc and Jodie Emery to be mother and father figures. She said she didn’t feel comfortable speaking out about the behaviour she witnessed while working at Cannabis Culture, because weed was not legal and the Emerys had a lot of clout within the cannabis activism community. However, she told VICE News she is speaking out now because of the #MeToo era.
Emery also said allegations that he was “violently masturbating” next to a sleeping woman he had brought to a hotel room after a rally on Parliament Hill were “absolutely not true.” He did not elaborate.
In response to a question as to whether he commented on employees’ appearances, Emery stated: “I told some women they looked beautiful, but I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable. If I did make an inappropriate remark or make anyone uncomfortable, I apologize.”
“Hotness had nothing to do with any hire.”
He also denied telling women in their 20s that he would fire and replace them with “younger, hotter” girls. “Hotness had nothing to do with any hire,” he wrote. “And I rarely dismissed anyone unless they failed in their employment duties.”
Emery denied having sex or oral sex with women in the basement bathroom at Cannabis Culture during work hours. “No. Nothing like this ever happened,” is all he stated.
He said it is his “sincere belief” that he has never harmed anyone, or sexually aggressed anyone. Emery admitted to “possibly” discussing his sex life with staff members during work hours, but said that “spending 40 hours a week with co-workers makes for a familiar environment.” Further, he says he “never smacked the butt of any employee” but that there was one employee “who had scoliosis and was in constant pain, and with her explicit encouragement I rubbed her back to help.”
Former Cannabis Culture employee Heather Bryant told VICE News that Emery said he wanted to humiliate and “debase” her. Emery denied that charge, claiming Bryant had “a tremendous infatuation” with him.
"It is not verbal abuse to correct or reprimand employees for failures to execute their job.”
“She was very happy until I married Jodie Giesz-Ramsay in 2006. After that, Heather left Cannabis Culture and we were never again on friendly turns.”
VICE News asked Emery whether he flew out a woman to Vancouver January 2004 and whether he put her up in a hotel, where he got her high and licked and pawed at her. He said that “Anyone who came to see me stayed with me in my apartment. This is not true.”
In response to a question from VICE News regarding whether he verbally abused any of his employees, Emery responded: “No. It is not verbal abuse to correct or reprimand employees for failures to execute their job.”
Lastly, Emery said that he is “attracted to mature women, and a few men too.” He claims the youngest woman he has had sex with was his wife Jodie, at age 19. “We separated on good terms in the last year. Marrying Jodie was the best decision I ever made, and I’m very sad to see people attacking her life’s work in their efforts to condemn me.”
Cover image: Marc Emery and Jodie Emery at the opening of one of their Cannabis Culture stores in Montreal in 2016. (The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson.) Artwork by Noel Ransome.