Pot activist Marc Emery apologizes but denies sexual allegations
Published Friday, January 18, 2019 1:08PM EST
Vancouver’s Marc Emery, the self-dubbed “Prince of Pot” and perhaps Canada’s best known marijuana activist, is being accused by a woman of inappropriate contact that allegedly took place about a decade ago.
Diedre Olsen was a 17-year-old high school student in suburban Vancouver when she says she connected with Emery online in 2008 because she was eager to be part of his pro-marijuana movement. He would have been 50 at the time.
According to Olsen, their chats quickly took on a sexual nature.
"He's describing his genitalia and his sex life with his wife to me over Facebook Messenger," she told CTV News Vancouver. "It was extremely uncomfortable, but it was just sort of like OK, well maybe if I put up with it, I can join the cool club."
Olsen visited downtown Vancouver that year to meet Emery in person with the hope of possibly landing a job at Cannabis Culture, which he ran at the time. It’s considered by many to be the nexus of pot activism.
Instead, Olsen, who now lives in Toronto, alleges she got much more than a job interview.
"I just remember sitting on his lap and smoking out of the bong," Olsen said. "It was between his legs and it implied to me that it was oral sex—the simulation of oral sex."
Olsen didn’t take a job at Cannabis Culture and says she never saw Emery again and didn't file a complaint.
Eleven years later, however, in the MeToo era, she decided it was the right time to come forward with her story.
"I decided enough was enough," Olsen said. "This is a last resort."
In a post on his Facebook page that directly mentions her first name, Emery responded to what Olsen now sees as sexual harassment.
"I do say outrageous things, but it is my sincere belief that I have never harmed anyone, or sexually aggressed anyone, in my life," Emery wrote.
“I do write provocative things. I do talk about sex and in the old days 15 years ago I used to write about sex," he added, but emphasized in his statement that "I have never ever had sex with anyone under 19.”
He says he had consensual sex with three employees over the years, including two he married and another in her 20s.
Emery also addressed the 2008 encounter Olsen alleges, describing the interaction between them as “pleasant correspondence.”
"I never asked her for sex and offered to talk to her parents if she wanted to work at CC,” he wrote on Facebook.
"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 judgement, but I only ever felt positive and glad to know you in our correspondence."
Olsen, however, said the rationale in Emery's response fails to make up for what allegedly took place.
"I do not accept his apology," she said. "He made it seem like it was a consequence of his personality and a product of the cultural context."
She wrote in a long thread on Twitter: “The entire history of @CannabisCulture is that of an Old Boys Club where middle-aged men worked alongside vulnerable teenage girls and young women and watched as Marc Emery groomed harassed,…and exploited them.” I removed assaulted here.
Other Twitter users are sharing their stories of Emery’s behaviour on Twitter in response to Olsen’s posts.
Emery, who founded a chain of pot stores, served a U.S. prison sentence for his marijuana sales, and was unsuccessful in launching a political career, said his alleged behaviour and attitudes at the time are now part of a past he's left behind.
"Not everything I wrote in 2005 is what I believe today," he said, referring to sexually explicit posts on a Cannabis Culture forum. "Sex, politics, I’d hate to think I have to be responsible for things I wrote decades ago. But it’s there."
Jodie Emery, Marc’s estranged wife, has been the owner and operator of Cannabis Culture stores since 2009. He urges people not to judge her for his actions.
“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.”
He also reveals that his habit of smoking pot with 17-year-olds, “along with occasional but upsetting blurting out of sexual remarks/innuendo/shocking stories that I would say aloud inadvisedly” led to his wife asking him to leave, though it’s unclear if he’s referring to the business or their marriage.
“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.”
He acknowledges going too far and being offensive and says “it’s possible other lurid stores may come to light.”
“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.”
-With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko