TORONTO — Former employees of Canada's "Prince of Pot" say Marc Emery gave illegal drugs like ecstasy and LSD to underage girls at parties in his vapour lounge in Vancouver.
The claims, which Emery denies, come days after HuffPost Canada revealed multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour over 12 years against the cannabis rights activist and entrepreneur.
In 2008 Melinda Adams was a shy teenager, content to sit in the corner at these parties. At 17, she worked for Emery, then in his early 50s, at the Cannabis Culture's headquarters. Instead of attending high school, she was paid cash to clean toilets and take out the garbage.
She remembers four different parties, held after hours at the business on West Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver, between July 2008 and July 2009. Adams alleges Emery gave her MDMA, also known as ecstasy — and she says she saw him hand the illegal substance to six other girls under the age of 18.
"Marc would say (MDMA) would make you feel good, and we went for it," Adams, now 27, told HuffPost Canada in an interview. The parties were for staff, regular customers and Emery's friends.
"We saw everything, but we didn't say anything; we shrugged it off," she said. "We thought, 'This is Cannabis Culture, this is the family. Let's just go along with it.'"
In Canada, anyone who provides a controlled substance to another person could be charged with drug trafficking, according to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. A conviction for trafficking MDMA, for example, can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Judges may consider aggravating factors like incidents involving a minor.
He was taking advantage of people who were too young to make critical decisions for themselves.Anthony Olive, former employee
Anthony Olive worked with Adams, and held different positions including assistant manager during his almost year and a half tenure at Cannabis Culture. He said he not only saw Emery provide MDMA to Adams, but he also witnessed the owner give MDMA — and once, the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine — to girls between the ages 16 and 17 at about four parties he attended between April 2008 and August 2009.
"Looking back, it's definitely disturbing," said Olive, now 32. "He was taking advantage of people who were too young to make critical decisions for themselves."
Olive said he was fired in 2009 for not covering another manager's shift.
Claims are 'utterly untrue': Marc Emery
Emery told HuffPost on Monday that it is "utterly untrue" that he ever gave "non-cannabis drugs to anyone under 18."
In a Facebook statement last week, he referenced consuming marijuana with teens in the years after Adams and Olive worked at Cannabis Culture: "I did have five to eight, 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."
An outspoken marijuana legalization activist, Emery served a U.S. prison term from 2010 to 2014 for selling marijuana seeds to American customers.
Story continues after video of Jodie and Marc Emery speaking about activism after marijuana legalization:
Adams is among the 10 former employees and regular customers of Cannabis Culture interviewed by HuffPost, who said they either witnessed or experienced inappropriate touching and sexual comments by Emery, spanning 2005 to 2017.
"I have employed over 400 men and women since 1975, and perhaps 10 to 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," Emery wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.
"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."
Started her 'dream job'
Adams met Emery in Toronto at the Global Marijuana March in 2008. They continued contact on Facebook. "Some of the messages were vulgar, but being a shy kind of teenager, I just kind of laughed it off and let it be," she said.
A few months later, Emery convinced her to get on a bus to work for him in Vancouver. She arrived after a three-day journey, took a cab to his apartment, showered, smoked weed and went out for breakfast with Emery near the Cannabis Culture store.
Then, she started what she thought of as a "dream job."
Adams said she quickly realized working for Emery meant tolerating his hugs, shoulder rubs, and comments about her breasts, butt, and wardrobe. There were times he'd "scream" at her for not meeting his expectations, and would often remind her that he could fire her at any moment, she said.
"I developed anxiety and woke up often in the mornings crying," she said. "I always had stomachaches because I was scared of disappointing him."
Heather Bryant, who also used to work for Emery, said she was at Cannabis Culture the day Adams arrived from Toronto.
"Marc was in the office, bragging that he was her lord and master — that he could make her do anything he wanted," Bryant said.
He boasted about being a father figure.Melinda Adams
For two months in the summer of 2008, Adams also lived with Emery and his wife, Jodie, in their apartment. She said her boss would walk around naked and tell her explicit details about his sex life.
"I was in a bad situation in my life, bouncing from home to home. I'd been living on my own since I was 15. Marc knew that. He boasted about being a father figure," Adams said.
"He was an older male figure who was going to try to teach me things, and give me a life. That's why I went along with everything that happened, but I knew deep down inside it wasn't right."
Olive, who describes Adams as a "really sweet, super innocent girl" when she arrived in Vancouver in 2008, corroborates her account of living and working with Emery.
She later moved out on her own, and managed Emery's convenience store. Adams quit working for Emery after a year, and moved back to Ontario to be closer to family.
"I was only ever polite, proper and decent to Mel. I never took advantage of Mel, never touched her sexually," said Emery via Twitter on Monday, in response to the details Adams shared with HuffPost. He said she was only supposed to live with the Emerys for two weeks, which turned into two months.
"Mel and I were always on proper terms," he said.
Jodie Emery, who is separated from Marc, has not responded to HuffPost's requests for comment.
More from HuffPost Canada:
Marc Emery's supporters say he isn't hiding anything. Loretta Nall, 44, who lives in Alabama, described Emery as her friend, mentor, former employer, and occasional lover.
She said while Emery can be "incredibly sexually graphic and at the most, inappropriate," he hasn't engaged in criminal behaviour.
"If you know anything about Marc then you know he's a hypersexual guy with a massive ego, a brilliant mind and a kind heart. He also has a proclivity for females a good bit younger than he is (but very much of legal age to consent) and he's made no secret of that," Nall said in an email.
"You know what Marc is thinking and if you don't like his thoughts you can avoid him. It's really that simple."
Emery previously told HuffPost that he did "kiss a few employees, male and female," if they welcomed it.
"I do say outrageous things but it is my sincere belief that I have never harmed anyone, or sexually aggressed anyone, in my life," he also wrote in a Facebook statement.
A few years ago, Adams said she began speaking to other women who'd had similar experiences with and felt taken advantage of by Emery, and said she realized she'd been manipulated and treated inappropriately.
"I'd always defend Marc when I was a kid, but he conditioned us in a way that made us believe we were special and lucky," Adams said. "Now that I look back, it almost feels like a twilight zone, and what I believed was a lie."
Last year, she felt both both triggered and emboldened by the growing #MeToo movement. She said telling her story now means perhaps saving other women from Emery using his influence and making unwanted advances.
"If someone was to come up to me today and say Marc Emery is bringing up a 17 year old on a bus to work for him, I'd be so concerned for that girl."