One of Canada’s major cannabis superstores, Hemp BC was founded in April of 1994 by entrepreneur Marc Emery. It was one of the area’s first hemp stores, as growing and selling hemp was – and still is, in some places – illegal in Canada.
With a massive following including the Hemp BC brick and mortar storefront, the Hemp BC Legal Assistance Center, Cannabis Culture Magazine, and other enterprises, this store became a business model for similar enterprises.
Not only that, but Hemp BC also grew to support and employ thousands of people, serving as activist centers and supporting the growing hemp movement.
Just a few short years later, however, Hemp BC shut down. With little information about what happened and why, Hemp BC mysteriously drifted away from the public eye.
So what happened to Hemp BC, you might ask – and can its resources still be accessed today? Here’s what you need to know.
History of Hemp BC
Hemp BC’s origins can be traced to the Hemp BC storefront in Vancouver, Canada, which opened in 1994. One of Canada’s first hemp stores, it sold pipes, pot-growing books, and even bongs, items which were (and in some places still are) illegal.
Hemp BC later expanded to become one of the globe’s true cannabis superstores. It developed an online presence, with the website one of the first of its kind to appear online. In addition, the Emery enterprises exploded to include the main Hemp BC storefront, the Hemp BC Wholesale marketplace, the Cannabis Cafe, the Little Grow Shop, Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds, and Cannabis Culture, a popular cannabis grower’s website.
Hemp BC later became a model for similar hemp businesses, as Emery explained how the company could be used as a replica for other enterprises. In just two years, more than 100 hemp stores and likeminded businesses opened across Canada, employing thousands of people in Emery’s footsteps.
About Marc Emery
Marc Emery is an activist and businessman, known for his contributions to the marijuana industry. The original publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and president of the BC Marijuana Party, Emery has many other accomplishments to speak of, including the creation of Pot-TV and the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore.
An avid smoker himself, Marc Emery is also a libertarian. He has been active in multiple Canadian political parties – including the New Democratic Party and the Freedom Party – and has been jailed numerous times for his activism on the cannabis scene. He’s often hailed as the “Prince of Pot.”
Emery’s career in marijuana began in 1994 after he started selling seeds upon attending the High Times Cannabis Cup. His seed-selling enterprise was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal just a year later, with Cannabis Culture magazine debuting shortly after.
More recently, Emery has been praised for his founding of the Iboga Therapy House, a detoxification therapy program located in British Columbia. The facility uses ibogaine therapy to help heroin and cocaine addicts quit their addictions with plant-based alkaloids.
How Did it Take Off?
Marc Emery, the founder of the business, began selling marijuana seeds with his pipes and other products shortly after the store opened its doors. The seeds grew quickly in popularity, gaining notoriety for their high yields and positive reputation. Emery rapidly rose to a position of fame in the international marketplace, serving as a hemp spokesperson for news outlets like CNN, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and more.
Unfortunately, with such notoriety comes risk. Hemp BC and Marc Emery himself were repeatedly raided by the police, with the first raid occurring in January of 1996. Interestingly, this was shortly after Emery had appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. After a second raid in December of 1997, Emery was forced to sell off his enterprises, including Hemp BC as well as Cannabis Cafe.
This closure wasn’t just due to the logistical challenges related to keeping such an enterprise open under such close police scrutiny. Emery also faced criminal charges related to the illegal sales of seeds and paraphernalia – plus, he was charged for assaulting a police officer. He was banned from returning to the address where his businesses were located, too.
Eventually, Emery’s business license was revoked by the city, and he closed up shop shortly after.
So What Happened to Hemp BC?
Multiple police raids and additional city harassment forced Emery to sell off Hemp BC and the Cannabis Cafe to Sister Icee, who ran the businesses for another year before additional raids shut them down.
Despite the loss of Hemp BC, not all was lost for Emery, who continued to operate Cannabis Culture magazine as well as Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds. Eventually, he shut down the Hemp BC Legal Assistance Center and the Little Grow Shop. Cannabis Culture continued for quite some time, rising to fame as the only magazine to be printed totally on hemp paper (although this practice was discontinued after some time due to the expense).
Although it had a short five-year lifespan, Hemp BC played a major role in shaping the culture and development of cannabis in Canada. Today, the company still exists in various forms, reborn as the BC Marijuana Party Bookshop and later renamed to the Cannabis Culture Store.
Founded by the BC Marijuana Party, of which Emery is president and founder, this store opened in 2001 with the goal of educating and supporting cannabis growers and enthusiasts. Owned and operated by Emery’s wife, Jodie, the store is the perfect destination for passionate advocates for marijuana legalization.
Alternatives to Hemp BC in Vancouver, CA
Hemp BC was a staple in Canadian cannabis culture for many years. With all of the enterprises associated with Hemp BC – from the magazine to the storefront and the online presence of both – there aren’t many companies that can take the place of this behemoth.
However, Cannabis Life Network is a rising star when it comes to cannabis media. This brand produces media-rich content that features cannabis in all its forms, from cannabis travel documentaries and cooking shows to information about activism and growing marijuana.
When it comes to places to shop for marijuana seeds and paraphernalia, there are several places you can turn. BC Smoke Shop is one option. Since 2005, this store has serviced customers in Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and a number of other Canadian cities. Most products can be ordered and shipped online, including grinders and bongs. Smoker’s Corner is another option, with locations across Alberta as well as an online storefront.
Since marijuana is now legal in British Columbia, as well as the rest of Canada, it’s much easier to find seeds and other cannabis equipment for sale in the country. There is less of a need for companies like Hemp BC to exist since information and products are readily available.
Nevertheless, Hemp BC – and most notably, Marc Emery – was an innovator when it came to spreading information and cultivating a new culture of marijuana enthusiasts in Canada and beyond.