Canada is fast becoming a world leader in cannabis reform. That’s thanks to the country’s move towards legalization, which is slated for later this summer. And while politicians and policymakers are working hard to bring all of the legal pieces together in time, there are a number of powerful players who’ve spent years working on the frontlines to get to this point. Here are a few prominent names in Canada’s cannabis sector you should know.
“Baked” Host Mary Jean "Watermelon" Dunsdon
Mary Jean, who’s widely known as Watermelon, made the news in 2017 for her run for Vancouver City Council, which she lost. But before trying her hand at municipal politics, Mary Jean had a strong presence in the city, particularly when it came to fighting for cannabis reform. She first became known for selling cannabis-infused goods at Vancouver’s (clothing optional) Wreck Beach. When she was arrested for trafficking ginger snap cannabis cookies, she fought the charges in court, which led to a momentous victory.
Mary Jean isn’t just an advocate. She’s also hosted a cannabis cooking show called “Baked,” and runs a (non-cannabis infused) candy and gift shop, known for its handcrafted hula-hoops.
Jodie & Marc Emery of Cannabis Culture
This married couple is known as the force behind Cannabis Culture, a Vancouver-based brand that ranges from a magazine to a franchise of dispensaries. But they’re most widely recognized for their advocacy work in the fight for cannabis consumers’ rights. As a result, they’ve faced endless legal challenges.
Marc spent several years in a U.S. prison for selling cannabis seeds online. In March 2017, the couple was arrested and charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy and possession. In December of that same year, they agreed to a plea deal and were ordered to pay a hefty fine.
Julian Fantino, Executive Chair of Aleafia
This former police chief and politician once compared legalizing cannabis to legalizing murder. In a surprising turn of events, he’s now executive chair of Aleafia Inc., a health network that connects prospective medicinal marijuana users with licensed growers.
He now distances himself from his controversial comments criticizing the plant, saying they were made “in a different era.” Julian says his views on medical cannabis changed when he was the minister of Veterans Affairs, and he met former soldiers who relied on marijuana for relief from anxiety, painful injuries, sleep issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cannabis Activist & Author Dana Larsen
Dana is a Vancouver-based activist who uses creative and, at times, unconventional ways to advocate for cannabis reform. He’s the author of several picture books with eyebrow-raising names like Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone; Green Buds and Hash; The Pie-Eyed Piper; and Cannabis in Canada, the Illustrated History.
In 2016, he launched the Overgrow Canada campaign, which promised to dole out millions of cannabis seeds for free across the country. He also dabbled in politics, as one of the founding members of the BC Marijuana Party and the Canadian Marijuana Party.
Jonathan Zaid, Founder of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana
Despite being 24 years old, this advocate has accomplished a tremendous amount in a short time. Jonathan first learned about the benefits of medicinal cannabis when he started using it to treat a rare neurological condition he suffers from. He’s now the founder and executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, which advocates for patients’ rights.
In 2014, he successfully campaigned for insurance coverage of cannabis and helped eliminate fees Ontario-based doctors were charging patients for medicinal marijuana licenses.
Main photo credit: Cannabis Culture