Marcus Richardson doesn’t pull punches. The first time we met was at a party in the backyard of a mansion in Toronto. He was nestled in the corner unit of an outdoor sectional – the best seat in the house, as far as I could see. When a space opened up on the couch, I slid in and struck up a conversation. I had no idea who I was talking to, and I don’t think he liked me.
“What are you working with?” I questioned, motioning to the exotic stash box stuffed with concentrates in his lap. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, “You put that cigarette out, and I’ll let you try anything I have.” A little bruised, but intrigued, I obliged. Swapping the smoke in my lips for a small dab rig that was circling, I hit it, choked up, exhaled, and smiled. It was some of the best bubble hash I’d ever tasted!
And rightfully so. Marcus “Bubbleman” Richardson is one of the most celebrated cannabis cultivators, activists and innovators on the planet. It’s already been nearly 20 years since Richardson brought to market the Bubble Bag system, a multitasking filtration kit that remains one of the most popular solvent-free extraction methods.
It’s been even longer, still, since Richardson planted the first legal hemp field in Manitoba. A year after that harvest, in 1996, he left his home province to grow cannabis on the country’s West Coast, where he worked to provide medicine for patients of the country’s first and oldest cannabis dispensary, the British Columbia Compassion Club.
These days, he’s even busier. His full melt hash brand has processing facilities in three countries, and his company in Jamaica recently received a conditional license to operate its farm. When I reached him by phone at his home in British Columbia, Richardson was celebrating a sizable Bay Street buy for Embark, a new state-of-the-art extraction facility in Delta, BC.
Like the most noble and savvy of his contemporaries, Richardson is all business as Canada rolls out changes to its cannabis laws. As someone who fought for legalization on the front lines of the battle since 1993, he’s happy with both the social and economic realities forming, like rainbows, under reform.
“I didn’t spend the last 25 years fighting for this to become legal so that everyone who profited off prohibition could be in charge of the industry,”
“I didn’t spend the last 25 years fighting for this to become legal so that everyone who profited off prohibition could be in charge of the industry,” he says. “I fought for access, and I never cared how the profit margin was broken up. And I certainly don’t care if cops and judges and lawyers all want to be a part of it. These are the people we’ve been begging from the beginning to make this happen!”
An optimist, Richardson is seizing the day he’s waited on for most of his life. Where cynicism and even resentment have taken root in the hearts of many old-guard activists and growers, Richardson views the glass as half full. As the cannabis industry finds its footing, so too, Richardson believes, is the culture changing and evolving. But it’s not, as some believe, dying.
“Cannabis culture was one thing, and now that’s changing. The culture is no longer groups of alternative people who are willing to break the law,” he says. “The culture is now anyone who is willing to have a relationship with cannabis – it’s lawyers and doctors and moms and grandmas and grandpas. The culture is no longer what you see at a Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. It’s much more than that now.”
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