Pubdate: Mon, 30 Sep 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Tom Hawthorn


Activist Argued The Unconstitutionality Of Canada's Marijuana Laws

VICTORIA -- Ian Hunter called himself Reverend for the Church of the 
Universe, said he was on a Mission of Ecstasy and described marijuana as a 
sacrament. The evangelist for marijuana, who brought to his advocacy a wit 
and flair unappreciated by those who upheld the laws he challenged has died 
in an accidental drowning. He was 41.

Acting as his own lawyer on three drug-related offences in 1998, he told a 
B.C. Supreme Court justice that since the constitution recognizes the 
supremacy of God, and since God created marijuana plants, therefore all 
anti-marijuana laws were unconstitutional.

It is unknown how his use of marijuana influenced this novel legal 
argument. In any case, the judge would have none of it. He dismissed Mr. 
Hunter's challenge and ordered him to stand trial.

After conviction and given a $500 fine, Mr. Hunter remained unrepentent 
about promoting marijuana. "I carry some with me all the time," he said. "I 
consider it my sacred duty as a minister, like a medicine man."

Mr. Hunter was a rebel with a cause and the newspapers called him a "hemp 
honcho" and a "high priest of pot."

With his 19th-century muttonchop sideburns and pristine white suit, Mr. 
Hunter cast a dandy Beau Brummell figure as he campaigned for mayor of 
Victoria in 1996. The suit, of course, was made of hemp fibre. He finished 
a distant third, although he proved more popular than the five other 

Ian Fergus Hunter was the son of an insurance agent and a mother who had 
polio. He learned journalism at the Other Press, the student newspaper at 
Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C. At 23, he became editor of The 
Squamish Times and later contributed to Vancouver's trailblazing CFRO, 
Co-op Radio.

In 1988, he produced a provocative report for CBC Radio's Ideas program 
advocating the vote for children. Mr. Hunter noted that arguments once used 
to deny the franchise to women and people of colour were also cited to keep 
children from the ballot box. He contributed a seven-page statement 
outlining his position on children's suffrage to the Royal Commission on 
Electoral Reform and Party Financing in 1991.

He had first become publicly identified as a marijuana advocate in the 
early 1990s when he opened the Hemp BC store near Victory Square in 
Vancouver with Marc Emery. They called their budding business "capitalist 

In 1993, when then prime minister Kim Campbell admitted to having smoked 
marijuana, Mr. Hunter tried to present her with a certificate declaring her 
"a research associate in our hemp-cultivation program." Tongue firmly in 
cheek, Mr. Hunter said his group was called the Institute for Adversarial 

After moving to Victoria, Mr. Hunter opened his own hemp store called the 
Sacred Herb near city hall. He also initiated weekly marijuana smoke-ins at 
Beacon Hill Park, which attracted from 50 to 150 aficionados.

Victoria police broke up one of the protests in May, 1996, charging three 
people with possession. Mr. Hunter wanted 11 police officers to be charged 
with obstructing a religious service, but the Crown said there was no 
reasonable chance of conviction.

Two months later, police raided his store and Mr. Hunter was charged with 
trafficking marijuana seeds, growing a marijuana plant, and possession of a 
small amount of psilocybin, so-called magic mushrooms.

When Mr. Justice Montague Drake dismissed Mr. Hunter's constitutional 
challenge, he noted that marijuana seemed to be his church's only dogma. 
Mr. Hunter was later convicted by a jury and fined by the judge.

An appeal was rejected by a 3-0 vote by the B.C. Court of Appeal. Mr. 
Hunter vowed to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but lacked 
funds to pay for a transcript of his trial.

Meanwhile, police asked council to review the store's business license. 
Council voted 6-3 to revoke the licence, the deciding vote for the 
two-thirds majority necessary was cast by the mayor, Bob Cross, against 
whom Mr. Hunter had campaigned two years earlier.

He sold his store and eventually moved to Nelson in the British Columbia 
interior, where he co-hosted a weekly, two-hour radio program called Fane 
of the Cosmos Infinite Moment. (Fane is an archaic word for temple.) The 
other host was Dustin Cantwell, proprietor of the Holy Smoke Culture Shop.

Mr. Hunter also began exploring a variety of New Age practices, including 
yoga and tai chi. When he was first reported missing on Aug. 14, six 
friends cast the I Ching before launching their search of him.

Mr. Hunter's body was found floating in Kootenay Lake near a small 
powerboat. The RCMP said he had accidentally drowned, although no witnesses 
were available to describe the circumstances.

"He always pushed ideas," Mr. Cantwell told Pot-TV, an Internet broadcaster 
at "You'd have an idea and he'd bat it into the 

Mr. Hunter leaves his father, Gordon Hunter, and brothers Merrick and 
Graham. His mother, Margaret, died in 1987.

Ian Hunter, marijuana activist; born March 20, 1961, in New Westminster, 
B.C.; died on Kootenay Lake, near Nelson, B.C., on Aug. 14, 2002.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens