It’s been two years now since I’ve been relentlessly tracking down Dutch pioneer and undethronable goldenboy of the business of cannabis, Mr Ben Dronkers. It was thanks to some dubious means and a bit of luck that I was finally able to spend some time with him - a privilege that any self respecting smoker can but relish. 50 years ago, at the end of 1960s, Ben ventured to conquer cannabis. He went on a tireless journey through the Middle East, Asia, The Maghreb and even South America- all of this to bring back the finest seeds. Although his goal was to import the new varieties into the Netherlands, he was far from imagining that he would change the lives of millions of smokers, growers and activists across the globe. This outstanding gentleman has had a fine career as, among others, the founder of SensiSeeds, Hempfax and even cannabis museums, and has left a great legacy to his children, who now hold the reins. A man who has ultimately spent his life conveying an ideology that seeks to make us live in a better world, and who ( although he is enjoying a well deserved retirement) is still a relentless activist. A testimony to a canon of contemporary cannabis history, who’s only advice would probably be, like Volatire, to grow your own garden.
J / How did you get into the cannabis industry at a time when it was quite impossible or never seen ?
Ben / Well it was a long time ago. I was about 17 when I smoked my first joint. I enjoyed it a lot. I was interested in hashish back then, that’s what we had in Holland. Later on when I started to travel my hobby was smoking and finding plants. I went to countless of countries where they grow the Herb. The first place for Hashisch was Marroco, Turkey and then Lebanon, Aghanistan, and all these places. This plant was magic for me. It opened all my creativity and consciousness. When you fly, you think. You know what I mean. Just connect with the plant. That was all I did at the beginning, connecting with this plant.
J / What is for your best discovery of this plant and its business ?
B / You have to understand SensiSeeds is already 30 years old now so we grew a long time ago. My first plant was in a house’s attic with neon tubes growing and it worked out quite well. That was my first connection with the plant as such. From there on, I discovered you can put the seeds on soil and it just grows. I also discovered how to make clones. We were the first company to discover cloning.
To grow from seeds, I believe it’s still the best solution. One discovery came to another. We started Hemp & Marijuana Museum in Amsterdam and eventually we collected the information and connected all this data with the historical facts. Ed Rosenthal, Jack Herrer and all this people worked on the museum. Then I started my Hempflax Company, Jack Herrer and I believed it was possible back then and indeed it was. 20 years now, we are growing and growing, and even if we still loose money, thanks to SensiSeeds and the museum, we can still do it ! BMW, even Bugatti use our plants in their cars ! There are thousands and thousands of different applications to this plant. And of course, the medical ones we knew them already for twenty years, you can see it in Barcelona for example. All the medicine and the benefits that comes with it were known.
Hemp is the best food you can eat as well, the hemp oil and all the medicines that you can produce with, for instance the new aspirin for the next century. It’s coming just like a big boom. It’s fantastic. That’s the beauty of Cannabis. It helps a lot of people but there is still lot of people having problems with it. Not the problem of using it, but the problems of being illegal. People are in prison, people are suffering, people are hunted down, and people aren’t free on the streets. If you have a little bit of ganja on you, you are just in this tension of the police repression.
Many years ago, we were motivating people to support cannabis. Ex- plaining them why they should be supporting the use of hemp and its multiple benefits. But now, I realized that everything about this plant is just awesome and that I don’t have to tell people to support it. They are just stupid if they don’t use it. x+
If you have some ethics and you want to make the world change to a better place, you should use hemp instead of cotton. We are researching a lot in the fields of nanotechnology with CDB and THC (molecules of cannabis). We are using some of our SensiSeeds strains as we have a very large Seed Bank. It became vey important to us to collect all the data from these studies.
It’s scientifically coming up in a way I couldn’t imagine it before. It brings so many benefits to the people. It’s a pleasure. It’s nice, very nice. If we want to make a better world this plant can help us.
J / You got your first seeds between Afghanistan and Pakistan while you were looking for Hashish, is that right?
B / We already had seeds from South America when I was living in Holland. That’s when we started growing. It worked out well. Even in Holland the first hippies were growing hemp. So you didn’t get high at all. On my trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan I brought back some seeds from there. I had the pure indicas. I went to some valleys that have been unreachable in the last 20 years. You cannot go there anymore because of the war of course. That brought us the best indica that we have now in the western world. As time went by, we selected the perfect ones and at the end it’s all about seeds.
J / How did you legally create SensiSeeds at that time?
B / Growing cannabis was not aloud, but I found in the law that it was aloud to grow seeds and not marijuana. The police couldn’t do anything. So for more than ten years I was growing marijuana seeds. And because that was a good thing, I understood I could sell this seeds to other people. Because that was legal too. Instead of growing marijuana, I grew seeds. And that was a better idea as it was legal. Things picked up and I started the coffeeshop.
J / You said you would give 500 000 $ to the one who would prove that cannabis is the next major stake in plants for the future. Tell us more about that story ?
B / What I did with Jack Herrer was a different story. If we had no more trees to cut down or no more oil to burn, there is one green solution, which can solve a lot of these problems in the world. It can provide food, gasoline, it can provide so many things, you can even make plastic out of it. Instead of oil driving cars and biofuel, there is one plant that can replace that, and that’s hemp. If you need wood, hemp is wood too. So what Jack and I did was to offer 250 000 $ to the one who would prove we are wrong. Then I raised it in the newspapers to 500 000 $ and then to 1 Million $. Bamboo is also very sustainable. These plant don’t need pesticides. Hemp is 100% the future. Everything we grow in Europe is polluted, full of pesticides and insecticides. In France, your wine fields have so many pesticides... And lets not talk about the cotton fields. The last victim down the road is the water. As there are so many people living in this planet we need to reconsider what we use and how we use it. Especially if you think towards the future. We are supposed to make this a better world. And smoking the herb makes people realize that.
J / What can you say about Amsterdam’s and Holland’s evolution through the years, what do you think of the actual worldwide evolution ?
B / Well, you could see it coming, and the thing is I know a lot of freedom fighters and activists. We have been gathering a lot of them. Famous people like Jean-Pierre Galland, Ed Rosenthal, Jack Herrer... People from Greece, Germany... All this people connected... and then there is the new generation like yourself, new magazines, and radio stations, and the internet coming out. You have to take the knowledge and the advises and make it even better. What we learned is what actually goes on. Loads of attention on the social medias ! There is a lot of awareness and consciousness. It’s very nice to see this evolution although there’s still a long way to go. Even with the bloody Obama we thought things would change. He was a dope head you know ! He was a smoker ! All these presidents were. We have to unite and stand up but its not easy. It will change once America does it. They will lead the way out. I’m happy to see that all these states are getting legal and that’s a good sign. If that’s legal, the rest of the world will be legal.
J / What is your favorite variety ?
B / It’s the Jack Herrer without any doubts. Also the Northern Light Five Haze is among my favourites. Weed is like wine. We ‘ve got so many collections of so many beautiful varieties. But it’s always nice to find another one. The different smells, you should try this guys : smell your grass for a couple of minutes. It makes you feel well. It’s interesting to do that, and particularly when you differentiate them. You have to find your own variety. It’s different for everybody. It’s like good wine. What we do at SensiSeeds is that we select some very good ones for example the shiva shanti which is a very good one. Very nice, top quality stuff that you can compare to the Jack Herrer which is the most expensive. I smoked the shiva shanti and I said « This... This is good stuff ! « You grow it and you know it.