Just as the human body was designed with receptors to receive the medical benefits of cannabis, it is equally evident that Jackie Woerlee was born to be a Rebel—it is literally her mother’s family name! A rock & roll mom herself, whose spirit and will is infinitely tougher than her physical body, Jackie is a living medical miracle who attributes her quality of life to the cannabis plant. While she is fighting a landmark case in Holland to be legally allowed to grow her own medicine, she maintains a large medical garden containing dozens of medical strains of priceless genetics from around the globe, developed specifically for her medicinal use.
Born in Amsterdam, Jackie lives a cannabis lifestyle in a city where cannabis culture has been accepted for over 30 years. I first met Jackie Rebel when she arrived at the Hemp Hotel on her famous green bike to whisk me away with her on a Ganja Tour of Amsterdam I would never forget. A year later I am reminded of Princess Leia’s plea for help via hologram, as Jackie asks that we join her rebellion to Save Coffee Shop Culture and suggests that we visit her while it still exists.
How have you managed to balance the demands of your illness with your activism and the responsibilities of being a single mother?
Steady, good home base and family and friends. Whenever I’ve had to go to the hospital or travel, I had my family; not only to look out for my garden, but my three cats and son, Jake. It’s interesting to have young Americans coming here to study with me to learn how to grow, but my own teenage son has little interest in that side of the culture. Jake is a classic example of a child raised in a cannabis environment and surrounded by cannabis, who simply isn’t interested in ingesting cannabis himself.
Why do you think that is?
Jake was exposed to it all his life and it holds no mystery to him. If you make things forbidden and secretive, then young people are going to be drawn to them. You can really see that in the States, where you are allowed to die for your country at age 18, but you aren’t allowed to drink until you are 21. So, of course, they are drinking secretly because they are already adults.
You have been a medical marijuana patient since 1996, how did you first discover the benefits of cannabis?
I first discovered the medicinal benefits of cannabis in 1993, thanks to my late husband Brian who wanted me to try smoking it again after previous negative experiences.
I had been suffering from severe Crohn’s disease since 1991. The disease and the horrible medications for it were slowly killing me. At the time I only weighed 48 kilos, was on intravenous feeding and going through a lot of surgeries. Brian was convinced the Cannabis would aid me. Well, it did and I embraced it wholeheartedly!
We started growing it ourselves, I became one of Wernard Bruinink’s [Positronics our first growshop] first Mediwiet patients. As years went by, we got better at it, until Brian died of a heart attack in 1997. So with Brian and Positronics gone, and a 15 gram-a-day need of good quality medicine, I continued to grow my own and I’ve gotten pretty good at growing organic medicinal-quality cannabis over the last 15 years. I share that knowledge where I can.
What are your preferred methods of ingestion?
A LUX or Sheldon Black bong, a big pure spliff, or Evert’s Verdamper Vaporizer, preferably at the Katsu coffee shop. Katsu has saved us at the weirdest locations including Nieuwspoort, the press centre of our Tweede Kamer (Congress). I also make my own oil, tincture and butter, which I also use to make a variety of very strong edibles. Ah yes, that was some good ice-o-lator…
You are so involved in so many different facets of the cannabis industry internationally, do you identify most strongly as a patient, an activist or a researcher?
I became a medicinal cannabis activist out of necessity, as patients here are still hard done by. As repression intensified here over the last 10 years particularly, it crossed over from defending individuals to defending our very coffee shop culture. With all my experience and knowledge, I became a teacher.
Due to the current scheduling of cannabis as a controlled substance, there is very little tangible research about the medicinal benefits between strains, can you share your human research and personal opinion with us?
I would like to see way more research into the special benefits of different strains towards different ailments. I have a 15 gram-a-day prescription and keep around 50 strains alive in my library. I personally benefit from diversity.
For pain, sleep and cramps I go for the indicas and indica-dominant crosses. For the day and the brain, the sativas. It is a personal thing, you know, everyone should be allowed to find out for themselves what flows with them and what does not. Here in the Netherlands, there are only 3 strains available for patients, but for most patients they don’t work effectively. How can you monopolize 3 Bedrocan strains that don’t work for most people, shut out the Maripharm indica strain that used to be distributed and DID work for patients, and also state that the releasing of additional strains will take years at a cost of millions? Well, this is what has happened in the Netherlands. Our ministry of health has got a subdivision called the Bureau of Medicinal Cannabis; they are responsible for this terrible situation.
They only gave out a few commercial licenses and are strongly favoring the Bedrocan cannabis, which is not only a wrong strain, but is also gamma rayed and grown hydro in a unkind sterile environment by former Sensiseed farmers/vegetable grass growers. This is very wrong and has led to patients being prosecuted for growing their own cannabis, or being left in very lengthy civil court procedures to win the legal right to grow their own medicinal cannabis. One MS patient had to fight till the High Court to win the right to grow his own Afghani strains because only those worked for him and the Bedrocan cannabis didn’t. He was first treated like a criminal though. And his personal case didn’t lead to jurisprudence for other patients here either. I am still fighting, and have been for 10 years, for the right to grow my own cannabis. I won twice, but the opponents keep appealing, so for two years I have been waiting for the Central Civil Court to take a final decision. While I wait for justice, I am always scared for the safety of my garden. Patients here who grow their own cannabis still face persecution and are ridiculed by the police force.
What are some of the most unusual strains that you have experienced?
Some of my library strain faves : Kaaskush, Chiesel, Trinity Goddess [g13 /grapefruit / mmm], Purple Goddess 2 Kush, New York City Diesel, Hashplant 13, Hindu Kush Haze, Swazi Safari, Cindy99/ mmm, Ice/Kc33, Sweet Goddess, Sage, Blueberry, Dildo Haze and 3 from Eddy Lepp’s garden (pre-DEA raid) are very special to me: Pez, Goo, Waldo Haze.
Tell us how you have kept your spirit fueled for a major legal battle against your government, while balancing the physical demands of your illness.
Mmmm, as far as my legal battle is concerned, I am not only fighting for my own right to grow, but for everyone else in this country, so if I think about that I’m fine. I also have the ongoing support of a very motivated lawyer, so that is good too. On the other side, it has been an ongoing 10-year battle that puts a lot of pressure on me and that sometimes can make you despair.
For instance, one of the opponent’s defenses is that cannabis is still not an officially registered medicine here in the Netherlands, and for the last year the court is sending me from ‘expert doctor’ to yet another ‘expert doctor,’ it does make you sigh sometimes. It almost seems like they are afraid to make the decision that can only really be in my favor. And yes, being heavily involved in the court case and being a full-time activist and the main organizer of Cannabis Bevrijdings Dag (International Marijuana Day) here for the last 5 years is taking a big toll on me, but I feel compelled to at least do something and stand my ground.
Many people mistakenly think that cannabis is legal in Amsterdam, instead it is tolerated to be sold, and not allowed to be grown—how do they think the cannabis magically appears at the Coffee Shops if it is not grown anywhere?
People still come and visit our beautiful, free city, thinking that cannabis is legal here, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Thirty-four years ago, a first step was taken to regulate cannabis, so the first coffee shops opened around 1974, although the wish was then that subsequent governments would go the whole way and legalize all aspects of cannabis culture—sadly, this never happened.
If anything, an ongoing negative campaign has led to so much negativity around cannabis that we are currently living through a 21st Century version of “Reefer Madness”. When coffee shops first came to be, the so-called backdoor was never taken care of. As years went by, the growing of cannabis was more and more repressed and criminalized. Small growers hardly dare to grow anymore in this repressive climate, so, as a result, growing cannabis is usually done by unkind people. In a way, you can state that politicians and the police here are themselves criminally negligent by refusing to regulate, and have caused the current situations themselves. And it’s a waterfall of lies, bullshit and prejudice that they attach to cannabis and the coffee shops here using media propaganda.
Every year you think that truth and common sense will have to prevail but it seems to be getting worse almost by the day now.
You are involved in the movement internationally, can you tell us what you noticed about the cannabis landscape in your recent trip to Colorado and other locales around the world?
So, apart from consumption on-site, you in CA and CO are actually freer than us here: you are legal as patients and growers and you are allowed to advertise all you want.This particularly blew me away in Denver, even guys advertising the special deal of the day on the side of the road, I tell ya, my eyes almost popped out! Here, coffee shops have to go to court over so-called advertising! We are not allowed to show a weed leaf in a coffee shop, if you can imagine! So we are only half joking when we wonder if we will eventually have to cover our tattoos to walk in a coffee shop in the Netherlands! Even I, as a visiting foreign patient, was able to get my medical recommendation in the States. I can only hope for consumption to be allowed on-site there, so that you can continue our very successful coffee shop model, creating a place where people interact who otherwise wouldn’t.
We have been citing Holland as a global example of the success of decriminalization and regulation for over 30 years, what is all this recent talk of a cannabis crackdown there?
Let me try and explain current developments.
An extreme, conservative government has taken office here and page 40 of their governing agreement reads like a horror story:
Changing the criminality of prostitution and dealing in narcotic substances.
Coffee shops are going to be closed clubs only accessible by adult occupants of the Netherlands on showing a valid clubpass.
There will be the distance of at least 350 meters between all schools and coffee shops.
The minister will sharpen the countrywide policy and will see to it that councils will enforce the distance criteria and other relevant parts of the countrywide policies.
The Cabinet will come up with proposals to give heavier punishments on the [preparation of] import/export, growing and the [organized] dealing of drugs and to adapt the differentiation/separation between soft and hard drugs.
This is what they’re already starting to enforce and only the new mayor here in Amsterdam is saying that he feels that Amsterdam should be exempt and has requested a meeting with the Minister of Justice the 22nd of December. I don’t expect much to come from this meeting as this minister, Ivo Opstelten, is the former mayor of Rotterdam. During his tenure he was responsible for closing 16 coffee shops there and the ones that are left are way too busy now, and it’s hard to buy good quality cannabis and the street trade is, of course, flourishing. This is the nightmare scenario for here too. Just from the enforcement of a 350 meter distance to schools, we here in Amsterdam will go from 223 coffee shops to 36 overnight.
The front page of Het Parool newspaper here reads, “Coffee shops can forget about it”—That’s what we are dealing with here and it does make me despair, and I feel ashamed too. Let me try to explain some more, in a few years we went from 1024 to 666 coffee shops here in the Netherlands, a symbolic number.
What do you think the new vote to restrict Coffee Shops to Dutch residents only, will mean to tourism and culture of the region?
The government is trying to enforce a pass system here that they know is discriminatory, and against our own laws. They say that it will solve the increased criminality of the backdoor. How? By criminalizing the visitor and discriminatingon the grounds of where someone comes from? The prime minister and this cabinet have told so many lies surrounding cannabis, such as: “Cannabis use is not normal and our youth should be protected against this dangerous drug.” It makes me so angry the way they portray our beloved coffee shops as dark criminal holes that all need to be shut down. Yes, you can say that they prefer to push their own hard drug of choice, alcohol. All the bother, violence, illness and death associated with that seems to be okay. I am ashamed of this current government and I feel compelled to apologize for their unwelcoming hostile actions. In addition, I would like to call upon everyone to keep coming to the Netherlands to enjoy and support our coffee shop culture in these dark and trying times. The minister said on TV that he wants to strongly discourage foreigners coming to our country to buy cannabis and to enjoy our cannabis culture. Well, I have a different message. I am going to fight this great injustice for all I am worth.
I wish we weren’t so severely under-funded, that there would be more money to follow up on the “Greeting to the Netherlands” postcard. That was a small action we did last year, but there was only money to print a few. Like most of our actions, events, two Cannabis Tribunals and countless letters to the media, they all seem to fall on dead ears, which can sometimes be despairing. It seems like the media here has orders to take care that the truthful party doesn’t get to speak. So we keep on being bombarded by lies, repression and control.
What keeps you going in the darkest hours of freedom fighting?
What keeps me going in THESE darkest hours? Well, my continuing belief in fighting for the right and just thing, in the hope that justice for cannabis will prevail. I think of all those activists that have passed, people like my husband Brian, Eagle Bill and Michelle Rainey, and those that are imprisoned for cannabis, from people that are on death row in Asian countries to the millions of unknown incarcerated for the use, possession, cultivation, or selling of cannabis, to the more well known imprisoned for the same offenses, people like Marc Emery, Roger Christie and Eddy Lepp.
But of course cannabis itself is my biggest inspiration! It is because of Her I am alive and able to deal with the consequences of my illness!
What can we expect on the horizon from Jackie Rebel?
I finally met Rudolf Hillebrands half a year ago. He is yet another patient-turned-activist left between a rock and a hard place by our governments. He is an intensive-care nurse that contracted HIV through a needle incident back in 1992. Like me, he is only alive and able to take his must-have meds because of cannabis. Together we are busy with starting a foundation called “Het Groene Medicijn.”
We find that despite other medical foundations here, there are too many patients that don’t know what to do and where to go for medical cannabis. We would like to help them and also use our combined knowledge and experience to educate both patients, doctors and medical staff. We also envision a medicinal dispensary-style club here in Amsterdam for patients.
I also decided that it seems futile trying to communicate with this politician / civil servant / police / media lot! So I am starting up a rebellious blog: jackierebel.nl
If fact and truth are to no avail, let’s try humor and my peace pipe! Come and suck on this one, ha!