Nevil Schoenmakers, the trailblazing breeder and founder of the first cannabis seed bank in the Netherlands, has died. He was 62. Known by his peers as the King of Cannabis, Schoenmakers is reported in a West Australian newspaper announcement to have died on March 30, 2019, in Osbourne Park, Western Australia.
According to cannabis activist and author Todd McCormick's Instagram post, Schoenmakers had been in a long battle with hepatitis C.
Born to Dutch parents on Feb. 2, 1957, in Perth, Western Australia, Nevil Schoenmakers moved to the Netherlands in 1976 and began growing cannabis for himself in 1978. A year later, Schoenmakers began growing indoors after finding that commercially available Thai, Colombian, and African strains fared poorly in a northern European climate.
Still unsatisfied with the results of his indoor grows, Schoenmakers decided to start a seed bank so he could obtain more viable genetics from all over the world.
Schoenmakers established The Seed Bank in the Netherlands in 1983. In the immediate years that followed, he would make collection trips to the U.S. that would lead to the commercialization and proliferation of many notable strains. By 1986, The Seed Bank was selling $500,000 worth of seeds to about 15,000 growers in the U.S.
“If you got seeds in the '80s, they were most likely through The Seed Bank,” McCormick wrote in the Instagram post paying tribute to Schoenmakers. “The varieties that passed through his hands have become legendary.”
Schoenmakers was arrested on July 24, 1990, upon request of the U.S. government while visiting his family in Perth. The target of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operation called Green Merchant, Schoenmakers was indicted in New Orleans for selling marijuana seeds to undercover agents and indoor growers. He spent nearly a year in prison in Western Australia before he was granted bail on June 21, 1991, and returned to the Netherlands. Under Dutch law, Schoenmakers' operation was legal and the Netherlands refused to extradite him. The charges against him were eventually dropped.
In recent years, Schoenmakers kept a relatively low profile, participating in cannabis activism in Australia. High Times Senior Cultivation Editor Danny Danko told Weedmaps News that in the darkest days of the 1980s "Just Say No" and war on drugs" eras, Schoenmakers' shipment of viable cannabis seeds around the globe was an overtly political act and an attempt to quite literally “overgrow the government.”
“[Schoenmakers'] ads for the Seed Bank in the back of High Times magazine launched countless grow operations around the world,” Danko said. “Many of the strains we consume today are hybrids of that original genetic material that he and a few others bravely shared with the world at great risk to their own freedoms.
“His legacy lives on the gardens of thousands of legal and clandestine cultivators and his impact on cannabis history will remain forever.”