Australian-born marijuana advocate Nevil Schoenmakers was a trailblazer in the marijuana movement. He is most famous for creating a seed bank in the 1980s in the Netherlands called “The Seed Bank of Holland” that is acknowledged as the first to offer cannabis seeds for sale directly to consumers.
Schoenmakers died earlier this year. Many marijuana advocates wrote articles in his honor, including High Times. His seed bank was the first to advertise in the magazine.
“Nevil was known as the original king of cannabis,” High Times wrote in a tribute. “In his career, he set the early groundwork of modern cannabis genetics and was responsible for some of the most popular and lauded strains in history.”
Nevil Schoenmakers Move to The Netherlands
Schoenmakers was born in Perth, Australia, to Dutch parents. In 1976, he decided to move to the Netherlands. Already interested in cannabis, Schoenmakers began collecting seeds on his own.
He also had a background in genetics, according to Leafly. Knowing he could operate legally in his new country, Schoenmakers collected a variety of indica and sativa seeds from around the world.
He set up a seed business in 1984 and began to advertise seeds for sale, including ads in High Times. His efforts led to customers worldwide getting access to seeds of well-known cannabis strains, many of them from the U.S. West Coast. According to Leafly, those strains include Skunk #1, Early Girl and Northern Lights.
Fleeing the U.S. Government
The success of the seed store eventually earned Schoenmakers the attention of authorities in the United States. Under the administration President George Bush (the first one), they tried to extradite him from his home, which at that time was again Australia. That operation in the U.S., called Operation Green Merchant, targeted companies selling and shipping marijuana seeds to people in the United States, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Based on the request from U.S. authorities, Australian police arrested Schoenmakers in July 1990. He was detained for 11 months before getting released on $100,000 bail. He then disappeared.
Twenty years later, as marijuana legalization began to get debated in Australia, Schoenmakers made a “quiet comeback.” He worked with an Australian company to develop medical marijuana and related cannabis products., according to the Morning Herald.
Where Nevil Schoenmakers Disappeared To
The Morning Herald managed to track the elusive King of Cannabis down in 2015. They reported that he seemed reluctant to speak and upset a reporter had found his number. However, he did agree to answer a few questions about what happened to him for two decades.
After fleeing Australia, Schoenmakers returned to Holland in 1991. He returned to his work cultivating and breeding cannabis. Even though U.S. authorities still pursued him, Schoenmakers never was arrested because authorities in the Netherlands refused to hand him over. He wasn’t breaking any of their laws. The charges were eventually dropped.
He returned to Australia in 2004 to take care of a sick family member. But he revealed his location to a few people. Danny Danko, an editor with High Times, told the Sydney newspaper in 2015 that Schoenmakers “is a celebrity but also an enigma. Only a few photos of him exist and he’s spoken of in reverent tones as almost a mythical figure.”
Schoenmakers died on March 30, 2019, in Perth at the age of 62 after a battle against hepatitis C and cancer in Perth, according to the Georgia Straight newspaper in Vancouver, British Columbia.