CanadaLegalizationOld guard cannabis activists rally to support Keith Fagin, one of their own

'Keith represents the type of person who made cannabis law reform happen in Canada,' says Jodie Emery
Michelle Gamage Michelle GamageDecember 20, 201911 min

When Keith Fagin was nine-years-old he was hit by a car while crossing the road. He survived the accident, but sustained life-long injuries that have caused him pain ever since. 

This fall, 42-years-later, Fagin’s health took a downward turn and his leg was amputated to save his life. He’s out of the woods now and reports he’ll be home from the hospital for good soon. 

If this news doesn’t mean much to you, you need a refresher in Canadian cannabis history. 

Fagin is one of the old guard activists who has been fighting in the trenches against prohibition and calling for cannabis legalization for decades. He founded Calgary 420 and has been a prominent spokesperson for cannabis legalization in Alberta.

Old guard cannabis activists rally to support one of their own
Keith Fagin (right) and Jodie Emery in Calgary in 2010. Photo courtesy of Jodie Emery.

“Keith represents the type of person who made cannabis law reform happen in Canada,” fellow activist Jodie Emery told Mugglehead. “It wasn’t a politician or a police officer or a lobbyist or a big business rep. Keith represents the Canadian citizens who took it upon themselves to take risks and sacrifice time and money to defend their fellow Canadians from the abuses of government.” 

Read more: Ottawa unveils new pardon system for cannabis possession 

Cannabis community quick to show support for Keith Fagin

So when Fagin’s friend Roxie Yalte launched a GoFundMe campaign on Dec. 5 to raise $5,000 to help bring him home from the hospital, members of the cannabis industry came out in droves to support him. 

Funds raised will go towards helping Fagin and his wife, Debbie, make their home wheelchair accessible, which includes building ramps and wheelchair lifts. A home lift and an electric wheelchair were also donated to Fagin over the course of the campaign.

Old guard cannabis activists rally to support one of their own
Calgary 420 activists with Keith Fagin (centre, holding sign over his head) prepare to storm then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s constituency office in 2010. Photo courtesy of Jodie Emery.

On Monday evening, after 38 donations and 444 social media shares, the campaign hit its goal. 

The largest donation of $1,000 was made anonymously, with the second largest donation of $500 coming from cannabis lawyer John Conroy. 

Conroy met Fagin while they were both working together at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Canadian Chapter in the early ’70s. Conroy went on to serve as NORML Canada‘s president and Fagin became its regional director for the prairies. 

“This man deserves support from all of the people he’s helped and for all of the great work he’s done in Alberta⁠ — both him and his wife Debbie,” Conroy said. “I was very sad to see what had happened to him and felt he was very deserving of getting the stuff he needs to get mobile again.” 

Other donations ranged from $5 to $250 and came from old school activists, huge cannabis company employees and other big names in the industry. 

Fagin has been involved in the modern cannabis movement since its early days, said Dana Larsen, director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society. 

Fagin helped found one of the country’s first compassion clubs, Calgary 420, Larsen said. He was always willing to talk about why Canada needed to legalize cannabis and defend the culture — and then once legalization happened, Fagin was ready to educate people about how flawed the system still is.

Read more: Founder of raided Victoria dispensary calls legal system ‘prohibition 2.0’ 

Larsen added he hopes the community raises more than the $5,000 goal to help Fagin with whatever he needs in this challenging time. 

Raising hell and occupying Stephen Harper’s office

One of the best day’s of Jodie Emery’s life was a day spent raising hell with Fagin in the name of cannabis, she said. 

In 2010, to protest her then-husband Marc Emery’s extradition to the U.S., Emery and activists from Calgary 420 occupied Stephen Harper’s Calgary constituency office.

Old guard cannabis activists rally to support one of their own
Keith and Debbie Fagin celebrate after a day of peacefully protesting and occupying the then-prime minister’s office in 2010. Photo courtesy of Jodie Emery.

“It was just the wildest time,” she said. The peaceful protestors took over the office, hung banners from its windows and spent the day talking with the media about legalization, charter rights and the extradition deal. 

Cannabis activism has always been amazing in Alberta, and that’s largely because of the hard work, dedication and passion coming from Keith and Debbie, Emery said. 

“For those of us who have been in the trenches and on the front lines for decades, we know who actually put in the work and put in the heavy lifting. And it’s people like Keith Fagin — people who won’t get the glory and won’t get the headlines — who actually did the work and I have huge respect for that,” Emery said. 

Keith Fagin and the GoFundMe campaign organizer, Roxie Yalte, were not available for comment for this article. 

 

michelle@mugglehead.com

@missmishelle

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