She had lived with Crohn’s Disease since a teenager and in the last years of her life struggled against melanoma and lymphatic cancer.
Her husband Jef Tek and mother Emilie were at her side, each holding a hand, when she succumbed Wednesday night in spite of last-ditch, high-dosage experimental cannabis treatment.
The 39-year-old Rainey was the organizational force behind Emery’s pot-based business empire although their relationship deteriorated and they split after being hit with a 2005 U.S. drug-and-money-laundering indictment.
Producing her own show on YouTube titled Michelle’s Medicinal Marijuana, distributing cannabis education packages to those who in need and being a director for Treating Yourself Magazine, she was tenacious proselytizer for the plant and its therapeutic properties.
Rainey and Emery met in 1998 while he was living on the Sunshine Coast and she was working in a Gibsons’ bank. She quit work to become his partner.
Together they established the B.C. Marijuana Party and opened a bookstore-cum-pot HQ on West Hastings Street.
In the 2001 provincial election, theirs was the first political party in provincial history to field candidates in every riding — 79 in all. Rainey ran in Peace River South operating out of The Alaskan Hotel in Dawson Creek.
She managed to get U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s old campaign tour bus, nicknamed it the “Cannabus,” and toured the province with then-party leader Brian Taylor, now mayor of Grand Forks.
The party captured more than 50,000 votes — 3.2 per cent — all funded by Emery’s multi-million-dollar-a-year catalogue seed business.
She joked that she worked at Emery’s “beck and call” — be it lining up candidates, coordinated seed-smuggling trips by pretty women back-and-forth to Europe or storing up to 40 pounds of pot for the parties.
Their economic success and celebrity, however, attracted the attention of the American drug warriors and they were busted.
She and a third co-accused, Greg Williams, pleaded guilty in April and were sentenced to two years’ probation; last month Emery began serving a five-year prison term in the U.S.
“Michelle needs to be recognized as one of the greatest activists this movement has ever had,” he said via an e-mail from jail.
“Michelle may have literally given her life to the movement, and when people think about what they can do for freedom in their lifetime, Michelle’s life is a shining example of how much is possible, even under great duress.”
In the early 1990s, Rainey began smoking marijuana in place of a daily regimen of pharmaceutical drugs she was taking to relieve the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. She said cannabis did not trigger the same debilitating side effects as the pills.
After meeting Emery, she came out of the closet about her use and in recent years became Canada’s most recognizable medical pot crusader.
Her advocacy brought her into contact with numerous high-profile Canadians and she relished talking about rubbing shoulders with celebrities such as Romeo Dallaire, Henry Morgentaler, Wade Davis.
Media mogul Moses Znaimer, who made Rainey a regular at his celebrated annual ideaCity conference, flew to Vancouver to say good-bye. Her pal Dan Aykroyd telephoned his last so-long earlier in the day Wednesday.
She was greatly loved and will be hugely missed.
“I want people to keep working, keep working for change – too many sick people are still having difficulty getting their medication,” Rainey recently said.
“That’s what I want as my legacy — change.”
Sadly, she did not live to see the historic marijuana legalization vote that will occur in California on Nov. 2.
She predicted: “Change is going to come.”
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