Ben Dronkers: passionate about fighting the cannabis stigma

June 6th, 2014 | By


Sadly, the stigmatisation and harsh laws surrounding the cannabis plant and the hemp plant are the status quo. Nonetheless, the cannabis industry could never have made the progress that it has made without the untiring efforts of several key figures: people who dedicated their hearts and souls to these plants, people who put their all into striving to improve the image of the cannabis sector and successfully drove it forward.

The Dutchman Ben Dronkers (64) is one of those key figures. He is the founding father of Sensi Seeds, the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum, the Hemp Gallery and HempFlax. As such, he has earned his rightful place as a prominent representative of the cannabis and hemp plant. In this article you will learn more about this true cannabis pioneer.

Ben’s passion for travel
Ben Dronkers’ love of the cannabis and hemp plant is closely intertwined with his passion for travel, which in the early 1960s took him from his home town Rotterdam to sail all over the world on board merchant ships. In the early 1970s he took a different approach. He opened Ben’s Fashion, a clothes shop that sold home-made, eccentric pieces of clothing.

In order to purchase the fabrics, Ben regularly travelled to Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he learnt about the many benefits of the hemp seeds from the local farmers. They also gave him cannabis and cannabis seeds. Looking back, Ben relates, “I asked the farmers about the cannabis fields and they gave me a knowing smile. One of them gave me a handful of cannabis seeds as a gift and told me that the seeds were very important. This led me to save them, to learn more about the properties of seeds from different regions, and to collect even more cannabis seeds.”

New cannabis hybrids
During that period, Ben travelled all over the world in search of new and beautiful genotypes. His trips took him from the Hindu Kush in Central Asia, to the Himalayas and Southeast Asia. He brought back with him seeds from first-class cultivated varieties and discovered more and more uses for this special plant. In the mid-1980s his knowledge was so extensive that Ben started crossing his huge collection of Indica and Sativa seeds in order to combine the genes of the various species to create new cannabis hybrids. He is probably one of the first Dutch pioneers to breed new types of cannabis.

The Sensi Seeds Bank
In 1985, Ben Dronkers opened the Sensi Seed Club in Amsterdam. Two companies sold seeds in this shop: the Sensi Seed Club (also known as the Sensi Connoisseurs Club) and the Seed Bank. In 1991 Ben took over the Seed Bank and merged the two companies into the Sensi Seeds Bank. To this day, this company is a leading international seed supplier that boasts a catalogue including world-famous varieties such as Skunk #1, Fruity Juice and Jack Herer. The latter is named after American cannabis activist and author Jack Herer, who was a good friend of Ben.

Fighting the stigma
The cannabis and hemp plant has faced stigmatisation all over the world, sparked by all manner of industries and governments that are not benefited by, or fear the legalisation of, these plants. This stigma changed Ben’s passion into a mission: fight the stigma by telling the truth in every way possible. He does so through Sensi Seeds, which promotes the medicinal properties of cannabis, as well as through the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum, which Ben opened with the cultivation guru Ed Rosenthal in 1985. It was the first museum fully dedicated to cannabis. In 2008, the Hemp Gallery was opened around the corner from the Museum as an extension that purely focuses on the history and potential of industrial hemp and in 2012 a second location of the Museum opened in Barcelona.

In 1993 Ben Dronkers also opened the HempFlax company in Groningen to promote the industrial properties of hemp. The company cultivates several hundred hectares of industrial hemp that is processed in a factory in Oude Pekela were it is processed into semi-manufactured products.

Counter Culture Hall of Fame
During the High Times Cannabis Cup Ceremony in 2013, Ben Dronkers was added to the Counter Culture Hall of Fame, which honours the counter culture surrounding cannabis and honours the people that have significantly contributed to it. It was wonderful recognition for his work, but Ben has no intention to rest on his laurels. His dedication to the beautiful and multi-faceted Cannabis Sativa L. continues to encourage him to take on new challenges. Although many of his ideas have turned into a brilliant reality, there are still new opportunities for this cannabis pioneer to explore all for the sake of one all-encompassing goal: to promote the properties of cannabis and hemp plants so that they can both return to their rightful place in society.

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