Neville Schoenmakers, the Sneaky King of Cannabis
Neville Schoenmakers poses with some plates of Cannabis. Image taken from the High Times magazine.
The beginnings of Neville Schoenmakers and the Seed Bank
Son of Dutch parents, Neville was born in Australia where as a child he learned to breed parrots and came in contact with the laws of Mendel. Being a regular smoker and marijuana dealer, he started working in a laboratory where he did some experiments with illegal substances, from marijuana to heroin, with which he became addicted. In fact, his experiments and business led to various arrests and failed attempts at rehabilitation.
Neville Schoenmakers fled the police and went to Thailand where its consumption was out of control. Later, he went to Holland and after years of fighting his addiction he got government funds from a rehabilitation program thanks to which he was able to combine his two biggest passions in a project: genetics and marijuana. Neville in his beginnings collaborated with several groups, among them Super Sativa Seed Club to which he left some strains that he with other people had created. Then the company The Seed Bank began, which is now known as The Sensi Seeds Bank, now owned by Ben Dronkers. To feed his seed bank, Neville made several trips to distinct countries like Pakistan, Russia, or the United States, among others.
In Amsterdam, Neville created the first company of selling marijuana seeds by mail. He began in '84 putting a small ad in the High Times magazine and gradually started to distribute seeds all over the world. A few years later, when company of Sam the Skunkman, Cultivators Choice closed, Neville bought the seeds that he had brought from California. Among them was the famous Skunk #1, winner of the first cannabis cup and awarded by the High Times magazine. Due to this, Neville returned to win important awards in the following years.
The King of Cannabis
Neville settled in a mansion, the Castle of Cannabis near the border with Germany where he had its laboratories, growing rooms, and made its genetic crossings. Years have passed to build two complete building floors and greenhouses and start inventing new strains. In fact, this was the place were the several marijuana strains that we consume today were born. In 1987, Steven Hager, the editor of High Times and creator in the same year of the High Times Cannabis Cup posted an article about Neville that just triggered his success and popularity.
After two years in the industry, Neville had already gained several hundred thousand dollars, paid taxes and his magazine ads became bigger and more colorful. The awards, its seed shipments worldwide and its ability to select the best males and females and get nwe strains of top quality have revolutionize the cannabis world. He aimed for renewal, refinement and growth. All this earned him the reputation of Cannabis King and father of the Dutch seed industry.
Operation Green Merchant: Defendant and Fugitive
It was in late 1980s when the DEA launched the "Green Merchant" operation to arrest Neville from 44 seed sale charges to growers and undercover agents, mainly from the New Orleans area. The DEA target was The Seed Bank and also the High Times and Sensimilla Tips magazines, accused of being part of the conspiracy to sell illegal substances. In the early '90s Neville sold the Seed Bank and his Cannabis Castle to Ben Dronkers, the owner of Sensi Seeds Club and from the merger came the famous Sensi Seeds Bank.
The DEA charges against Neville were related to the violation of the US law of illegal substances. Distributing some 2000 marijuana seeds for having made illegal use of US mail, for conspiring to grow more than 1,000 marijuana speimens and for being continuously involved in a criminal organization. The sum of all convictions could mean life imprisonment for Neville. Fortunately, the Dutch government refused to extradite him and was able to hide for a while.
He traveled in 1990 to Australia to be with his family since his wife was pregnant. But shortly after arriving he was arrested by local police at the demand of the US court. Extradition proceedings started to bring Schoenmakers to court in New Orleans while their lawyers were discussing the legitimacy of extradition on the grounds that marijuana seeds harbor any cannabinoids.
Before the extradition hearing was held, an Australian judge granted him bail on the grounds that he was not a fugitive from any country and had been held for almost a year without being tried for any crime. In June of '91, after paying $ 100,000 of bail, he was released. Neville had to report to local authorities twice a day, but it did not last long. After 6 weeks on bail he did not return.
After escaping he returned to Amsterdam where it was almost impossible for him to be extradited to the United States since his company had all the licenses required by the government of Holland, besides having a Dutch passport.
Back in Amsterdam
After dedicating himself entirely to genetics for years, in '97 Neville became co-owner of the coffee shop Greenhouse of the red neighborhood, next to the South African Arjan. At the same time that he started to collaborate with Shantibaba, from Greenhouse Seeds. Considering that both had won several Cannabis competitions individually, Neville and Shantibaba decided to present themselves together to the High Times Cannabis Cup. They smashed. They won all the first prizes with the Super Silver Haze and El Nino and became millionaires.
Unfortunately what came next was a clash of egos and disputes that ended to kill the team. Shortly after, Shantibaba created the seed bank Mr. Nice Seeds. It used the collection consisting of 40 plants of both (some of which are about 20 years old) to create new strains. Fights over each other's property regarding the genetics of plants continue to this day.
The genetic legacy of Schoenmakers
Neville has not only enlarge the market of marijuana seeds at a dizzying pace but his talent and dedication have borne fruit of some of today's most prized and well-known strains. We will then review his most famous creations although they all come from the Original Haze and from the beginning the disputes begin.
On the one hand, Sam the Skunkman says that he was the one to sold the original Haze seeds to Neville. In the opposite, Neville has always maintained that he got the original seeds from the Haze brothers through a New York collector who had the originals of '69. Whatever Neville got them, he did a great job with them and got two plants, Haze A, with a Colombian predominance and Haze C with a Thai predominance.
One of the first strains to stand out was the crossing of Northern Lights #5 with Haze A, which kept the position of sativas but offered the advantages of indoor production of Indicas, such as its excellent production and amount of resin. From this combination came most of the strains that later became so famous.
In the Cannabis Cup editions of '89 and '90, Neville won almost all sativa prizes by combining Haze A and Northern Lights #5 with other strains such as Hawaiian or South African Sativa. And this same crossing (Haze A xNL # 5), later and already in the hands of Sensi Seeds also won the Cannabis Cup in '93 and '96.
The Super Silver Haze emerged as part of its collaboration with Shantibaba from the late 1990s, adding a touch of Skunk to the winning combination of previous years Northern Lights #5 x Haze. Barely a hit was a success and he achieved the triplet by winning the first prize of the Cannabis Cup in '97, '98 and '99, which catapulted it to success and transform it into a legend.
Finally, in '98 both created another strains very suitable for indoor cultivation. This time this strain was made from Haze C, although incorporating also Haze A and Northern Lights #5: the Neville's Haze. This 75% sativa strains stands out for its cerebral high, aroma and taste.
While Neville has continued his work on cannabis genetics in recent years, the information on his projects is less clear. The last thing that is said of Neville is that apparently in 2000 he was among the group of people who promoted the Foundation for Cannabis Genetics in close collaboration with the Cannabis Agency.
Beyond that, we continue to hear rumors of arguments, fights or possible collaborations between several of the mentioned characters, although is hard to really know where the King of Cannabis is or is being dedicated these days. Perhaps we will soon be surprised with a new strains of its creation. But regardless of what he does now his legacy has already marked the industry forever: the current cannabis landscape could not be so rich or refined if it were not for Neville Schoenmakers.