Article by Piper Courtenay, The Georgia Straight
Mary Jean “Watermelon” Dunsdon says it never occurred to her that, at 20 years old, a batch of pot cookies would be the first step to becoming a national canna-celeb.
“I started smoking because it was a fabulously good time,” she says to the Straight in a phone interview, never thinking her childhood love of baking would skyrocket her cannabis-use into activism infamy.
After pursuing comedy in New York in the early 90s, Watermelon returned to Vancouver, broke and in search of a fun way to make money.
Writing her own namesake, she began selling watermelon slices along the infamously clothing-optional Wreck Beach. It was in 1993, after a year spent vending fruit to tanline-free sunbathers, when she acquired a bag of shake—cannabis bud and debris leftover from harvest—and decided to sell her first batch of infused gingersnaps. These same cookies would later be distributed in dispensaries across Vancouver.
A High Times cover girl and pin-up model, Watermelon says creativity and inspiration has always been fundamental to her advocacy.
“I only do things because I want to do them,” she says. “It’s a wonderful, brave new world, but everyone is rushing to brand […] I’ve already been branded via the courts.”
On September 8, 2001, the day she jokingly dubs her “arrestiversary”, Watermelon was very publically removed from the beach by local police. It would lead to the first of several trials over the course of the next four years for allegedly trafficking cannabis.
“I had been selling for eight years,” she says. “I quickly learned you either plea bargain, swallow the poisonous pill and become a criminal in the eyes of the Canadian courts, or you decide to fight.”
Unlike the majority of those arrested before her, she put up a fight and became infamous in doing so.