Mila’s regal nickname, The Queen of
Mila discovered the cannabis scene when a boyfriend, who was studying medicine, was interested in observing her reaction to smoking hash. Minutes after the matchbox, filled with Red Lebanese hash, was opened Mila was rolling on the ground laughing. At that moment, she says, she knew she’d found her drug of choice. That was in 1965. Fifty years of smoking hash later, ‘The Queen of Hash’ is celebrating her Golden Jubilee in style. A doyene of the cannabis scene, for her 69th birthday she decided to organise a special party. The event, Dab-A-Doo, has since mushroomed as a must attend event in the cannabis diary, touring cities in Europe and the USA. For her last birthday she signed up to join this year’s gruelling 420km Medical Cannabis Bike Tour… on her faithful city bike. If this is what 70 looks like, then bring it on!
English born, but Dutch naturalised, Mila Jansen has been on the scene since it pretty much started. She spent much of the Sixties travelling the Hippy Trail through India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, indulging her love for hashish by travelling to the source, living with the locals and learning their hash making tricks. She ended up spending 14 years living in India with her children.
“I had a most brilliant time travelling in ‘68. There was no proper bus service between Iran and Afghanistan, so we ended up walking across the border in complete darkness, carrying our luggage and my daughter. We headed for the lights from the tea houses that glowed in the dark. I was travelling with six western guys. We were the only unarmed people at the chai shops and I was the only woman to be seen. There was hot food and everyone smoked from the big hubbly-bubbly in front of the chai shop.
After a while the turbaned Afghan customs wandered over too. They put some nice smoke in the hubbly-bubbly, we all smoked together with more hot tea! ‘’Welcome to Afghanistan’’ the custom guy said. A great start. I loved that country. On the Kyber Pass I scored some kilos for $20. We left from there on the bus to Pakistan and I sat on the front seat with my daughter with all the hash from the four other travellers in my bag. When we reached the Pakistani border a custom official carried my bag over to the main officer who invited my daughter and me for a cup of tea and biscuits. We had a talk while the other travellers’ bags were checked for hash. In the end the custom official carried my bag back onto the bus and waved us goodbye. It breaks my heart to see what is happening in Afghanistan these days.”
Mila’s regal nickname, The Queen of Hash, (“it’s not one I gave myself,” she says rather apologetically), comes from her hash making innovations. She began the Pollinator Company in 1994 and has been responsible for inventing two machines that transformed the modern day hash making process – the Pollinator and the Ice-O-Lator.
Mila has told the story many times, but it’s a great story and her eyes twinkle as she tells it again. “I first got the idea for the Pollinator in 1992. I was growing a lot of weed at the time but I preferred hash. We used to make it over a screen when I realised one evening, standing before my clothes dryer, that the tumbling of the clothes was exactly the way to dislodge trichomes off of plant material. It worked!”
The Ice-O-Lator came towards the end of the decade. There was a big expensive machine that made the first water-hash, but it broke. Mila had owned a boutique in the 1960s so knew a bit about tailoring. She figured out how to fit a bag in a bucket so the screen would be suspended in the water. As the trichomes sank, they would drop down through a screen of the right size. In 2002, The Pollinator Company brought out the Bubbleator.
Mila’s reputation as a cannabis legend was further cemented by opening Amsterdam’s Hemp Hotel in the late Nineties. With just five rooms and a bar downstairs it became a legendary place to stay and hang out. “We had a cannabis plant in each of the five rooms. These had to be cared for by the visitor who had to collect nutrients for their plant every Saturday. People were so impatient that the flowers would already be smoked several weeks before they were ready for harvest! Our breakfast started at 11, seldom a problem, the bigger problem was to get everyone down before 12.30.”
Over the past 50 years, Mila has seen many changes to the cannabis scene. I ask her what she thinks of the state of the cannabis world today. “A sad one in Holland unfortunately. Since March the authorities have been targeting grow shops in a campaign to target ‘professional’ grows. They have confiscated seeds from a distributor, 800 grinders from a growshop, complete grow shops in other places… the whole policy is confused, but making things very difficult. However, I love what is happening in the USA – I also remember many things that happened there first eventually come here – dayglo socks, hoola hoops, rock and roll – and so medically and recreationally accepted cannabis will come here eventually!”
The growth of the medical cannabis movement is something that is of obvious interest too. Recently celebrating 50 years of smoking hash, Mila firmly believes that her passion has also had positive effects on her own health and is therefore not surprised that at last the medicinal benefits of the plant are being appreciated. “Especially over the last 3-4 years there has been a lot of attention on medical marijuana. My mother once told me there is no plant here on this earth that does not have any uses. I feel for me it has worked as a preventative medicine, I have never been sick. I have never been bothered by stress, the cause of so many ailments. Raising four kids on my own, running Pollinator company, I’m lucky to be so healthy and I’m sure cannabis has helped me.”
Mila adds that leading a healthy lifestyle helps too. Mila’s other passion is cycling and, apart from the 7 years she spent living in the Himalayas, she has always owned a bike. No stranger to the cycle paths around Amsterdam, in June Mila completed this year’s Medical Cannabis Bike Tour through Holland, Belgium and Germany, 420 km over 3 days. Her training regime was to cycle 50- 60 km, three times a week, with periodic breaks for a drink and a joint (“never while cycling,” she adds). She was inspired to join the Bike Tour after talking to her friend Tonia, who wanted to do it on her hand bike (having lost a leg). “I thought, if Tonia can do it then so can I.” They trained together and took part together, the shared experience and achievement made all the more poignant by the fact that Tonia died just two weeks after the tour.
Completing a charity bike ride at 70, smoking a few joints along the way, is impressive. So too is Mila’s new reputation as party queen! This is thanks to her Dab-A-Doo parties which have kicked off a new era in the Mila legend. The first one was held in Amsterdam to celebrate Mila’s 69th birthday. “I had been to the 710 Cup in Denver and loved the idea of being a judge. So, with my friend Margo, I started to organise a hash party. We had 75 judges, and non-solvent (dry sift, water or ice extraction) and solvent categories (BHO, shatter and ‘new’ extraction forms) with each entrant getting 0.1 gr of each entry, so there was a lot of organisation. But it was great fun and a huge success.”
Such a success in fact that the 69th birthday party prompted demand to repeat the party experience in cannabis friendly cities around the world. Events followed in Denver, San Francisco and Barcelona, the night before Spannabis. “That was the biggest one yet,” says Mila. “There were 300 happy people and 23 entries so everyone was blasted… I’m always surprised that so many of the judges can still hand in their voting forms. It is a serious business!” The next Dab-ADoo event will be in Boston on September 25th, organised with SKB Seeds.
I ask what plans Mila has for her 71st birthday. She laughs. “Did I tell you about my book? It’s an autobiography. Took me over five years to write and is in the final stages of being edited. The thing is it ends on my 70th birthday. I might have to add a couple of chapters…”
Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 118