Marc Emery is a Vancouver icon. The Prince of Pot, a well loved character who founded the BC Marijauna Party and ran for office 12 times, in a province that would have legalized marijuana decades ago, assuming they had ever bothered making it illegal in the first place. Located in the city fondly known as Vansterdam, where the 4/20 celebrations are legend, Marc is not a criminal so much as an integral part of the culture. Since no one bothers pretending that marijuana would be illegal here unless the US commanded it so, seed selling operations such as Marc Emery’s are almost never harassed. Seed shops are common, and the last conviction was against Emery in 1998 when he was fined $2,000.
This did not stop him from being a well known media and political figure for the last 20 years and paying more than $600,000 in Canadian income taxes on his business. He sent a copy of his magazine and seed catalogue to each member of the Canadian parliament for many years. Besides being the founder of the Marijuana Party, Emery was a major supporter of political parties, lobby groups, demonstrations and rallies, medical marijuana initiatives and detox centres. Along with other political parties around the world, he has been a major contributor to the US Marijuana Party.
The US government presented Canada with an extradition order for Marc Emery for the crime of selling seeds by mail (conspiracy to grow a plant). This is a crime that is almost never fined in Canada, that a person can spend life in prison without parole for in the US (because of the fascinating US view that one marijuana seed = one plant = 100 kilos of pot).
The US DEA’s office described his arrest: “Today’s arrest of Mark Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine and founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow, not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the United States and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists have one less pot of money to rely on.” The entire document described Marc’s political activity, not his seed selling. It is illegal in Canada to extradite a person for political activity.
It also described Emery as being one of 46 most wanted drug traffickers in the world, and the only one from Canada. As someone who lives in one of the world’s largest and most important drug shipping ports, and also as someone who has walked with a smile past the shop where Marc and his two clerks chat with their regulars, this is the most evidence I have ever seen that the United States’ war on drugs has absolutely nothing to do with fighting drugs.
Nevertheless, our repulsive conservative government, not the school yard bullies themselves, but the guys standing behind the bully cheering “Hit him again! Harder!” extradited Marc to the US for the crime of selling seeds.
On his way to the US Marc said “I do not feel bad about anything. I won’t be repentant. I won’t be apologizing to any judge. My only regret is that I couldn’t do more.”
But that was before he spent 3 weeks in solitary confinement. At his sentencing he concluded his statement with “I won’t ever advocate or counsel or behave in a manner civilly disobedient again.” In his letter to the court he said, “In my zeal I believed that my actions were wholesome, but my behavior was in fact illegal and set a bad example for others. I have now abandoned this method and ideology of disobedience as a necessary part of my rehabilitation. I will not recommend that others disobey the laws of the United States.”
Call me dramatic, but I felt like I was reading the last page of 1984.
Update: The link above is an entertaining, easy to watch overview of Marc Emery’s current court case. For those who want more detailed background into who exactly Marc Emery is, what his importance is and was in Canadian society, and a more in depth look at his legal case and the significance of it, here is a longer documentary. This one is also very interesting to anyone looking at alternative politics.
The lighter documentary focuses on Emery’s marijauna activism, but as you can see in the more detailed documentary, he has been a loudly and passionately active participant in many aspects of our political life for decades. Love him or hate him, we need him and many more like him.