Marc Emery’s top picks for Canadian politicians go to the Greens and NDP. But he doesn’t want you to vote for either of those parties in next year’s federal election.
“Elizabeth May and Libby Davies are two of my favourite MPs,” Emery told the Straight. “But there is a time when you have to make decisions about what’s really important, and stopping Stephen Harper and replacing his government is the ultimate priority.”
Emery was speaking from Yazoo City Prison in Mississippi, where he’s serving the final month of a five-year sentence for selling cannabis seeds. In a wide-ranging telephone interview, the so-called Prince of Pot said a voter drive will be at the centre of a cross-country tour he’s planned for the fall of 2015.
“We’ll be trying to get young people out,” Emery continued. “It’s really important to motivate them to go out and vote for the Liberal party, because they could also split the vote between the Greens and the NDP, and I really don’t want to see that happen.”
Emery’s relatively-newfound support for the Liberals is firmly rooted in his life’s work aimed at ending the prohibition of marijuana. In November 2012, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau revealed that he was a “huge supporter of decriminalization”, and that he wanted Canada to take a serious look at legalizing and regulating the drug.
Emery described Trudeau’s position as “courageous and unprecedented”.
“Normally, they all wait until they’ve retired out of politics before they advocate the legalization route,” he explained. “Justin Trudeau is the only leader of a Canadian political party with any chance of forming the government who’s ever done this. I thought it was pretty brave of him.”
Criticizing a system of prohibition
Emery didn’t have such kind words for every politician who’s made an about-face on marijuana.
In May 2014, two former high-profile B.C. politicians announced they were going to work in Canada’s booming medicinal marijuana industry. First, the province’s former top cop, Kash Heed, signed on as a security consultant for medical growers. A couple of weeks later, ex-premier Mike Harcourt took a position as chairperson of True Leaf Medicine Inc.
Emery said he holds a “moral objection” against individuals who once helped imprison people for petty drug offences now profiting off the sale of marijuana.
“While they were in charge of administrations, they busted hundreds, if not thousands of people,” he said. “They’ve never apologized for what they did….And now here our oppressors are actually taking financial advantage.”
According to Emery, the larger issue is the legitimization of the Conservative government’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR), and how those rules are being used to maintain a system of prohibition.
As of April 1, 2014, medicinal marijuana licence holders previously allowed to grow their own medicine were only permitted to purchase dried cannabis via mail order from large-scale producers. (The implementation of certain MMAR provisions has since been delayed by a court challenge and interim injunction.)
Emery argued this new system extends “extraordinary privilege” to a small group of corporations while “disenfranchising and marginalizing” people who grow small amounts of marijuana for private consumption.
“This whole medicinal marijuana business just reeks of hypocrisy,” Emery concluded. “Either we’re free and autonomous individuals who can put in our bodies what we want, or we’re not. This idea that there are somehow citizens with superior rights to others is ridiculous and unacceptable.”
Emery also described the MMAR as a form of cooptation. He predicted that companies with licences to grow medicinal marijuana could soon act as a “bulwark against legalization”.
“They’re not going to want to give up their special privilege,” Emery explained. “I fear that’s what the Conservatives have deliberately created.”
A cross-country tour in 2015
Emery is scheduled for release on July 10. On that day, prison officials will turn him over to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ahead of his pending return to Canada. It’s unknown how long he’ll be in the custody of ICE. Emery said it could take days, weeks, or more than a month, depending on the pace at which a bureaucracy processes his case.
His return to Canada will therefore likely happen in the late summer, at the border crossing at Windsor, Ontario. From there, he’ll travel to London for a few days with family. Next up are public parties planned for Toronto and then Vancouver. Emery said he’ll then be leaving Canada for an international speaking tour and vacation with his wife, Jodie.
The couple’s itinerary includes Spain, France, Ireland, and Austria, after which they will return to Vancouver. A second trip abroad planned for 2015 is expected to take them to Jamaica, Uruguay, Argentina, and South Africa.
By that time, Canada will be preparing for the 2015 federal election, which Emery said will see him and Jodie make a 30-stop cross-country tour beginning in early September.
Asked if he was at all concerned the marijuana issue could backfire and become a liability for the federal Liberals, Emery argued that Trudeau has taken a position that has growing support from the public.
“For the first time in 40 years, the majority of Canadians are highly sympathetic to my point of view,” he said.
Emery claimed he has no plans to run for office, but stated he expects politics to still consume the majority of his time once he’s free.
“Getting rid of Stephen Harper and making sure Justin Trudeau is elected along with the Liberal party is a pretty major job,” Emery said. "Really, the only job that I’m going to have in the next year.”