Canada’s Prince of Pot finds great irony in his pending extradition south of the border.
“They’re going to legalize marijuana in California, in Nevada, and much of the United States very soon,” Marc Emery noted in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. “It’s quite possible I’ll be incarcerated even though I’m one of the people who provided the wherewithal for all these legalization movements to happen. I’ll be in jail being persecuted while they’re out, Americans are actually out, celebrating.”
Emery is currently on bail from the North Fraser Pretrial Centre. He faces a five-year sentence in a U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds from his Vancouver shop.
Although all Emery can hope for is an immediate transfer to a Canadian jail, he has huge optimism about the future of the marijuana-legalization crusade that he helped nurture.
In 2009, measures to tax and regulate recreational marijuana were filed in the state assemblies of California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Washington. The group Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Law has started work on a ballot initiative in 2012 to create a legal market. Several states allow medical marijuana use.
“Let’s face it: the majority of Canadians want to legalize marijuana, and now the majority of Americans do as well,” Emery said.
He said he has no doubt why American federal authorities are out to get him: it was all told in the media statement by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration when he was arrested on July 29, 2005. Then DEA administrator Karen Tandy declared that his arrest was “a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement”.
What Emery considers particularly egregious is that Canadian federal authorities have been working with the Americans to get him extradited. “The thing is rather than even charge me here, the Canadian government conspired with the U.S. to have the justice system outsourced to them so they could punish me more severely,” he said.
According to information provided by Emery’s Cannabis Culture on-line magazine, there are two precedent cases involving the sale of marijuana seeds in Canada. In one, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that a $200 fine, not a prison sentence, is the appropriate punishment. In the other case, the same appellate court determined that the penalty shouldn’t be harsher than one month in prison and one year of probation.
Emery’s bail will expire on January 8. Although he entered into a plea bargain with U.S. authorities last summer that will likely see him sentenced to at least five years in prison, it will still take the signature of Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson, a federal Conservative, to extradite the marijuana activist to the U.S.
Emery said he hopes that one day the full details of what went on between the Canadian and American governments to put him away will finally come to light. Through an access-to-information request, he has received from the justice ministry 6,000 pages of reports and correspondence, all of which have been blacked out. “It’s amazing,” he said. “It took us a year before they would actually get it back to us. A lot of them can’t be revealed because they’re communicating with the Americans.”
The federal NDP’s Libby Davies is also interested in knowing the background to Emery’s extradition. The Vancouver East MP related that she didn’t learn very much when she put in a question on the order paper in the House of Commons. She noted that her office recently filed a request for information with the Justice Ministry.
“I just feel that the whole process was very bad,” Davies told the Straight by phone. “And the Canadian government has never been clear about its involvement or what its interactions or discussions have been with the U.S. drug-enforcement officials.”
For Davies, information surrounding Emery’s case is a matter of Canadian interest. “He’s really done no harm,” she said. “He’s not hurt anybody.”