Marc Emery: U.S. federal prison blog #4

(Marc Emery's U.S. federal prison blog #4 originally ran here on the Cannabis Culture site.)

I am very pleased to report that I am in good shape, sleeping well, and very busy getting some good work done. Today, Tuesday June 1st, I received six letters from individuals, and about 25 or so from our amazing activist friend Chris Goodwin and supporters at Vapour Central in Toronto, where Chris is manager. Jodie sent me a bunch of photos, which I'm really happy to have! The guys here are impressed by pictures of me with Tommy Chong, ZZ Top, and Sean Paul.

I received today's New York Times... today! So I'll get that the day it comes out, which is wonderful, unlike the Seattle Times which comes a day or two business days later. So my mail today was huge: 4 newspapers, one book, an envelope of photos, and about 30+ envelopes with various newspaper clippings, reprints, and letters. I haven't even had time to open all the mail! Getting photos from Jodie was the most exciting, followed by the fact that I will get the New York Times during the week on the day it's issued (weekend copies arrive Monday). Other inmates are looking forward to reading the newspapers too, and my books and magazines when I finish them. I'll bring knowledge and information with me wherever I go!

The meals have actually been very good for the last three days, and I'm looking forward to having the salad on Thursday. Today both lunch and dinner were excellent and I devoured them. Quesadillas for lunch with salsa & beans, they were very hot (physically warm, not spicy), and an excellent ricotta cheese-tomato sauces & spinach lasagna for dinner that was also very fresh and tasty and warm. My no-flesh diet is a great improvement.

Last night, for the first time since being here, I slept from midnight to 5:30am (that's when we're let out of our cells). I have difficulty sleeping during normal nighttime hours even at home, so it's extra frustrating in prison because normally the light from the range comes through the cell door window and it constantly disturbs me from sleeping. But last night my light-blocking sock "eye-mask" really helped me in this regard. The eye mask is made with a sock (one of my standard issue tube socks) and is kept on by a twist-tie that came wrapped around the wire of the radio I bought. I learned about this technique at North Fraser Pretrial in Port Coquitlam back in BC, but didn't need to use one there. Here, though, it's been a Godsend (or, as far as a suitable word for an atheist, let's say 'earthbound miracle') and last night I sleep soundly from midnight on.

So, consequently, I've been up since 5:30am reading, then I showered, and then printed out fellow inmate Robert's short profile that I wrote up for him (in addition to the much longer life story, which I am still working on). He's a 63-year-old black man with a lot of pain and suffering in his life since being in Vietnam. He likes the final short profile so much due to my writing and Jodie's final edit that he's going to send a copy to President Obama. It's about how unjust and unfair it is to let so many war veterans go without help dealing with trauma and mental illness when they get home.

Here's a quick excerpt: "Over 58,000 US soldiers were killed in Vietnam alone, and since the war ended in May 1975, an additional and staggering 109,000 US Vietnam vets have committed suicide in the last 35 years, approximately eight people each and every day. And nobody ever hears or seems to care."

Using his recollections, I have drawn up a map of his neighbourhood right down to every store, newsstand and bar for about four blocks in every direction. So when we walk through his neighbourhood in one scene of the longer story, it'll feel like I've been there for years, so the reader should get an intimate sense of the neighbourhood Robert grew up in.

I'm excited because it's a whole new writing departure for me and it's a great challenge. Scenes will be Vietnam/Nha-Trang during fighting in 1967 with its daily line-ups of 20-30 soldiers with gonorrhea, kids leaving shoe shine box bombs in the bars for drunken GI's, suicides, firefights, tremendous fear, prostitutes everywhere, night patrols... that will be contrasted with a typical Sunday in Robert's West Philly neighbourhood with locals, the stores, the El train, the characters (including Bookies, number runners, the teenage street gang The Moon Gang, the 2 white families that locals were protective of), the row houses, the young Delfonics singing their songs outside the grocery store, the church service—it should convey the gritty feel of what is, in reality, a ghetto, described during the time when Robert was 17 before signing up with the Army. Then it'll describe his time in jail for drug offenses; 10 of his 43 years since Vietnam have been prison for drugs.

All this will be tied together to make up an interesting story of one man's life, and Robert is grateful for the genuine interest I have in his personal story. It'll be like a very short novella, and I believe it will highlight my maturity as a writer beyond political or analytical work.

Everything I write of importance here (as opposed to the "email" messages to Jodie and friends) is done in longhand, first in my notebooks, and then typed up from there on the prison computer (a very basic computer with no access to anything but CorrLinks "email" messaging system) as a second draft, and then I review and edit it, then send it to Jodie usually with 1 to 2 minutes left before I am "timed out" after the one-hour limit on the computer. She sends it back to me after her edit (she's great at editing, that's why I hired her at Cannabis Culture in February 2005!) and then I can print it here. I'm behind in my book review of Parchman Farms and Mississippi chain gangs, but I will get back to that eventually.

I'm really looking forward to getting more pictures from my lover, wife, greatest friend and cosmically ordained partner, Mrs. Jodie Emery. I wrote her a true love letter the other day; she knows how madly in love I am with her, but I wanted to express in words how much she means to me. I was so impressed with her May 22nd interview on the Chorus Radio Network all across Canada, on the Roy Green Show, which I believe is the most-listened-to radio show in Canada. Jodie's sister Tracy spent a long time transcribing the 20-minute interview with Jodie and the remaining 40 minutes of callers and the host's commentary. The host was Rob Breakenridge, who filled in for Roy; he's an intelligent man who condemns big government and prohibition while still maintaining and appealing to his traditionally-conservative listener base. If there ever was a brilliant interview done that's perfect from beginning to end, it's that one Jodie did, and the text should be posted online soon. That was a stunning job, complete tour de force, as the French might say.

Jodie told me that someone posted an old song on her Facebook profile called "Jodie" by Canadian musician Joe Gregorash. Apparently Joey explains on his website:

The song "Jodie" was written in around 1969/70 and was the name that I used to describe anybody that wanted peace, freedom and harmony in the world. Instead of a "Hippie"... you're a "Jodie"!

What a great song, and song meaning—check out the lyrics, below. I knew my girl was all about freedom and choice. I'm sure glad my Jodie picked me!

"Jodie" by Joey Gregorash

Jodie is a good name,
For people who are free,
'Cause Jodie stands for freedom,
Whatever Jodie be.

Now Jodie may have long hair,
Or different coloured skin,
But these things don't mean nothin',
If freedoms' happenin'

Ride ride, ride on down the highway,
Ride ride, freedoms in the air,
Don't cry, when livin' feels like dyin',
Don't cry, yeah sing like Jodie.

Jodie is just people,
People everywhere,
They're singin' out for freedom,
Let singin' fill the air.

Ride ride, ride on down the highway,
Ride ride, freedoms in the air,
Don't cry, when livin' feels like dyin',
Don't cry, yeah sing like Jodie!




Jun 3, 2010 at 6:29pm

I am 74 years old, never even touched drugs and my drinking is about 1/2 dozen beer per year so no one could describe me as an alcoholic or narcoholic. I've voted Socred and Liberal Provincially and Conservative Federally but I am fed up to the ears with the way our Canadian Government(s) handle the drug situation. I've written a letter to my M.P. who've I've actively supported over the years expressing my views. From my perspective the RCMP are using the Marijuana issue soled to garner support for money, personnel and equipment. I've spoken to people in the Attorney Generals Office who agree we are wasting time, money and energy in this so-called "War on Drugs" It's way past time for us to wakeup and smell the coffee (or any other famiar aroma. Best of luck Marc and Jodie, lots of people are watching. TED


Jun 6, 2010 at 3:18pm

Prohibition does not work. Currently it is feeding a network of aggressive criminal organizations who have no qualms making large cash no matter what the human cost. I feel that the federal enforcement actions is nothing short of military madness, they happily embrace a lot of techniques first used by the Nazis, and perfected by our neighbours to the south.
If this continues for much longer I feel that It is time for a serious amendment to the Canadian constitution, with new laws stipulating that provinces or regions can regulate controlled substances as they see fit. The only people in favour of prohibition in B.C. seem to be police or military , brainwashed religious nuts and the perpetually distracted and the financially desperate who don't care about the bigger picture.
It is time for Logic to prevail.
If you are against legalization, you are for the STATUS QUO which puts one in pretty hazardous territory intellectually, and morally.

Ayn Rand

Jun 15, 2010 at 6:42am

I knew Marc very well back in 1984 at the start of the Freedom Party in London, Ontario and he has always been a man looking for a cause he could rally people around and be the center of attention. Here in Vancouver he found that cause but he did not count on the fact he was about to butt heads with the land of prohibition, the U.S. of A. I agree that prohibition, as history shows us, is a waste of time. However Marc Emery will not get a tear from me over his situation, he pushed the boundaries one too many times and now sits in an American facility awaiting sentencing...good for him he now has the notoriety he so badly wanted, and is now reduced to enlightening us on mail delivery, meals and delving into the Vietnam War ?? From someone who supported Marc in his early political efforts when he was just a simple libertarian with his own soapbox, I say that it is a shame that someone so shallow has become the focus of the cannabis movement, as it is truly becoming more about Marc and less about the cause than most will realize from afar.