Canada: Marc Emery agrees to five years in Canadian prison
Monday 14 Jan
VANCOUVER – Marc Emery, Vancouver’s self-styled
Prince of Pot, has tentatively agreed to a five-year prison
term in a plea bargain over U.S. money laundering and
marijuana seed-selling charges.
Facing an extradition
hearing Jan. 21 and the all-but-certain prospect of delivery
to American authorities, Emery has cut a deal with U.S.
prosecutors to serve his sentence in Canada. He also hopes it
will save his two co-accused – Michelle Rainey and Greg
Williams, who were his lieutenants for so much of the past
The three were arrested in August 2005 at the
request of the United States and charged even though none had
ventured south of the border. Since then, they have been
awaiting the extradition hearing. With the proceedings about
to begin, Emery says his lawyer brokered the best deal
If accepted by the courts in both countries,
Emery said he will serve the full term and not be eligible for
Canada’s lenient get-out-of-jail-early rules.
going to do more time than many violent, repeat offenders," he
complained. "There isn’t a single victim in my case, no one
who can stand up and say, ‘I was hurt by Marc Emery.’ No
He’s right. Whatever else you may think of Emery
– and he grates on many people, what is happening here is a
travesty of justice. Emery’s case mocks our independence as a
country. Prosecutors in Canada have not enforced the law
against selling pot seeds and all you need do is walk along
Hastings Street between Homer and Cambie for
There are numerous stores selling seeds and
products for producing cannabis. Around the corner, you’ll
find more seed stores. You’ll find the same shops in Toronto
and in other major Canadian cities.
The last time Emery
was convicted in Canada of selling pot seeds, back in 1998, he
was given a $2,000 fine. Emery has flouted the law for more
than a decade and every year he sends his seed catalogue to
politicians of every stripe.
He has run in federal,
provincial and civic elections promoting his pro-cannabis
platform. He has championed legal marijuana at parliamentary
hearings, on national television, at celebrity conferences, in
his own magazine, Cannabis Culture, and on his own Internet
channel, Pot TV.
Health Canada even recommended medical
marijuana patients buy their seeds from Emery. From 1998 until
his arrest, Emery even paid provincial and federal taxes as a
"marijuana seed vendor" totalling nearly $600,000.
is being hounded because of his success. The political
landscape has changed dramatically as a result of Emery’s
politicking for cannabis. Emery challenged a law he disagrees
with using exactly the non-violent, democratic processes we
urge our children to embrace and of which we are so
But along the way he has angered the anti-drug
law-enforcement community – the same gang that insists we must
continue an expensive War on Drugs that has failed miserably
for more than a quarter century and does more harm than
Canadian police grew so frustrated that neither
prosecutors nor the courts would lock up Emery and throw away
the key, they urged their U.S. counterparts to do the dirty
work. And that’s what’s wrong.
Emery is being handed over to a foreign government for an
activity we are loath to prosecute because we don’t think it’s
a major problem. His two associates were charged only as a way
of blackmailing him into copping a plea.
Emery is being made a scapegoat for an
anti-cannabis criminal law that is a monumental failure. In
spite of all our pricey efforts during the last 40 years, and
all the demonization of marijuana, there is more pot on our
streets, more people smoking dope and more damage being done
to our communities as a result of the prohibition.
There is a better way and every study from the 1970s Le
Dain Commission onward has urged change and
Regardless of what you think of Emery, he
should not be facing an unconscionably long jail term for a
victimless, non-violent crime that generates a shrug in his
own country. Emery is facing more jail time than corporate
criminals who defrauded widows and orphans and longer
incarceration than violent offenders who have left their
victims dead or in wheelchairs.
And while he has long
seemed to court martyrdom, Emery is by no means sanguine about
what is happening. He is angry at local lawyers for failing to
come up with a viable defence.
"They had two years and
$90,000 and they came up with nothing," he fumed. "John Conroy
called me up and said ‘take the deal – Michelle will die in
jail. Michelle will die in jail!’ What can I say to
Rainey, who has a medical exemption to smoke
marijuana, has Crohn’s disease. Incarceration in the U.S.
would deprive her of her medicine, and she fears it could lead
to her death.
"It’s an ugly situation but Marc expects
miracles," Kirk Tousaw, one of the lawyers involved, told me.
"There aren’t any here."
He’s right. Our extradition
law puts Canadian citizens at the mercy of foreign governments
and judges can’t do much about it. Emery is being forced to
accept a deal because not only are two of his friends in
jeopardy if he doesn’t, but also to go south for an unfair
trial would mean serving as much as 20 years in prison,
One of his friends, for example, was
handed a 30-year sentence for growing 200 plants. This is
If Emery has been breaking the law and must be
jailed, our justice
department should charge him and
prosecute him in Canada. It’s time for justice Minister
Rob Nicholson to step in and say, sorry, Uncle Sam, not today
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Last update: 17-01-2008