Saskatoon, Sasketchewan, has a reputation in some circles as Canada's redneck capital. Its police have recently been in the news for their old bad habit of picking up drunk native people and dropping them off to freeze to death on the city's outskirts during cold winter nights. And police and prosecutors there certainly made the news this week with their treatment of Canada's most famous pot advocate, Marc Emery, the Vancouver marijuana seed magnate who founded Cannabis Culture magazine and the British Columbia Marijuana Party.
Emery has for years traveled the country to challenge its marijuana laws and has suffered the occasional (usually intentional) arrest for his efforts. He is known to share generously of his personal stash and has done so publicly on innumerable occasions. But he has never previously experienced frontier justice a la Saskatoon.
Emery, who is currently on tour campaigning for the New Democrat Party (NDP), whose leader, Jack Layton, has called for legalization of the herb, and whose platform all but does the same, had finished speaking at the University of Saskatchewan Monday evening and had suggested that people get together afterward to smoke some marijuana, per normal. When police arrived, Emery reported, an admirer said that Emery had handed out two joints, whereupon police arrested him for simple possession, but also for the crime of drug trafficking. Canadian law currently makes no distinction among drugs or amounts of drugs -- two marijuana cigarettes or two tons of cocaine, it's all drug trafficking and carries a possible seven-year sentence.
Then, to get their pound of flesh in advance, Saskatoon prosecutors held Emery in jail from Monday night until Thursday afternoon, opposed his release on bail, and attached as many conditions to it as they could persuade the judge to accept. Emery finally walked out of jail after paying a $3,500 bail bond.
An unrepentant and unchastened Emery lashed out at his captors upon his release, saying in an e-mail message circulated on Canadian drug reform lists that Saskatchewan is a "harsh place" governed by "evil tyranny." Then he got mad: "It is a shame and disgrace that Saskatchewan is part of Canada, a condemnation of Canada, the province of Saskatchewan and the city of Saskatoon," he wrote. "The police in this province are implicated in many police scandals involving death, framing accused persons, concocting evidence, the Crown and judges are complicit in extremely punitive sentencing.
"I was released on an outrageously high bail of $3,500! I am officially accused of passing two lit joints, thus I am charged with trafficking, which carries a 7 year maximum. The crown is seeking SIX MONTHS INCARCERATION on this charge, of passing two joints! I had in my possession 2.3 grams of pot.
"In addition to $3,500 bail (in cash!), I cannot POSSESS MARIJUANA or HAND OUT MARIJUANA until my VERDICT, up to 3 or 4 months away! Wow! In addition, I MUST SUBMIT to any WARRANTLESS SEARCH OF MY PERSON, MY HOME!, MY CAR, at any time by any police officer. If I break these conditions, I will be remanded in custody until trial in Saskatoon. Wow! Further, the crown here wanted a curfew, restrictions on my ability to travel and lecture and participate in the federal election. The crown also asked that I not be in any building where marijuana smoking may be going on. These conditions were rejected by the court."
Emery got a chance to do some Bible reading while awaiting his conditional freedom, and it led him to ponder suffering and evil, and redemption. "The suffering of the cannabis culture here is great, and remedy is desperately needed, and I shall be here often to rally the marijuana community in this forsaken province. I am full of sorrow for the people here. They suffer a reign of evil by Bible thumping prohibitionists and corrupt police and sadistic prosecutors. I am merely a victim of their obscenities but unlike those here, I garner attention, unlike so many others here who languish in obscurity, and no one hears their crying or pain."