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Feature: Prince of Pot Marc Emery on Farewell Tour As US Prison Term Looms

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #599)
Politics & Advocacy

Canada's Prince of Pot, Marc Emery, has less than a month of freedom remaining before he heads to the US border to be handcuffed and escorted to federal court in Seattle, where he will accept a plea bargain and probable five-year prison sentence for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet. But while he is resigned to years of imprisonment for his actions and beliefs, he is by no means giving up the fight and vows to reemerge stronger and more motivated than ever.

Marc Emery, on the Farewell Tour
Emery rose to prominence in the marijuana legalization movement more than a decade ago, after moving from Ontario to Vancouver, where he set up shop as a marijuana entrepreneur, operating cannabis cafes, establishing Cannabis Culture magazine, and operating the Marc Emery Seed Company. Always a thorn in the side of repressive authorities, Emery tussled repeatedly with Canadian bureaucrats, spoke out frequently and loudly (and at length) about the injustice of pot prohibition, founded the British Columbia Marijuana Party (BCMP), ran for office repeatedly, and, using the profits from his enterprises, donated generously to the reform movements in both Canada and the US.

His outspoken activism brought him to the attention of US authorities, and in July 2005, he and two employees, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, were arrested in Vancouver at the behest of the DEA on a US warrant charging them with marijuana trafficking for their seed sales. DEA administrator Karen Tandy crowed loudly at the time about shutting down a leading funding source for legalization eforts, but quickly backtracked when accused of undertaking a politically motivated prosecution.

After four years of legal tussles, Rainey and Williams accepted plea bargains that allowed them to serve probationary sentences in Canada. Now, Emery, too, has accepted a plea deal.

The agreement comes after Canada's Conservative government rejected a plea deal last year that would have allowed Emery to plead to a Canadian offense and serve his time in a Canadian prison. It was also clear that the Canadian government would not block his extradition to the US.

Faced with a possible life sentence if convicted on all counts, Emery agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to traffic marijuana, and will appear for sentencing in federal court in Seattle on Monday, September 21. But if he is to vanish into the American drug war gulag, it is going to be with a bang, not a whimper.

This summer, Emery and his young wife, Jodie, have been on a farewell tour, crisscrossing Canada to bid a temporary adieu to his legions of supporters. Emery is consistently drawing crowds in the hundreds and generating media coverage wherever he goes as he renews his longstanding call for marijuana legalization and urges supporters to agitate around getting him transferred to a Canadian prison to do his time.

And Emery is calling on his supporters to organize demonstrations on his behalf on Saturday, September 19, two days before his sentencing. Local demos are already set up in several dozen towns and cities, and more are welcome.

"There will be worldwide rallies for Marc," said Cannabis Culture editor Jeremiah Vandermeer. "There are already 50 cities on the list, and more signing up every day. We basically just want to show support for Marc and his cause and demand his freedom. We're also asking people to send respectful letters to the judge." (For more information on holding a rally or writing a letter, click here.)

"Marc is probably the most noted marijuana activist within the Americas," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Much of that is due to his tremendous ego and publicity stunts, but that does not diminish the work he has done. He's always tried to use the political system to advance change, and he has certainly used his entrepreneurial talents as well, in publishing, seed sales, the hemp business, and his downtown Vancouver shop."

St. Pierre pointed out that Emery's activism was not limited to marijuana law reform. "If you are a Canadian, you have to respect the man because for all intents and purposes, Canadians have the equivalent of First Amendment rights only because of the cases he brought as a bookseller in the early 1990s," he said. "His contribution to free speech and knowledge really marks his life, and his cannabis activism is sort of a metaphor for that. He provided unsanctioned information about how to grow marijuana, its therapeutic value, the religious component, all that. Before his challenges to Canadian censorship laws, the government would have said you don't have the right to know that."

Before his incarnation as Prince of Pot, Emery was a libertarian bookseller in Ontario, and it was there that he brought repeated successful court challenges to Canadian censorship laws, including a battle to win the right to sell High Times magazine in the country.

Emery's activism also included pumping money into the drug reform movement, both in Canada and the US. While he was raking in the dollars with his seed company, much of the profits were being plowed right back into the fight.

"I've witnessed him giving money to virtually every drug reform group in the US, which puts him in the top 1% in the Americas," said St. Pierre. "He is in the elite in that respect, and unlike George Soros and Peter Lewis, who picked people to choose where their money would go, Marc's philosophy seemed to be let all the flowers bloom. It wasn't huge money, like Soros and Lewis, but it was a lot of money, and that's pretty remarkable."

Among the beneficiaries of Emery's munificence was the Seattle Hempfest, which could count on him to come up with a couple of thousand dollars for last minute expenses, the Drug Truth Network, and the US Marijuana Party, among others. Loretta Nall was head of the US Marijuana Party.

"Marc alone funded my activities from September 2002 until his arrest in 2005," she said. "The total amount was something on the order of $150,000. Even after he was arrested he continued to try and send money when he could despite his own major need for cash to pay his lawyers."

Nall became an activist after her home was raided by police in helicopters. When she wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper to protest the raid, she was arrested shortly later.

"Marc stepped in and hired an attorney for me, gave me a job a Pot TV News anchor and roving activist in the US. He funded my trip to Goose Creek South Carolina, Colombia, South America, the first DPA conference I ever attended and everything in between," Nall recalled. "While working for him he also paid for my daughter to have ear surgery which cost over $6,000 and he provided me with whatever I requested. Marc taught me practically everything I know about drug policy reform. He was my rock when I wanted to run away from Alabama and not fight because I was scared. He was and is my mentor. I owe him a great deal," she said.

"Marc Emery has been as important to the movement as Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement here in Alabama in the 1960's," Nall continued. "No one individual has done more to promote outright rebellion -- peaceful of course -- of the unjust marijuana laws than Marc. No one has put their ass on the line for this cause more than Marc."

"We gave away $4.5 million for the movement," said Emery Wednesday from a hotel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he and Jodie continued his farewell tour. "We paid for the defense of early compassion clubs, like Philippe Lucas's, we've been paying their lawyer for years to litigate for them, we were the chief funder of the 1998 Washington, DC, medical marijuana initiative, we helped Dean Becker's Cultural Baggage/Drug Truth Network stay afloat, and now he's on hundreds of stations."

"The farewell tour is going great," Emery said. "It feels good. I love talking to and meeting people all across the country and inspiring them to do a lot of activism. And Jodie and I are having a wonderful time in our last month together. I'm blessed to be with such an intelligent, lucid, and lovely wife."

Emery, of course, is agitating to the bitter end. "I tell my Canadian audiences that I fully expect them to have legalized it by the time I get back. With all that's going on in Latin America, we're starting to see a huge group of countries not in sync with prohibitionist drug policies, and I will be disappointed if Canada hasn't joined that group."

He is also urging supporters to act on his behalf. "I'm urging Americans to lobby the Bureau of Prisons and Canadians to lobby the Ministry of Public Safety to get me transferred back to Canada," he said. "I'm also urging people to vote out the Conservative government here. The US and Canada have a treaty allowing nationals to serve their time in their home country, but the Conservatives are not taking back weed prisoners. We need people to vote this government out. In the meantime, we'll be hitting them with phone calls and emails. We have the people to swamp them."

But Emery is also preparing for his time behind bars. "I'll be writing a book based on my life, and I'll be holding myself to finishing a chapter every two weeks," he said. "I also plan on learning French and Spanish, French because I intend to become a Member of Parliament and want to be able to speak with all my constituents, and Spanish because it is the most widely spoken language in the hemisphere."

"There were several dozen seed sellers the US could have gone after, but they focused almost exclusively on Marc and now they are making him a martyr," said NORML's St. Pierre. "Unfortunately for the US government, they chose to martyr someone who is keen on martydom, and all those years he will have to spend in prison is just going to further personify him, certainly in Canada but also in the US, as someone who is being treated incredibly unfairly."

For a sense of how unfairly, one need only recall the last time Emery was convicted of seed-selling in Canada. In that 1998 case, he was fined $2,000. BC appeals courts more recently have suggested a proper sentence for seed-selling was a couple of months in jail and a year or two on probation.

Between that 1998 conviction and his 2005 arrest on US charges, Emery paid in more than $600,000 in Canadian income taxes. Canadian authorities did not bother him again, nor did they have any qualms about accepting his tax monies.

Now, Emery is preparing to become America's best known marijuana prisoner. "When they're out to get you, they're out to get you. It doesn't matter that they can't point to a single victim of my 'crimes,'" he said. "After 20 years of work, I can be the one person everyone will be aware of who is in prison for marijuana."

And he remains adamant about ending prohibition. "What is the public benefit in prohibition? There is none. We get more drugs, more drug use, more gangs, the treasuries are empty, the jails are full, but they don't care about that. The only thing important to a prohibitionist is suffering. They think we must suffer because we have a moral failing. They have a puritanical hatred for what we represent."

The forces of prohibition may have won a temporary victory in their battle to shut up the Prince of Pot. But it may well be a pyrrhic one.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Jack Straw (not verified)

Before we canonize Marc, don't forget that the majority of his funds were derived from ripping off Americans, who got NO seeds. This loud mouthed narcissist was responsible for the closure of all Canadian seed banks that, unlike his, actually sent seeds to the US. Good riddance.

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 4:46pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Jack Straw (not verified)

I wasn't aware the sentiment was so strong? I kow he got raided several times and thought he said they/gov't stole his seed stock... along with other things no doubt?

I met him only once while he was loading his car w/ Cannabis Culture magazines that he had to distribute by hand... because it was illegal to do so by mail at the time?

Mark always seemed motivated for the right reasons to me?
But I don't claim to know everything and always interested in 'cause & effect"?

Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. Being the man behind Cannabis Culture (the High Times equivalent in Canada) he gets my praise... and I pledge to help with the jailbreak. he he he. No one should do time for peaceful pot consumption.

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 5:25pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Jack Straw (not verified)

Hmm, don't you need repeat orders and a loyal customer base to generate the kinds of sales and revenues that Marc Emery did? It's kind of hard to get those repeat orders without first having filled the earlier orders. So just from a logistical standpoint I don't see how it's possible for his American customers to have gotten "no seeds" as you claim. This really seems like an unlikely accusation to be backed up.

As far as the closure of other seed banks, I have nothing against those businesses, but did they sponsor legalization efforts? If you value those that did not do so over Marc Emery who did, that seems like misplaced priorities. Supporting the cause is more important than being able to buy seeds by mail, in my opinion, though it's admittedly easy for me to say that as a non-user, and it doesn't seem like a good reason to want someone like Marc Emery who does speak out and did sponsor to not do so.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 7:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Jack Straw (not verified)

Where is your proof that no one received their seeds? I ordered many many times from Mr. Emery & never once had an issue, I received everything I ordered. If he was doing as you say then he would have been out of business within months which isn't the case. Why spread lies like this? Oh I know, because the facts aren't on your side.

You should be ashamed of yourself.


Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:01pm Permalink
Soothy Sayers (not verified)

In reply to by Jack Straw (not verified)

I must agree whole-heartedly with David Borden RE: Jack Straw's comments about Marc Emery's contribution. To reiterate, it seems highly unlikely that any majority of Marc's seed sales could have been "rip-offs"/"no-shows" when successful revenues come only when market needs are met, at least to an acceptable extent.

Mr. Straw sites Marc's activist efforts lead to the shut-down of other seed providers. Those legal reprecussions were tantamount to a knee-jerk reaction by a bully feeling threatened... by the merits of Marc's arguments.

Bottom-line, many more customers must have received there orders in full than any who's seeds might not have been delivered for whatever reason! The point raised about the legal focus on Marc Emery's activities resulting in several raids that would have exhausted any seed stocks is certainly a valid one.

I could go on but I'll quit by saying I wish I had Mr. Emery's CHUTZPAH! Thank you Marc Emery... & Thank you David Borden for being such a clear/concise voice (mediator) for a worthy & important cause!

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:09pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Jack Straw (not verified)

There was no issue with getting Marc's seeds in the US. If you didn't put down an alternate strain in your order, the seeds may have been on the slow side, but don't tell me Marc didn't deliver.

Thu, 09/10/2009 - 10:45pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

From Marc's comment, it appears he feels assured of having at least pencil and paper to produce drafts. But the arena of discussion today is the innanet. Will he be allowed to bring along a computer and will it be safe from being vandalized by prohibitionist thugs? (Let alone personal safety-- would you trust Hermann Goering with a Jewish prisoner?) Get the lawyers busy on this: every citizen on the planet should have a right to reach Marc with typewritten messages and receive the trademark sprited replies.

Failing all that, there remain the other inmates, whom hopefully it is not necessary to write off as not worth instructing. Having had a few tokes some time or other, Marc should have a treasurehouse of information worth dispensing (L E A P = Long-term Episodic Associative Performance memory) even when none of the tokes were recent.

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 5:19pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Everyone call Senator Webb and demand a special prosecutor... be appointed to look at all the perjury charges that reformers like Eric Sterling, Barry Cooper, Norm Stamper, and the like, have already outlined & continue everyday because of the abnegation of judicial responsibilitiies... like judicial review and oversite!

The Judiciary is supposed to be part of the checks and balances protecting us... not the wink & knod system... that rewards 'punishers' with the rights and assets of 'patrons'... that would be downright criminal!

We need to rattle our sabres... and send a clear warning shot across their bow... then present them the terms of their unconditional surrender... the days of bending over and kissing our rights and assets good-bye are over!

If the signal is strong enough it should force the justice dept., and the sleazy prosecutors, judges, and lawyers that leech on democracy, to rethink the rule of law...or go to prison.

End Prohibition or Perish,
Our Rights or War Crime Charges,
Your Choice, Good to Go!

Choose Legality,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. "Some day there probably will be war crimes trials in which those responsible for these crimes against the American people, and other peoples, may be brought to justice...." Eric Sterling [Reformer]

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 5:50pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Amen Brother... Good to Go!

Hope I live to see "The Age of Legality" too!

Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. It's kool... everyone needs a good mental catharsis once in awhile!

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 10:31pm Permalink
Francis Kent (not verified)

I am an ex law-enforcement officer from Central Florida. I grew up in the sixties, and never really participated in drug law busts.
One time, I stopped a couple kids who were smoking and wrote them up because my Sergeant was backing me up. I felt dirty, and talked to the judge before their trial to get the charges dropped.
Today I am retired after twenty years as a paramedic. I could not stand hurting others, regardless of the reason. I am active with, and recommend you check them out. They are a sister organization to this page and doing good work using people like me to lecture and lobby for change. Working within the system is the only way we will ever prevail.
carpe diem

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 10:06am Permalink
John Layton (not verified)

In reply to by Francis Kent (not verified)

WOW! My mother always tells me there's good cops out there. I think you must be one of the best. Just the fact that you felt so bad after having to write up the kids smoking pot says a lot about your moral fiber. And HUGE KUDOS to you for talking to the judge before their trial.

Sat, 09/05/2009 - 2:19am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Welcome Francis,

Thanks for your thoughts plus congrats on retirement. I know several cops that say it 'sullied them' too... and would rather not mess with folks because of it. Cops do have an incredible amount of 'discretionary' power though and why politeness is usually recommended... but not always deserved.

Working within the system is the only way we will ever prevail.? Not sure I agree entirely with that... many, myself included, feel the system that's supposed to have checks & balances is broken & actually antagonistic to our republics democracy and the rule of law. Currently there is way too much perjury in the Justice system for the system to function as designed!

Here's a question I like to ask cops, and other more conservative folks, confused about the rule of law and why arresting 800,000 people a year for pot is wrong:
"What right(s) does 'joe six-pack or 'black-out bob' have that 'tony the toker' doesn't?" Be sure to remind them in advance that 'social acceptability' and/or 'what the bible/god or jc says' are not rights... just opinions.

Intercourse is good,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. My rights are not privileges.. to be licensed by political & cultural authoritarians. Life. Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness! Don't settle for less... that would be a crime... literally!

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 2:00pm Permalink

In order to 'legalize' something it first must have what's called, substance. Substance: the real or essential part or element of anything. Marijuana is a Spanish American girls name and NOT a plant. Having no 'substance'.
If lawyers wanted to legalize Cannabis, they would use the botanically correct name. At that point they could no longer make any $$$ form Cannabis cases in court. So they choose to use a Mexican colloquialism to protect this cash cow.
If Marc wanted to have Cannabis legalized he would have used the botanically correct name, not a Spanish American colloquialism. You failed ever time you were in the courts using the word 'marijuana' as your defense. Think about it?
If you sound like a prohibitionist, you just might be a prohibitionist. The prohibitionists have been using this Spanish American colloquialism for over 100 years, first as a 'racial slur' then as a spearhead for their 'drug war'. Marc has been unwittingly using a prohibitionist word for most of his misdirected life. Sounding like a prohibitionist, Marc is misleading the young into thinking that this Mexican word is appropriate in legal, medicine, science, research or educational contexts.
A good stint in an American controlled prison will bring any one to their senses. Marc will have all kinds of time to educate himself about the wonders of the Cannabis plant, a godsend for his misguidance.
Watch your ass, good buddy!

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 7:32pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Mike Hansen (not verified)

Ummm... 'Cannabis Culture' was the name of his magazine? Which is the Canabian equivalent of 'High Times' magazine here in the states?

I agree Cannabis should be used more... especially in the mmj community... but consider that drinkers and rehabbers still say 'Drugs & Alcohol'?

Truth is treason in the kingdom of lies,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. Marijuana, or marihuana (spanish), is the common name for Cannabis... remember we're dealing with idiots... and we don't want to confuse them with something so complicated as male and female cannabis plants!

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 8:29pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Too many hippies, liberals, and rational peaceful folks in the Cannabis community... for my tastes sometimes. Mike I think you have us confused with crackheads and animal killers or something?

Protheans Unite,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. I never shot or killed anyone my gov't didn't order me too!

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 8:52pm Permalink
disgruntled ve… (not verified)

No more political prisons! No more unjust preemptive wars! No more double standard based corporate global sadistic government takeovers! Revolt! Thank you Marc Emery for being Marc Emery!

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 11:05pm Permalink
Brandon W. (not verified)

That story said it all.

I wish the news could play a story like that, but sadly they still think their audience thinks cannabis is a harmful drug, and you would be labeled the bad guy instead of the rightful title of, "victim"

Sun, 08/30/2009 - 2:29am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The nazis have done it again. If pot had the same effect as alcohol there would have been a full blown revolution by now. These assholes are afraid of the mind expanding effects of weed. Where would they get anyone to fight there imperialistic wars without redneck juice?

Wed, 09/02/2009 - 7:38pm Permalink
Eric (not verified)

he will pardon Marc Emery the day Emery arrives in a US prison. Remember, Emery was indicted under the Bush Administration. Obama granting a pardon would be a good slap in the face of W. Unfortunately, American presidents are almost never bold enough to repudiate a former president.

Emery's biggest problem has been Stephen Harper and his Justice Ministers, Stockwell Day and Rob Nicholson. It would be hard to find a group of Canadian politicians more hostile to Emery than this bunch. Since Canadian voters are responsible for putting their current backward government into power, they are also indirectly responsible for Emery's plight. (How backward is the Canadian government now? It is the ONLY Western government that refuses to demand repatriation of its citizens from Guantanamo!)

Wed, 09/09/2009 - 9:42pm Permalink

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