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Feature: Marc Emery Jailed in Canada Pending Extradition to US

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #602)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery turned himself in to Canadian authorities Monday and is in custody in Vancouver pending extradition to the United States. The Canadian Justice Minister is expected to sign extradition papers within a matter of weeks, and then Emery will be driven to the border, handed over to US authorities, shackled, and sent to a federal detention center in the Seattle area. Shortly after that, Emery is set to plead guilty to a single count of marijuana distribution, with an expected sentence of five years in a US federal prison.

Marc and Jodie Emery (courtesy Cannabis Culture)
Emery and two employees of his cannabis seed selling business, Greg Rainey and Michelle Williams, were arrested in July 2005 by Canadian police honoring a US arrest warrant charging the trio with marijuana distribution and conspiracy for selling seeds to customers in the US. They faced decades or even life in prison under draconian US federal marijuana laws. Earlier this year, Rainey and Williams accepted a plea bargain in which they pleaded guilty to a single count and were sentenced to probation in Canada.

With his employees' legal situation resolved, Emery then cut his own deal. But that doesn't mean he's changed his ways. At a press conference outside the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday just before he turned himself in, Emery was in typical "Prince of Pot" form.

"I'm disappointed in my government, but very proud of my 'Overgrow the Government' revolution," Emery told supporters. "This terrible, insidious prohibition has been propped up by Liberal and Conservative governments for 45 years. It's a public policy with no public benefit, and it has caused so much misery, heartbreak, and torment for so many Canadians."

Emery urged supporters to lobby the Canadian Justice Ministry to not sign his extradition order -- something that is admittedly unlikely -- or, barring that, to make the government pay at the polls in the next election. "And if they do sign they must be punished in the next election," he said.

In the event that he is imprisoned in the US, Emery is urging supporters to demand that he be returned to Canada to serve his sentence. "I would be out on the streets in a year from now if I am transferred back to Canada as a first-time nonviolent offender in the Canadian system," he told the crowd.

Emery showed no remorse -- in fact, quite the opposite. "I'm proud of everything I've done; I only regret that I wasn't able to do more," Emery continued. "I did sell those seeds so people would overgrow the government, and I gave away $4 million that kick-started a worldwide movement. I'm the 'Prince of Pot' for a good reason. And there is no victim here; there are no dead people in my revolution."

"Plant the seeds of freedom. Overgrow the government, everyone," Emery yelled as he was led away by sheriffs.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Emery carved out a niche for himself as a cannabis entrepreneur and legalization advocate in Vancouver, but his activism extends back to his native Ontario, where, as a libertarian bookseller, he brought cases against Canadian censorship laws that then blocked magazines such as High Times from being sold in the country. After moving to Vancouver, Emery set up the Cannabis Culture shop, Cannabis Culture magazine, and the Marc Emery Seed Company.

A constant gadfly to law enforcement and drug warrior politicians on both sides of the border, Emery's mouth, his money, and his commitment to the cause enabled him to become one of the most well-known voices worldwide for ending pot prohibition. Emery founded the BC Marijuana Party and crisscrossed Canada to spread the word about "Overgrowing the Government," and profits from his seed sales help fund drug reform groups and activists in both Canada and the US.

That didn't win him any friends with the DEA or US federal prosecutors, who indicted him on marijuana distribution charges after busting some American growers who had obtained their seeds from him. Then DEA head Karen Tandy crowed over his arrest, describing it as a blow to the legalization movement, but then quickly backtracked in the face of accusations that his arrest was politically motivated.

While Emery is behind bars awaiting extradition to the US, his friends and supporters are mobilizing. Their immediate objectives are three-fold: to urge the Justice Minister to refuse to sign the extradition papers, to urge the US sentencing judge to give him a short or non-custodial sentence, and, in the event he is sentenced to prison time in the US, to urge the Canadian Public Safety Minister to approve his transfer to a Canadian prison.

To that end, supporters have set up a web site, No Extradition, with instructions on how to contact the relevant authorities. They are also planning vigils at Emery's current BC jail digs and a demonstration in Seattle when he arrives there for sentencing.

"We're planning it right this second," Seattle Hempfest executive director Vivian McPeak said Thursday. "It's kind of difficult without having a date certain, but we're trying to get it so we're ready to go when it happens. There will probably be a rally at the federal courthouse," he added, noting that protest information would be posted on the Hempfest web site after tomorrow.

"This is terrible," said Jeremiah Vandemeer, an editor at Emery's Cannabis Culture magazine, which recently switched from print to an all online format. "It is an affront to Canadian sovereignty that Marc will be handed over to the US government and its prison system. If he committed any crime, he should have been prosecuted here in Canada."

In fact, Emery has been prosecuted in Canada for his seed sales, back in 1998. In that case, he was fined $2,000, with not a day of jail time. Since then, the Canadian government had been happy to ignore his seed sales and accept his tax payments from his seed business.

"It's terrible to see my friend and boss put behind bars for something in which there are no victims," said Vandemeer. "It's difficult, but we're getting through it, and we all have that extra resolve to work that much harder to get him back home."

Emery's young wife, Jodie, will be playing a key role, both in keeping Cannabis Culture and the Cannabis Culture Shop going and in waging the campaign to win his release. "Our campaign is about Free Marc Emery, but this is really about freeing everybody in prison for cannabis," she said Wednesday.

"There is a lot of pressure up here, and different political actors are starting to voice their support," she said. "There is all sorts of activism, and it's just starting. We will start holding vigils outside his prison beginning Saturday and going on every day after that. We're having postcards made today that people can send to flood the ministers with mail. I'm hearing that the Minister of Justice's office is being flooded with phone calls, and people are pledging that they will call every day."

But while Jodie Emery the cannabis activist is planning the campaign, Jodie Emery the figuratively widowed wife is feeling the pain. "It's horribly rough," she said. "During the day, I can keep busy. It's only when I get home and I'm alone and I realize that he's gone that it really hits me. I cry a lot," she confessed. "Even if you think Marc is a loudmouth or got what was coming to him, think of what it does to the people who love him."

Sensitized by her experiences, Jodie Emery is broadening her activism. "This has motivated me to start speaking up for the families of prisoners," she said. "There are hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in prison right now, nameless and faceless except to their loved ones. I want to speak up for all the drug war widows. We want to put faces and names to the people suffering endlessly year after year."

The historical record will show that Marc and Jodie Emery know how to wage a campaign of agitation. Now, the question is whether they can use those skills to raise awareness not just of the injustice done to Emery, but to all the rest of the drug war incarcerated.

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.


Jean Boyd (not verified)

I live in Washington, I am Canadian and my Canadian brother is in concentration camp "prison" now for 15 years under US Policy. Stephen Harper, the present Prime Minister is unlikely to restrain himself from signing the extradition orders. As a matter, he will gladly sign. But in November, the Liberal Party will walk in and take back our country. My hope is for November and we will be there.

Soon we will look back on these days of prohibition and learn again that we have the right to ingest and or smoke anything that does not bring harm to others. (And ourselves)

We the people have rights and as we go our rights are continually taken away from us, even at the request of uninformed Americans and Canadians, who are brainwashed by the status quo.

I will follow this event and also plead for the release of my non-violent brother who has been buried so long by this current system. I am a felon and cannot visit him. I cashed a check for under $50.00, but paid back 100000000000 fold.

I will continue to envision Marc Emery returning to his loved ones in Canada. I see my brother, Gordon, walking out and looking up at the stars again. In Canada, this would not happen. Canada, is or was going forward, but I am not surprised by this, as Canada is in trusted to the US.

However, the laws are very different and will continue to be. People come together on this one. It is everything. It is an opportunity to come together Peacefully in Seattle. If you can get across the line, please be here. I will.

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 4:36pm Permalink
treyhaltom (not verified)

In reply to by Jean Boyd (not verified)

There is no reason whatsoever for the US to extradite Marc Emery on behalf of the Canadian Government. From my point of view, I don't think this matter is worthy of the dollars being spent undertaking this investigation, indightment, and extradition.

It sounds like sour grapes from some over zealous drug warriors in Washington, having a personal vendetta against Marc Emery because he has been such an activist. He has become like a hunted trophy with major bragging rights going to to the agent that captures this prey. We have enough to worry about with the cartels on a murderous rampage south of our borders. Why waste recourses going after a seed vendor.

The good news is that God is not on their side in the War on Drugs!

So often Americans go to war under the distinct impression that God is on their side. But that is not the case in this Drug War. In fact, God should be quite offended by the activities of the drug warrior zealot who brings misery to his own people and kindred. This is a sad state of affairs, because these well meaning otherwise useful citizens are destroying their own country with this civil war they are prosecuting.

Enough is enough, and I tell you the truth, You're in a heap of trouble with the Lord God Almighty... Shame on you drug war zealots!

These folks that prosecute the War on Drugs, and those that profit from the franchises being built around the overall operation, are bought and paid for by lobbying or PR firms and advertising agencies representing companies that profit greatly from the prohibition and the ensuing War on Drugs. They are putting their children through the best colleges and Universities with the robust profits derived from nothing other than the prohibition against marijuana. That plus the total elimination of the totally harmless commodity of hemp, which would compete fiercely with their products of paper made from trees, and rope made from nylon, or medicines developed from chemicals.

We all know who these people are, and so does the government; who's politicians are also bought and sold by these same individuals and corporations. It is up to us to rid congress and the senate of these political leaders that are the best money can buy. We can do it by the ballot. and I highly recommend you consider voting for Colonel Pepper to the office of President.

I inhaled and won't lie about it. Furthermore due to the fact that possession of even small amounts has always been a felony, along with the the use of marijuana itself a felony; I figure that in the past 40 years I have committed about 3,500 felonies that I was never caught committing, and no proof exists to win a conviction either on these potential counts. So, I just got away with it and nobody was hurt.

Pray for Marc

Trey Haltom

Medical Marijuana Policy Project

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 7:20pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

Will Emery have daily access to a computer on which he could publish a blog and answer queries and counsel other terrorized victims via email? If such is not the case, someone must sue for a clarification of First Amendment rights.

Because the provision of seeds permitted buyers to experiment with planting, observing and tending living shrubs, it was a way of providing them with means to acquire information about nature and nurture in a most immediate way. To suppress such provision is comparable to forbidding someone to provide religiously-inclined persons a Bible (Qur'an, etc.) with which to inform themselves.

While these issues are worked out, Emery should be encouraged to use every available minute among other inmates to answer questions and inform and counsel indefatigably, creating a cadre of knowledgeable experts on the subject of cannabis and alternatives to the hot burning overdose genocide $igarette tobackgo industry complex which manipulates the US government to attack its enemies.

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 5:02pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by maxwood (not verified)

I don't think that Internet access is provided in the prisons, at least for outgoing communications. If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me.

However, Marc will likely be able to write posts for someone on the outside to type in and put online.

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

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 5:07pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by borden (not verified)

Since it is not allowed and prob is a security risk for the prison, so the best way to get Marc's words out were to setup a clearinghouse that can print out all communications and foward to Marc, and like wise he can respond the same way.

It is important that his words get out and his right to speak never be shut out.

We are so close to winning this!
Let me know what needs to be done.


Sun, 10/04/2009 - 10:22am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Marc's case will also open some eyes - it gives us something to focus on, to protest. Marc is obviously a decent and intelligent person, smoked up or not. That will go a long with with people who are sitting on the fence about prohibition ending.

American prohibition law exists for the vested interests of PharmaGiants, Private Prisons, Corporate Farm operations, Big Oil, and whatever else is threatened by the freedom of cannabis.

Now that Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American nations have decriminalised small amount of pot [and other drugs], it will become obvious that the sky won't come crashing down without drug prohibition. The justification for prohibition will be seen for the fraud it is.

Lets raise our voices loudly for the freedom we all want. I am getting ANGRY that is has taken so long to end prohibition... like I am angry that we are not "allowed" to buy an electric car. The law is just kowtowing to the corporate culture, those bastards who pollute our world. Arrrrggggg, this has gone on long enough!!

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 11:31pm Permalink
Killer Rob (not verified)

I feel for this guy and his family. A highly publicized story like this really does remind you of all the other 'forgotten ones' incarcerated by an unjust system. This is not freedom. Anyone with basic common sense can realize how ridiculous it is for someone's freedom to be taken away for simple seeds of a plant. Totally ridiculous. The real criminals are the ones that condone taking away this man's freedom.

Tue, 11/03/2009 - 4:50pm Permalink

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