Monday, January 14, 2008

MAJOR CANNABIS NEWS: The Bad Kin....sort of



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 decade.


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 possible.


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.


"I'm 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 one."


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 proof.


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.


He 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 proud.


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 good.


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.


It's a scandal.


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 legalization.


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 that?"


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, perhaps more.


One of his friends, for example, was handed a 30-year sentence for 

growing 200 plants. This is wrong.


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 - not ever. 

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