Pubdate: Sat, 06 Aug 2005
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2005, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Jane Armstrong
Alert: Is Canada a United States Puppet?
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


However He's Perceived, Prominent Canadian Pot Activist Marc Emery's 
True Gift Is Rabble-Rousing

VANCOUVER -- He loves hockey and comic-book superheroes. But Marc 
Emery's greatest passion is riling authorities. Nearly everywhere he 
has lived or worked, he has left a trail of fuming police officers 
and bureaucrats.

 From defending his right to sell sexually explicit magazines from 
his former bookstores in London, Ont., to lighting marijuana joints 
in front of police, Mr. Emery's true gift is rabble-rousing.

His second great talent is shameless spotlight-grabbing. He dropped 
out of high school, he once explained, because: "My idea of a good 
time was to take away the control from the teacher and install myself 
as the main influence in the class."

Like many a class clown, Mr. Emery, 47, may have gone too far.

This time, he has infuriated the powerful U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration. Unlike Canadian authorities, who have long turned a 
blind eye to Mr. Emery's illegal cannabis ventures, U.S. prosecutors 
do not find his life's work the least bit tolerable.

To them, he is a drug lord, and last year they sent undercover drug 
officers to Canada to pose as customers. Now they want him sent to 
the United States and put on trial. Mr. Emery faces charges of 
conspiracy to distribute cannabis seeds, produce marijuana and 
launder money. If convicted, he could be sentenced to between 10 
years and life in prison.

He might need a superhero of his own to get out of this jam.

Looking fatigued after a week in a Vancouver-area remand centre, Mr. 
Emery returned yesterday to his Hastings Street bookstore to chat 
with reporters and huddle with supporters.

Comparing himself to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Mr. Emery 
said he is prepared to go to jail if it helps to further his beloved 
cause of legalizing marijuana.

"If I thought my death or my lifetime in prison -- even with great 
suffering -- would bring about the liberation of the hundreds of 
thousands of people around the world who are oppressed, I am looking 
forward to that," he said.

However, in an earlier interview, his wife, Cheryl Redick, said he is 
shaken at the gravity of the U.S. charges and fearful of a U.S jail term.

"He wouldn't last long," Ms. Redick said last week as she waited for 
friends to come up with $50,000 bail. "He'd be thrown in with the 
Hells Angels and those types. He's not equipped to deal with that."

Not surprisingly, his arrest at the request of U.S. drug officers has 
transformed Mr. Emery into a martyr on the West Coast, where 
marijuana activists number in the thousands. At his bail hearing in 
Vancouver this week, supporters who crammed into court gazed at the 
scruffily dressed defendant as though he were a rock star, waving and 
jumping to their feet when he was brought into court.

Outside, protesters -- some smoking joints -- jeered at the DEA, 
which initiated the elaborate undercover operation.

Mr. Emery's mythical status is sure to grow as the extradition case 
makes its way through the Canadian justice system. Not only is he 
seen as a freedom fighter among those battling to decriminalize 
marijuana, he also has become a symbol of Canada's right to pursue a 
more lenient drug strategy than its neighbour to the south. The DEA, 
they say, should mind its own business.

But not everyone has rushed to deify Mr. Emery.

Chief among them are the U.S. prosecutors who want to put him on 
trial in Seattle. They say he shamelessly shilled cannabis seeds to 
U.S. customers over the Internet and provided step-by-step 
instructions on how to cultivate them into marijuana plants.

In interviews, he has bragged that he has earned millions over the 
years from U.S. customers, who make up 75 per cent of his business.

Those taunts, said U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg, make Mr. Emery "our 
business." According to bank statements seized by U.S. police, more 
than $5-million has gone in and out of Mr. Emery's Vancouver bank 
accounts since 1999. "He's a drug trafficker," Mr. Greenberg said. 
"He's selling seeds that will be grown into illegal drugs."

Those who have known the activist for years are not surprised that he 
has found himself in trouble with U.S. drug officials.

"He alienated as many people as he attracted," said Tara Tarasewicz, 
who bought Mr. Emery's London bookstore, City Lights, in 1992. "He's 
unrestrained in an intelligent sort of way."

She said Mr. Emery enjoys the same mythic status in his hometown of 
London as he does on the West Coast. In fact, a stage version of his 
life so far, entitled Citizen Marc, is in the works.

Ms. Tarasewicz described Mr. Emery as a passionate libertarian-style 
crusader who took on any organization -- from London's downtown 
business improvement association to feminists -- that he believed 
tampered with individual freedoms.

After a run-in with a local feminist, whom he called a "jack-booted 
femi-Nazi," Mr. Emery refused to carry a women's studies section in 
his bookstore, angering many women in London.

He sold record albums that Ontario censors deemed obscene, and opened 
his store on Sundays when it was still against the law.

As is the case with his Vancouver operations, Mr. Emery's 
headquarters in London was his bookstore, which Ms. Tarasewicz 
described as a beacon for intellectuals and activists.

He was also a brilliant retailer, she said. "He can sell anything.

"I learned a lot just watching him. If he wasn't involved in this pot 
business he could definitely teach a fabulous marketing course and 
public relations at any university."

Indeed, Mr. Emery's lucrative seed-selling operation was the latest 
successful venture he has operated since he started selling comic 
books at 15. He rented a stall inside an antique store and was soon 
buying and selling comics by the hundreds. Two years later, when the 
storeowner retired, Mr. Emery's father lent him $10,000 to launch his 
own bookstore on the site.

City Lights became the base from which Mr. Emery launched his many causes.

He started political parties and newspapers. He regularly got himself 
arrested and got himself on TV.

Filmmaker Christopher Doty, who is producing Citizen Marc, said Mr. 
Emery's London years were spent searching for a cause that would 
combine his love for selling with political activism. But he never 
found it in London, Mr. Doty added.

In his 20s, he married an older woman and adopted and home-schooled 
her two sons. When the marriage broke up, he became involved with a 
woman who also had two children, whom he adopted as well.

In 1992, at 34, he grew disillusioned with life in Canada. "He always 
hoped that more people would get behind him," Mr. Doty said.

He moved his family to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where he 
opened a guest lodge for tourists. The venture failed and he returned 
to Canada nearly penniless.

This time, Mr. Emery settled in Vancouver, Canada's epicentre of pot 
culture. He sold cannabis seeds through the mail and opened a store 
called Hemp B.C., which sold bongs, pipes and how-to books on grow 
operations. In marijuana activism and seed-selling, Mr. Emery found a 
way to marry a popular crusade with commerce.

In 2002, he reconnected with Ms. Redick, who is also from London and 
had worked in his bookstore as a teenager. The couple have been 
together ever since and share a $3,000-a-month apartment in 
Vancouver's West End.

In an interview, Ms. Redick said life with a crusader can be trying. 
When DEA officers entered the couple's apartment with a search 
warrant, they carted off her computer, which contained a daily diary.

The couple must now move to a cheaper apartment, and Ms. Redick, who 
operates a small design business, will have to find a better-paying 
job to help cover her husband's legal bills.

In Vancouver, some believe the United States is simply trying to 
scare Mr. Emery so he will stop selling seeds to customers there.

U.S. prosecutors disagree.

"I think that's wishful thinking on the part of Mr. Emery's 
supporters," Mr. Greenberg said. "We fully intend to follow this case 
through to trial."

Asked yesterday whether he is afraid of the possibility of spending 
the rest of his life in a U.S. jail, Mr. Emery replied: "No. I 
probably will be, but not now." 
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