Pubdate: Sat, 13 Aug 2005
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Vancouver Courier
Author: Naoibh O'Connor, staff writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


Shortly before he's scheduled to speak at the Maritimes United for
Medical Marijuana music festival in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Marc
Emery heads to town for a bite to eat. The 47-year-old well-known pot
activist orders chowder for lunch, but decides it's too runny and
requests something else.

Slowly the restaurant empties of customers, and a man sits down at the
counter to speak to the waitress. She seems nervous and appears to
want Emery to leave.

Nothing strikes him as odd-yet. "I didn't notice this at the time. I'm
on my own and the restaurant is empty, which is uncharacteristic
because it's like high noon and it's the only restaurant in town," he

When Emery leaves, he finds a car parked behind his and another one
behind it. It's gotten busy all of a sudden. "But you don't think
anything of it until you say, 'Hi' to the guy [by the car] and he nods
back and then pulls out his badge and says, 'Mr. Emery, you're under
arrest.' Then you're surrounded by a dozen police officers and cars
are coming in and flashing at you. It's hands up and, 'You're wanted
on a warrant of extradition from the United States of America.'"

Emery is describing his July 29 arrest by Canadian police at the
request of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration following an
18-month investigation.

"That's when your life freezes-the incredible long seconds when all of
a sudden you have a perfectly clear understanding of everything that's
happened and is going to happen. I was perfectly at ease. I said [to
myself], 'The battle is finally engaged.'"

So started what could become the denouement of the "Prince of Pot's"
years-long fight to legalize marijuana in this country and influence
drug policy across the globe. This time, however, the stakes are high.
By openly selling marijuana seeds to buyers south of the border, and
essentially taunting proponents of America's unforgiving War on Drugs,
Emery could languish in a U.S. federal prison for life.

He's no stranger to jail cells, considering he's been arrested 21
times and locked up 16 times on drug-related charges in Canada. But
Emery doesn't expect American prisons to be as "civilized" as their
counterparts in this country.

While jails are always physically uncomfortable, he describes Canadian
police and correction officers as decent. In a daily blog, written
during his three-month stint in a Saskatchewan jail for passing a
joint, Emery reported he never saw a prison guard disrespect an
inmate, including himself. "You can be grateful to be a Canadian, even
in jail," he says.

Now he's mainly concerned about the fate of codefendants Keith
Williams, 50, and Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek, 34.

If Emery's extradited to the U.S.-a process that may take years-he
faces three charges: conspiracy to produce marijuana and conspiracy to
distribute marijuana seeds, which carry penalties ranging from 10
years to life, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, which
carries a penalty of up to 20 years. His next court appearance is Aug.
25 in Vancouver.

Almost two weeks after the arrest, talking animatedly with a reporter
in his 22nd-floor apartment in Coal Harbour, he's unrepentant.

The arrest has hurt him personally and financially. Supporters paid
the $50,000 bail-$10,000 from money raised at rallies and four
sureties of $10,000 each.

Bail conditions require him to be "of good behaviour" and prohibit
cellphone use, among other restrictions. He's already given up his
leased Ford Thunderbird convertible and at the end of August he'll
vacate the $2,800-a-month top-floor apartment, which he shares with
35-year-old fianc,e Cheryl Redick, for cheaper digs.

The apartment is where he's interviewed federal NDP leader Jack Layton
for Pot-TV and entertained actor and fellow pro-marijuana activist
Woody Harrelson. Despite its hefty rent, the tidy two-bedroom-plus-den
is unremarkable except for its decor and a spectacular view of Coal
Harbour, the mountains and Stanley Park. A pile of Cannabis Culture
magazines sit on a table by the front door. The living room's blue and
white colour scheme reflects shades of ice, according to Emery. Hockey
memorabilia covers the walls, while rink and puck-shaped tables,
chairs and art reflect his love of the sport. A big screen rectangular
TV takes up the better part of one wall. Hockey is Emery's principal
interest outside his pro-pot crusade. The combination of the two is
reflected in his prized Canucks jersey adorned by the number 420-a
code that symbolizes April 20, as well as the time of day, when
marijuana users light up en masse.

Emery claims he hasn't smoked a joint in two days, but doesn't miss
it, although he typically enjoys one or two a day.

Wearing plain brown pants and shirt, Emery's dress is relatively
conservative. Through the interview, he frequently leans forward,
gestures with his arms and pulls out old magazines, newspapers and
photos, from a memory box to make his points.

Over the past two weeks, media interest has been intense. The
following day, he expects his first American interview with the New
York Times. "So I'll make sure I spill my guts and make sure they can
give me the death penalty. I'll tell the truth about everything, which
I always do," he says, adding the article will likely spark calls from
other U.S. reporters.

Redick, a soft-spoken Joni Mitchell look-alike, works quietly on a
borrowed laptop in the den-her computer was seized-as Emery discusses
his predicament.

A designer who doesn't generally smoke pot, Redick met Emery in
London, Ont. at age 12. She often stopped by the bookstore he ran as a
young man. He hired her at 15 to clean his business on weekends, but
they only hooked up romantically three years ago.

Uncomfortable speaking to the press, she defers most questions to
Emery, but in a later phone interview concedes the last few weeks have
been an ordeal. "My heart breaks every day," she says. "It's

Redick's already had trouble renting a new apartment-one potential
landlord already turned the couple down, which she fears might be for
political reasons.

Emery, meanwhile, is the antithesis of the stereotypical laid-back,
slow-witted pot-head, answering questions in an alert, rapid-fire
manner, recalling dates and details of incidents that happened decades
earlier. He divulges stories from his private life without hesitation.

Has he tried other drugs? Yes. Mushrooms four times between 1997 and
1999; LSD, Christmas Day 2002; and Ecstasy in 2000. "They're so rare I
can tell you when I did them," he says.

No subject is taboo, nothing is too personal to reveal-even the
explicit sexual experience that coincided with his first joint at age
22. While at a girlfriend's place on Dec. 21, 1980, (he notes the
exact date) the genesis of his life's work was sparked.

"There was a full moon that night. It was a gorgeous

He was about to engage in a sexual act when his girlfriend offered him
a joint. "She said, 'Stop.' I looked up and she said, 'Let's smoke
this,'" recalls Emery. "We smoked that joint and I always remember it
profoundly because it was like I... saw sex in a much different way
for the first time. Instead of it being about the goal-the orgasm, it
opened me up to the process. The whole point is to enjoy what you're
doing, not to get somewhere. I realized that's the underlying
philosophical ethos that happens when you smoke pot."

Emery, who adopted four children, now aged 23 to 31, from two previous
relationships, is equally candid about his voluntary vasectomy at age
19. At 17, his girlfriend, also 17, had a second trimester abortion,
which traumatized him to the point he never wanted to get a girl
pregnant again. It took two years to convince doctors to perform the
operation and he claims to be the youngest man in Canada to
voluntarily have the surgery. "But it was the best thing that ever
happened because it allowed me to experience looking after the
children I adopted. Also, typically, I've always been the kind of
person who'd never abandon anyone I was responsible to, and I'd
probably have 10 kids by now because women would have liked to have
gotten pregnant with me because I was the kind of guy who'd stick around."

A native of London, Ont., Emery is one of four children of Eileen and
Alfred Emery.

His father, who died two months ago, immigrated from the poorest part
of Birmingham, England in 1951 with only Grade 8 education. Alfred
worked at a factory in London until retirement, and was a union leader
and NDP supporter. Although Emery helped his father campaign for the
NDP in his youth, he maintains he's not a "left-wing hippie." He
regards The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand, a
proponent of objectivism-a philosophy that rejects socialism-as one of
his principal influences.

He suspects he inherited his theatrical flair, so evident at political
rallies, from his mother Eileen, who still lives in London. She
suffers from Alzheimer's and hasn't been told of her son's latest
legal troubles.

One person firmly in Emery's corner is his 44-year-old brother Matthew
who still lives in his hometown. Matthew calls Emery a great
humanitarian. "He's a fabulous brother to have. He's very generous and
he was fabulous to his parents," he says. "I'm proud to have him as my
brother. We were brought up to be people who try to help other people.
He's a good man welcome in my house anytime. He is the most
charitable, humanistic person you'll ever meet. If you're starving
he'll feed you. If he can help you, because you're down and out, he

Matthew, a businessman, believes his brother's cause is worth
sacrificing for and maintains if he's ultimately extradited it will
only help the movement. "If the government sells him down the river,
it just shows you what type of government we have. Even if he [is
extradited] it'll do exactly what he wants for the cause anyway-it'll
make him a martyr."

Matthew put his house up to cover a portion of the bond for Emery's
bail and suspects most Canadians oppose jailing his brother.

"If he sold coke, I'd straighten him out myself. Then there would be a
fight. But marijuana, no. I think it has many medicinal properties.
The government could tax it and make a fortune," he says. "I think
Marc Emery could possibly be prime minister one day. You've got to
remember people are becoming very frustrated with the government. The
problem with [Marc] is he's too far ahead of his time."

Emery was precocious and entrepreneurial from an early age-he jumped
from Grade 3 to Grade 5-but never graduated high school. At nine, he
launched his first company-a stamp business, followed by a comic book
company at 11. "When I was 14, I tallied up what I sold in that week
and said to my dad, 'I made more than you,'" he recalls.

 From then on, Emery said he paid $40 a week room and board to his
father, who he still speaks about with great affection and admiration.

Emery moved out of the family home at age 16 and ran his own book
store called City Lights Bookshop, living in its unused storage room.
His foray into the field was financed with $6,000 from selling his
comic books, while his father helped him get a $4,000 loan from an
insurance company, which Emery paid back in four months. But his
parents argued for three days about whether to let their son quit
school. His mother had grandiose ideas of Emery attending Harvard,
although he has no clue where the money would have come from. City
Lights Bookshop proved successful, however, and his first newspaper
headline appeared in the London Free Press in 1975. Entitled, "Runs
his own bookstore at 17, finds business booming," the article featured
photos of a youthful looking Emery sporting oversized glasses.

Years later, Emery sold the store to employees, then lived in Asia
between 1992 and 1994. He, his partner and two children, eventually
landed in Indonesia where Emery helped a family with their restaurant
and guest lodge. The relationship soured after he built a house on the
property at his own expense. [Foreigners can't own property there].
According to Emery, the family agreed he would live in the house for
six years before turning it over to them. Once construction was
completed, however, they refused to let him back on the land. Three
months later, he left the country after attempts to get the house back

Emery was 36 when he moved to Vancouver, where he scraped out a living
selling pot magazines and books before opening Hemp B.C. in 1994. It
was a near-instant success. Later, Emery launched Pot-TV, Cannabis
Culture magazine and the B.C. Marijuana Party, for which he ran as a
candidate in many elections. "I said I'm going to pay all my taxes and
obey all [government] regulatory laws and I'm going to do everything
totally straight," he recalls of his strategy at the time. "Then I'm
going to transparently break these cannabis laws. I didn't want people
to think there are sinister motives involved. If you hide things,
people suspect stuff."

Aside from paying taxes, Emery claims to have given away $4.5 million
to legal fees and countless other causes over the years-pro-marijuana
marches around the world, a drug addiction clinic, the B.C. Marijuana
Party, ex-romantic partners, his children, and even $8,000 toward
Green Party leader Adriane Carr's proportional representation petition.

Police have seized most of his papers, but he produced one statement
of account from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency that indicates he
paid $12,000 in tax for the month of December 2003. His annual tax
payments varied from $39,000 to $142,000 between 1999 and 2005,
totaling about $585,000 over those years, according to Emery's
calculations. "I never live ostentatiously. I've never had money to
burn... the police haven't seized any other assets. There's nothing to
get. The income tax department, if I had stashed money, would know
about it," he argues. "Both the RCMP and the DEA have been tracking
all my financial transactions... if there was any money, they would
have found it. They can't believe I'm actually as good as I say I am.
'You mean he gave away $4.5 million that he could have kept himself?'
Yeah, I did because I don't need any money. I have no hobbies. My
parents brought me up properly. I am happy with who I am without adornment."

Emery likely raised the ire of the U.S. government in 2002-if not
before-when he and supporters taunted American drug czar John Walters,
director of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy,
during a speech he gave at a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting that

The pro-pot faction bought a table of 10 for the event, then proceeded
to shout "Liar" and "Bullshit" whenever Walters said something
disparaging about marijuana. "That stung me too," acknowledges Emery,
who sees himself as Luke Skywalker to Walters' Darth Vader. "I would
say heckling John Walters while he's surrounded by 75 Secret Service
men and humiliating him in his public debut in Canada [might have
incited them]. All the investigations started right after that."

No one from the Office of National Drug Control Policy would comment
on the Emery case, but Special Agent Jeffrey Eig, a Seattle-based
spokesman for the DEA, calls Emery the head of a criminal organization
that collected millions of dollars in revenue. He also argues that
marijuana cultivation and use is devastating to the population of both
Canada and the United States. "The bottom line is this is not the
marijuana of the '60s. Marijuana of the '60s had an average THC
content of about one to two per cent. This marijuana that we're
looking at in many cases is averaging over 14 per cent of the
psychoactive ingredient," Eig says. "So it's not the same marijuana
that people are maybe thinking back on."

Among those in attendance for Walters' Board of Trade speech was then
mayor Philip Owen-a champion of the four-pillars approach to drug
enforcement. Like Emery, Owen considers the American War on Drugs a

"The Republican Party are just bullies. [John Walters] came here to
bully the mayor. 'We got this kooky mayor that's talking about drug
policy reform. We better shut that down.' That's the way they
operate," Owen says. "They weren't getting anywhere with Ottawa and
they saw this cell of activity in Vancouver with a crazy mayor [Owen]
and a nut bar Emery. They decided [Walters] would go out there and
straighten everybody out-Mr. Big Tough Guy. It just blew up in his
face. It was a disastrous meeting. They got bad publicity and we
haven't heard from Walters since."

Owen challenges the oft-quoted DEA argument that there are more
American youth in treatment for marijuana use than any other drug
combined, calling it a "mischievous and misleading" statement.

"This is the B.S. that they shovel," he says, explaining U.S. states
run drug courts, which give those accused the option of going to drug
treatment or going through the criminal justice system where they
could get a criminal record. "Of course you're going to get all the
kids [in treatment]. What are they going to say? 'Oh no, I want to go
through the criminal justice system.'"

But Owen suspects Emery overplayed his hand when he decided to sell
marijuana seeds to U.S. customers, forcing the American government to

"I just think Emery has defied the [U.S.] law. He's probably got to
pay some price, but a life sentence is just ridiculous because during
that time marijuana will be treated far more leniently than it is
now," Owen says.

Back at his apartment, Emery responds with evangelical fervor when
it's suggested that most people, even if they agree with his position,
wouldn't consider legalizing pot a cause worth risking prison over.
Only injustices like apartheid might be worth that kind of penalty.
Why not fight for the poor and downtrodden?

"This is apartheid," he replies. "Why are we kept separate from
everyone else? It's something you are. It's like being homosexual.
It's like being Christian. It's like being Islamic. You choose your
philosophy-it's like practising Falon Gong. This is a practice we have
that is a spiritual belief. Millions of people require marijuana
medically, or even therapeutically, but I'm talking about the people
who, like me, believe in marijuana and regard it as the most important
plant ever put on earth, with more uses than any other plant. That's
always been my biggest problem-that I can't get people who don't smoke
marijuana to see that what's going on is the pogrom equivalent to a
holocaust. Do you know 24 million people since 1955 have been arrested
for marijuana-24 million people, that's the size of this country."

A followup suggestion that some might be offended by any comparison to
a genocide, or particularly the Holocaust during the Second World War,
doesn't phase Emery.

"They're offended because people like to think they have the monopoly
on pain. It's like gay people getting resentful if you imply that
you're more discriminated against than they are. Gay people don't go
to jail. People bash them. People can beat them up, people can be
sometimes very rude and misunderstanding, but we're talking about a
culture where we, in 2005, still go to jail by a quarter of a million
every year."

Emery noted that the penalty for pot use in 24 countries around the
world is death-and they're not afraid to use it. But he shows little
fear about the penalty he could face if he's ultimately extradited to

"I welcome a confrontation with the United States, [although] I don't
welcome the inevitable punishment of being in a maximum security
institution for the rest of my life, because I'm a good guy."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek