Pubdate: Tue, 01 Nov 2005
Source: Mother Jones (US)
Section: Nov/Dec 2005 Issue
Copyright: 2005 Foundation for National Progress
Author: Gary Greenberg
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)
Note: Gary Greenberg is a psychotherapist, college professor of 
psychology, and occasional journalist. His writing on science and 
public policy has appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Harper's


The U.S. Drug Czar's Battle With Canada's Prince Of Pot

If you were the guy everyone called the prince of pot and the U.S. 
drug czar came to town rattling his saber, you'd probably have the 
sense to stay out of his way. At the very least, you wouldn't go out 
of your way to antagonize him, let alone pay $500 for the privilege.

But that's exactly what Marc Emery did. Emery is a Canadian 
entrepreneur who presided over the world's largest marijuana seed 
sales business.

In November 2002, when John Walters came to Vancouver, Emery bought a 
table at a Board of Trade luncheon, invited nine friends along, 
and-after nearly tricking Walters into posing for a photo with 
him-mercilessly heckled the czar (whose speech warned the Canadians 
about the errors of their drug-tolerant ways) before heading outside 
to spark up a fatty.

In July, after 10 years of watching as Emery sent seeds across the 
border, webcast his antiprohibition rants from the HQ of the British 
Columbia Marijuana Party ("Overgrow the Government") on Pot-TV, and 
mailed out Cannabis Culture, the bimonthly he edits, U.S. drug 
warriors finally struck back. Acting at their behest, the Canadian 
police busted Emery in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, where he was due to 
appear at Hemp Fest 2005, on a three-count indictment filed by the 
U.S. attorney's office after an 18-month investigation by the Drug 
Enforcement Administration (DEA). Emery, 47, and two associates were 
charged with conspiracy to produce and sell marijuana, as well as 
money laundering-crimes that could carry life sentences.

I first met Emery just after the drug-czar incident and his second 
run to be Vancouver's mayor. Swaggering through "Vansterdam," the 
neighborhood of cannabis cafes and head shops that he helped 
establish, Emery seemed to have walked out of the pages of the Ayn 
Rand books he discovered when he was 21 (around the time he 
discovered pot) or the superhero comics he sold in his first 
business, started when he was 13. Both Howard Roark and Spider-Man, 
he told me then, "had this total obsession with doing the right thing.

I really related to these misunderstood people who had so much power."

This August, released on a $50,000 bond, he was still obsessed, 
speaking in his customary rat-a-tat about the "real reason" for his 
arrest: the millions of dollars he says he's given to antiprohibition 
causes over the years. "My money went everywhere, spreading a 
revolution through retail," he said. "It was the engine for worldwide 
activism against U.S. drug policy."

"I've given his 'movement' no thought," says Todd Greenberg, the 
assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle prosecuting the case. "Emery's 
criminal activities are the only focus of this case," he added, 
citing as justification the fact that 75 percent of Emery's seeds go 
to American customers. But Greenberg's attempt to distance Emery's 
arrest from drug-war politics was undermined by Karen Tandy, head of 
the DEA. On the day of Emery's bust, she proclaimed that it dealt a 
blow "not only to the marijuana trafficking trade but also to the 
marijuana legalization movement," whose lobbyists, she added, "now 
have one less pot of money to rely on."

"She makes it clear that her objective was to cripple the movement," 
says John Conroy, who leads Emery's defense team and plans to use 
Tandy's statement to fight his extradition. Under the Extradition 
Act, Canada is not obligated to surrender a citizen if to do so would 
be unjust or oppressive. (Canada limits sentences for cannabis 
production to a maximum of seven years.) Last year, Emery served 60 
days for passing a joint at a concert, but Canada has largely 
tolerated his business-and taken his money: He pays about $80,000 a 
year in income taxes, listing "marijuana seed vendor" as his 
occupation on his return.

Conroy believes Emery's arrest is both personal ("It smacks of his 
being an effective pain in the ass to the drug warriors," he says) 
and political-an attempt by the U.S. to signal its displeasure at 
Canada's liberal drug policies. The country has legalized medical 
pot, is flirting with federal decriminalization, and was the first 
nation to approve a cannabis extract called Sativex for prescription 
use. Many Canadians agree - a poll found that 58 percent oppose 
Emery's extradition, and the arrest, which was front-page news in 
Canada, triggered an avalanche of letters to the editor and op-eds 
criticizing what one columnist called "an outrageous infringement of 
Canadian sovereignty."

Awaiting his extradition hearing (Conroy reckons the process will 
take years), Emery says he's out of money and out of business.

His website now offers grim warnings about an "escalation of the Drug 
War" instead of seeds of "White Widow" and "Diesel" varietals.

But he seems certain that if he loses his extradition battle, it will 
be his ticket into the superhero pantheon. "The DEA is losing the war 
for hearts and minds.

They figure they can wipe out the movement by getting rid of this one 
guy. They're going to give life in Supermax to a guy who isn't even 
in trouble with his own people," Emery says. "They will make a martyr 
out of me."
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