Pubdate: Fri, 24 Mar 2006
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 The Washington Post Company
Author: Doug Struck
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Marc Emery's Arrest for Extradition on U.S. "Drug Kingpin" Charges,
Carrying a Minimum Sentence of 10 Years to Life in Prison, Outraged
Many in Canada. They Resented the Long Reach of U.S. Law and What They
Saw As the United States' Fevered Preoccupation With Pot.

Sweet marijuana smoke tumbles down the steps from "the Vapor Lounge,"
a corner of Marc Emery's bookstore where customers toke up at will.

"We get high with everybody," Emery says, shrugging. "This is a
pilgrimage spot, and people come here from all over the world. We get

Illegal? Yes.

So were the seeds he used to keep in a case in the store, with exotic names
such as Afghan Dream and Chemo Grizzly. So was the booming business he ran,
complete with glossy seed catalogues describing the varieties' subtle and
sublime nuances. ("Nebula: Fruity flavour and scent. Transcendental buzz.
Harvest outdoor.") So, for that matter, are the other marijuana businesses
that have sprouted in the block around his bookstore. The street is
nicknamed "Vansterdam," with pot-hazy cafes, head shops filled with pipes
and bongs and neon signs advertising illegal seed sales.

Until recently, nobody much cared, it seemed. The police hadn't
bothered to come around for eight years. Before that, they busted
Emery for seed sales and raided him four times. But he just got fined,
and the police stopped trying.

In truth, Emery hated being ignored. He tried to stir up notoriety.
Every year, he filled out his income taxes listing his occupation as
"Marijuana Seed Vendor," paying heftily and honestly, he says, on his
multimillion-dollar business. The Canadian Revenue Service never
questioned him.

He told Canada Post he was getting and sending seeds through the mail.
They never stopped delivery. He started the B.C. Marijuana Party,
fielded 79 candidates in 2001, and ran repeatedly for local and
federal offices. He never won.

He broadcast "Pot-TV" on the Internet, entertained politicians and
openly funded marches, lawsuits and marijuana-legalization drives from
Arizona to Israel to Washington, D.C.

When it was too quiet, he would rattle up a pro-pot demonstration. He
would light up a fat joint in front of a police station, daring the
cops to arrest him.

Twenty-one times they did. Usually he got off or was released after a
night in jail or fined. His longest stretch was 61 days in jail in

Then came the DEA.

Emery figured something was up when a strange young woman pestered him
to buy 10 pounds of pot. He refused. She bought seeds at his store,
asked for tips about how to hide them to go to the States, and left.

Eight days later, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and
Vancouver police tromped into his store and began hauling out
computers and files. Emery, speaking at the Atlantic Hemp Festival on
the other side of Canada, was grabbed by policemen while leaving a

Emery is "one of the attorney general's most wanted international drug
trafficking targets," the DEA in Washington crowed on July 29, 2005,
announcing an extradition request for Emery and two employees. The DEA
said Emery's bust was "a significant blow not only to the marijuana
trafficking trade but also to the marijuana legalization movement."

And he thought trying to change the law was legal, Emery

So did lots of other Canadians, it turned out. Emery's arrest for
extradition on U.S. "drug kingpin" charges, carrying a minimum
sentence of 10 years to life in prison, outraged many in Canada. They
resented the long reach of America's law and what they saw as the
United States' fevered preoccupation with pot.

"Marc's business was known to police and every level of government,"
intoned a columnist in the Vancouver Province. To arrest him now "is
petty and dishonest."

"It seems drastically absurd," said Chris Goodwin, owner of Hamilton's
Up in Smoke Cafe. Goodwin is Emery's friend and helped with his
activism on marijuana laws here in Ontario. He strongly objects to
what he sees as a move by U.S. law enforcement to impose American
views of its war on drugs in Canada.

Goodwin is currently out on bail after being charged with possession
and possession with the purpose of trafficking. Emery offered support
to Goodwin when protesters marched outside Hamilton's downtown police
station earlier this month after Goodwin was charged.

Todd Greenberg, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case in
Seattle, says Canada's apparent tolerance of Emery's seed business
does not make the U.S. bid to prosecute him unfair.

"What Canada does or does not do is not particularly relevant to us,"
he says. "We are prosecuting him for what he did in our country:
distributing millions and millions of marijuana seeds in the United
States. When someone does that, the United States has the obligation
to enforce our laws whether that person is physically located here or

Greenberg says the charges brought by a federal grand jury followed an
18-month investigation in which DEA agents repeatedly found Emery's
seeds at the root of illegal marijuana "grow ops." He insists Emery's
legalization campaigns did not affect the charges.

That sounds hollow to Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the
Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project that Emery says he helped
finance (contributors are confidential, the organization says). The
DEA's public boast to have dealt a blow to "the legalization movement"
showed its hand, Mirken says.

"This is a democracy. We are supposed to be able to talk about whether
our laws make any sense.

"Year after year they roll out ad campaigns that attempt to demonize
marijuana," Mirken notes. "They consider it the No. 1 drug threat in
America. That always struck us as bizarre."

If the DEA tries to demonize marijuana, Emery runs a multimedia
juggernaut to sanctify it. Besides his irreverent Internet site, his
Cannabis Culture magazine is chockablock with advertisements by seed
vendors and hydroponics suppliers. His bookstore offers books and
magazines on marijuana, bongs and pipes of every conceivable design,
T-shirts, pot cookbooks, grinders, vaporizers, mushroom spores and
hemp clothing.

Then there is Emery himself. At 48, he looks more like a Young
Republican than the self-described Prince of Pot, often in a coat and
tie. Divorced, he is soon to remarry, to Jodie Giesz-Ramsay, 21, who
transcribed his jailhouse musings and now helps edit his magazine.

He talks with a machine-gun style unmellowed by his admitted custom of
a daily joint or two. He compares himself to Martin Luther King and
Mahatma Gandhi. He had to apologize last year for calling a federal
minister a "Nazi," and he won no PR points when he spat on a policeman
during a 2000 arrest of one of his employees.

Emery's life has been in the limelight. For 17 years, he ran City
Lights Book Shop, a used-book store in London, Ont., publicly
challenging issues such as his town's bid for the 1991 Pan American
Games and its laws on Sunday shopping and pornography.

In 1990 he flouted the prohibition against selling High Times
magazine, then banned as "illicit drug literature." He helped get the
law overturned, and found his calling in the marijuana movement.

Emery wound up in British Columbia, a tolerant corner of a tolerant
country. Statistics Canada says 45 per cent of Canadians over age 15
have used marijuana, possession and use is legal for medical purposes,
and marijuana and sales of seeds are often overlooked. Until his July
arrest, Emery says, only two people had ever been prosecuted for
selling seeds and both had simply been fined.

So Emery sold and sold. He accepted seed orders only with money orders
that could not be easily traced. He got and sent seeds through the
Canadian postal service, then destroyed the records, he says.

"I sold millions of seeds proudly to people all over the world," and
perhaps 70 per cent were mailed to the United States, he concedes.
"Everything the DEA said is correct -- except I don't buy the charge
that I'm poisoning children of America."

Emery says he did it for the movement, not for profit. He claims to
have funnelled more than $3 million to marches, candidates, lawsuits
and ballot drives over a decade. He says he paid taxes and kept very
little. He lives modestly in his fiancee's apartment. He doesn't own a
car or a house, investments or fancy jewellery, he says.

Hamilton's Goodwin calls Emery "a true freedom fighter." He says he
has used much of his own money to back his convictions -- "a good
capitalist promoting social change."

Goodwin adds: "Love him or hate him, you definitely can't ignore him.
He bugs a lot of people while he inspires a lot."

Emery will get a judicial hearing in Canada later this year. The
justice minister in the new Conservative government could block the
extradition, but he is a tough-talking former prosecutor and Emery
acknowledges his chances are "slim odds indeed."

"In the U.S, I have every confidence I would get a minimum of 30
years," Emery says. "I'll get a longer sentence than I'd get in Canada
for multiple murder, for something no one in Canada has ever gone to
jail for."

Emery welcomes it. Almost.

"I'm interested in whatever would legalize pot fastest," he says.
"Part of me believes that going to jail will accelerate that process.
And part of me believes that if I die in jail it will accelerate it
even faster."

That is as much for Emery's devotion to the spotlight as devotion to
the cause, he concedes.

"I'm very interested to see what happens to me, because I think I am a
person of destiny," he says, with no trace of modesty. "I've already
got this grand-scale epic going in my head. I am out to destroy the
DEA and defeat them. And they are out to destroy me."
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