Pubdate: Fri, 4 Jan 2008
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 Southam Inc.
Author: Colby Cosh, National Post
Referenced: Open Letter to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson


On Dec. 31, the National Post comment pages published an open letter 
by columnist Karen Selick that asked Justice Minister Rob Nicholson 
to intervene in the extradition process against "Prince of Pot" Marc 
Emery, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 21.  For years, Mr. Emery has 
been openly running a lucrative business in mail-order marijuana 
seeds, selling to customers in both Canada and the U.S.  Though this 
is technically illegal in both countries, the Vancouver police and 
the federal authorities took an indulgent view for years; Mr. Emery 
even reported his income to Revenue Canada and paid taxes, listing 
his occupation explicitly as "marijuana seed vendor."

He was not arrested until July, 2005, when the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration filed federal charges against him in Washington 
State.  Mr. Emery was nabbed by the RCMP in Nova Scotia, and the 
Vancouver bookstore out of which he had run his business for years 
was suddenly raided.  Perhaps some modern-day Claude Rains in a VPD 
uniform stood nearby, declaring: "I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find 
that marijuana seeds are being sold here!"

Now Mr. Emery faces the possibility of lifelong imprisonment in a 
U.S. federal penitentiary without parole.  Needless to say, it is a 
fate he has done much to tempt.  He has been an overt opponent of the 
DEA and the U.S. government, and never concealed his seed sales to 
the United States or made any effort to avoid selling to American 
customers.  Quite the contrary: As he told CBS's 60 Minutes last 
year, "The whole idea was that I would help facilitate the growth of 
so much marijuana that the DEA and all the agencies of the United 
States would never be able to destroy it at the rate I would help 
create it and that, ultimately, I, one man, would neutralize the work 
of the entire DEA with their multi-billion dollar budget."

He has taken his battle to the propaganda front too, making highly 
visible donations to anti-prohibition groups in the United 
States.  It's no surprise to him that the Americans want to clap him 
in irons.  What might have been a surprise was the election of a 
Conservative government in Canada, one which has made tougher laws 
against marijuana growers and users a cornerstore of its political agenda.

Still, that should not deter us from a fair assessment of his 
incredibly risky argument-by-botany.  Many of those who consider 
Mr.  Emery's plight get distracted by what sometimes seems like a 
desire for martyrdom on his part, or by the ethical and medical 
considerations surrounding the use of marijuana.  The plain fact is 
that Canadian law never practically considered his seed business a 
major peril to public order or morals, or it would have done 
something about it.  Dozens, perhaps hundreds of mail-order growers 
are continuing in the trade in B.C. even now.  Marijuana is 
recognized as having medical benefits by our government, as it is in 
the law of nearly a dozen U.S.  states.  The U.S. is using the 
technical presence of an unenforced law on our books to carry its 
drug war onto our soil.  If the Honourable Mr. Nicholson allows this 
to reach its logical conclusion, and Mr. Emery is sent south for 
notional crimes committed entirely on Canadian soil, it will 
constitute a blow to our national sovereignty.

After all, just imagine for a moment that the positions were reversed 
- -- that by some historical quirk, it was the U.S. that had adopted 
liberal attitudes toward marijuana, while we were suppressing it here 
at home with paramilitary force and penalties normally reserved for 
killers and armed robbers.  Does anybody think for a moment that a 
Canadian politician or prosecutor could blithely dash off a letter to 
Massachusetts or Texas and have U.S. law enforcement mobilized from 
coast to coast to deliver a peaceable, otherwise law-abiding American 
seed dealer into our hands?

The Americans wouldn't stand for it.  They'd raise hell about 
foreigners telling them how to run their country.  And they'd be 
right to do it.  The principle of extradition between friendly 
neighbouring democracies is an important one, but where ideas of 
justice are expressed in such a different manner as they are on a 
point like this -- where the people of two countries so plainly 
disagree about what is right -- co-operation is tantamount to a 
surrender of values. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake