Pubdate: Thu, 27 Nov 2008
Source: Georgia Straight, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Georgia Straight
Author: Charlie Smith
Bookmark: (Paraphernalia)
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


Comedian Tommy Chong has felt the sting of the Bush  administration's 
war on all things related to  marijuana. For Chong, the nightmare 
began in February  2003, when police helicopters and a bunch of 
agents with dogs launched an early-morning raid on his  suburban Los 
Angeles home.

In the acclaimed documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong, Chong  says the cops 
first told him he wasn't under arrest. In  fact, they were busting 
his Internet bong-selling  business as part of a massive U.S. 
government crackdown  called Operation Pipe Dreams. After U.S. drug 
agents tricked staff at the family company into shipping 
bongs  illegally to Pennsylvania, Chong pleaded guilty to  conspiring 
to distribute drug paraphernalia in order to  spare his son and wife 
from prosecution. He was  sentenced to nine months in jail on the 
second  anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"The ultimate aim was to bring me down," Chong says in  the film, 
which explores how U.S. Attorney Mary Beth  Buchanan tried to link 
Chong's film and comedy work to  drug abuse in America. That 
attracted outrage from  civil libertarians, who claimed this violated 
Chong's constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The case turned Chong into a symbol of the absurdity of  the war on 
drugs. In a recent interview with Straight  contributor Guy 
MacPherson, Chong said that he was  operating in a "gray area, much 
like Marc Emery is  now", because of an archaic law. Chong noted that 
Barack Obama's vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden,  wrote the law 
that banned shipping drug paraphernalia  through the mail. Despite 
this, Chong expressed  optimism that he will clear his record as a 
result of  the U.S. presidential election.

"The first thing I'm gonna do when Obama gets sworn in  is get my 
record expunged -- my felony conviction,"  Chong said. "There's a way 
to do it. What you do [is]  change your plea from guilty to innocent, 
and if they  accept the pleaaE&then they just wipe it off and say, 
'Okay, you're no longer a felon.' "

Vancouver pot-seed vendor Emery, on the other hand,  isn't feeling 
nearly as optimistic about Obama's  election. That's because Obama 
appears set to appoint  Eric Holder as attorney general. Holder, like 
Biden,  has been a supporter of the war on drugs and also  served as 
deputy attorney general in the Clinton  administration.

During the first three years of the Clinton  administration, 1.5 
million Americans were arrested on  marijuana charges. By 1999, that 
increased to 4.2  million. "It was the largest increase ever, and 
this guy was the deputy attorney general at the time," Emery  said.

He and his two Vancouver coaccused, Michelle Rainey and  Greg 
Williams, face charges of conspiracy to  manufacture marijuana, 
conspiracy to sell seeds, and  conspiracy to launder money, in an 
indictment filed in  Seattle in 2005. Emery said the U.S. government 
is  claiming that by sending seeds to U.S. citizens, he  entered into 
a conspiracy with the buyers to grow  marijuana. "On [The] Lou Dobbs 
[Show], for example --  we have the footage -- they said I was the 
largest  producer of marijuana in the history of the U.S.  justice 
system," he said. "They're attributing me with  1.1 million pounds of 
marijuana -- 100,000 pounds a  year."

As for the money-laundering charge, Emery alleged that  profits went 
to charities and activist groups. "So the  money-laundering is 
actually all of the political stuff  I did that I'm kind of proud 
of," he quipped.

The extradition hearing is scheduled to start next June  in B.C. 
Supreme Court. Emery claimed that MPs could  pass a resolution 
ordering Attorney General Rob  Nicholson not to extradite the trio. 
Emery emphasized  that under the Extradition Act, Nicholson can 
intervene  in the process at any time and state that Canada will  not 
send him to the United States. "What I would  recommend is they 
charge me in Canada with what they  want to charge in the United 
States, and we'll see what  a judge here thinks about that," Emery said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom