Pubdate: Mon, 1 Jun 2009
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2009 The Associated Press
Author: Jeremy Hainsworth, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Psychedelic rock booms through The Vapour
Lounge. In the store, young and some not-so-young people smoke pot
through a variety of devices. And owner Marc Emery stands in the
middle of it all, proclaiming his goal of defeating the U.S. war on
drugs. Known as the Prince of Pot, Emery has sold millions of
marijuana seeds around the world by mail over the past decade. In
doing so, he has drawn the attention of U.S. drug officials, who want
him extradited to Seattle. Emery has agreed to plead guilty in Seattle
to one count of marijuana distribution in exchange for dismissal of
all other counts, and the U.S. District Attorney is pressing for a
sentence of five to eight years in a U.S. prison. The case is the
latest twist in Emery's two-decade-long fight against the prohibition
of marijuana in North America. To his supporters, he is a brave
crusader for the use and sale of a drug with both recreational and
medicinal value. To drug officials, he is a criminal and the biggest
purveyor of marijuana from Canada into the United States.

Emery sits "right smack in the middle" of the North American debate
over marijuana prohibition, said Allen St. Pierre of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C. St.
Pierre predicted that Emery's trial would "kick-start it all again."

But drug officials say they are simply going after one of the world's
top 50 drug traffickers. U.S. authorities claim Emery's seeds have
grown $2.2 billion worth of pot.

"We've been very clear it had nothing to do with Mr. Emery's political
stand," said Emily Langlie of the U.S. District Attorney's Office in
Seattle. Emery himself, a two-time candidate for mayor of Vancouver
who has never shied away from publicity, seems almost gleeful about
the legal saga. He calls it the greatest platform he could have in his
crusade, and his Facebook page notes that these days he hums the
chorus from Canadian musician Baron Longfellow's "I'm Going to Need a
Miracle Tonight". He predicted he will be in a U.S. jail by August,
and will then ask supporters to push for his transfer to a Canadian

"I do have millions of supporters in the U.S. and Canada," he said,
unburdened by false modesty. "It's my job as leader of the cannabis
culture to thwart the United States government."

Emery, 51, was a teen when he started selling banned pro-marijuana
literature in Vancouver. He did the same in London, Ontario, including
on the steps of a police station, hoping to be arrested and have his
day in court. Returning to Vancouver in 1994, he set out to start a
"hemp revolution business," and opened a store called Hemp B.C. in the
firebombed shell of a Communist bookshop in what is now known as Pot
Block. He sold marijuana seeds and used the money to fund his campaign
against pot prohibition.

"It rapidly expedited cash flow. No one else in North America was
doing it," he said. Emery took in up to $2.6 million in seed sales per
year. He claims to have sold more than four million seeds,
three-quarters of those to customers in the U.S. He says he has been
arrested 21 times and jailed 17 times. In 2004, he was convicted in
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for passing a joint, and spent three months
behind bars.

In Vancouver, however, he says police have for years chosen to ignore
his business. He claims federal Canadian officials have even suggested
people contact him to buy seeds for medical marijuana. Furthermore,
Emery says, he has paid almost $500,000 in Canadian income tax since
1999. He says his seed sales funded half the activities of the
pro-marijuana movement in Canada between 1995 and 2005, and up to 10
percent of the U.S. movement. The marijuana debate is still wending
its way through communities and courts in the United States. Federal
law prohibits the possession of marijuana, even for medicinal
purposes. However, the states have different laws and penalties. In
Canada, cultivation is illegal except for medical use, and a campaign
to legalize it is under way nationwide.

However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes a tough stance and wants
mandatory minimum jail sentences for dealers and growers. And Emery is
having trouble getting the City of Vancouver to re-licence his stores,
which include The Vapour Lounge, a cafe, a convenience store and the
studios for Pot TV. Vancouver is suffering a string of killings over
cocaine from Mexico, sometimes bartered for homegrown marijuana.

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Emery's latest brush with the law began on July 29, 2005, when Canadian and
American drug enforcement officers nabbed him along with two employees of
Emery Seeds - Michelle Rainey and Gregory Keith Williams.
Emery was arrested in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, and was returned to
Canada's West Coast by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Police
raided Emery's Vancouver store, which doubles as the headquarters for the
British Columbia Marijuana Party he leads.

It was the culmination of an 18-month investigation by American
authorities. The DEA said at the time that Emery's business and his
Cannabis Culture magazine generated $5 million a year to bolster his
trafficking efforts. "He's a drug trafficker, plain and simple," said
the DEA's Rodney Benson in 2006. "Marc Emery is a significant threat
to the United States." The two employees have since pleaded guilty in
U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana,
law enforcement officials say. They have entered into a plea agreement
and will be sentenced on July 17. They faced 10 years to life in
prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend two years' probation, Emery said.

According to a DEA statement, Rainey said in her plea that she sent
seeds and growing instructions to customers at Emery's instruction.
She said 75 percent of the customers were in the U.S.

Williams said he handled the phone orders and the wire transfer
information, and also sold seeds directly to store customers. On
numerous occasions in 2004, Williams sold seeds to an undercover
agent, the DEA release said. Jason Gratl of the B.C. Civil Liberties
Association said Rainey and Williams were arrested to leverage Emery
into surrender, and the charges against him could have disguised an
ulterior motive.

"It appears the proceedings were initiated to quell certain quarters
of the marijuana movement on both sides of the border," Gratl said.
Emery said he was willing to die in a U.S. jail for his cause. "Dying
as a victim of the state's cruelty would really help a person like me.
The way you die is very important," he said. "Martin Luther King was
killed and that's very important to his legacy."

His wife, Jodie, a former provincial Green Party candidate, snorted at
this. "I hate when he talks like that," she interjected. "I think it
would be better if he continued the work he does."

Emery smiled, unrepentant. "I had a very good reason for selling those
seeds," he said. "I wanted to defeat the U.S. war on drugs."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake