Pubdate: Fri, 17 Jul 2009
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2009 The Seattle Times Company


After Four Years Of Politically Charged Legal Wrangling, Two Employees
Of Canada's So-Called "Prince Of Pot" Have Avoided Prison For Their
Roles In Exporting Marijuana Seeds To The U.S. By Mail-Order.

The plea deal, finalized on Friday, sets the stage for the Prince of
Pot himself, Marc Emery, to surrender to U.S. authorities later this
year to face prison time. That will close the long-running,
high-profile case that had pitted some of Canada's most vocal
marijuana activists against the Justice Department in a war of words.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez accepted the deal for Michelle
Rainey, 38, and Gregory Williams, 54, to be sentenced to two years of
probation for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. Both may return to
Canada, where they remain active in the marijuana-legalization movement.

Rainey and Williams were indicted along with Emery in 2005 on drug and
money-laundering charges for running a lucrative mail-order pot-seed
business out of Emery's Vancouver book-and-paraphernalia shop that
doubled as headquarters for British Columbia's Marijuana Party. Emery
claimed to have sold some 4 million pot seeds, most to customers in
the United States.

Williams took phone orders, and Rainey helped pack up the seeds and
ship them.

Emery has been fighting extradition to the U.S. ever since, meanwhile
maintaining his public persona as a "libertarian capitalist" and
strident opponent of anti-marijuana laws.

He has said his seed business was a way to "overgrow" the U.S. war on
marijuana, which he has called "immoral and lethal." He and supporters
accused the Justice Department of indicting him and his employees for
political reasons.

Federal prosecutors have vehemently denied that.

"We went after him for his criminal activities, not for his political
views," Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Seattle, reiterated Friday.

In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg asked Martinez
to accept the plea deal for Rainey and Williams so the government
could give up its expensive extradition fight for them and focus its
energy on Emery.

Greenberg said Rainey and Williams played minor roles in Emery's
business and are otherwise law-abiding. And he noted that Rainey is
seriously ill with Crohn's disease and skin cancer.

"This is clearly a lenient sentence," Greenberg told Martinez. But the
extradition fight "has been four years running, and it would be more
years from here on out."

Rainey and Williams apologized to the judge for their crime, and they
offered no rhetoric about U.S. drug laws.

Though he accepted Greenberg's reasoning for the deal, Martinez said,
he was frustrated by it because while sparing Williams and Rainey, he
is "forced to send so many young people to prison" in similar
marijuana cases.

"Do you recognize that these are the laws of the United States, and
until those laws are changed, you and people like you cannot do what
you were doing?" Martinez asked Rainey.

She said yes. And she wept when Martinez said he would accept the

"I'm very grateful," she said afterward. "We broke the law in the
United States. That's what it comes down to."

But she added that she will remain a leader in Canada against the
"reefer madness" of marijuana prohibition. "There's no moratorium on
my career whatsoever," she said.

In the meantime, Emery, 51, has been on a 30-city "farewell tour" of
speaking engagements around Canada. On Friday, he spoke in Barrie,
Ontario, at a "water pipe and lighter superstore" called Liquid Chrome.

In a phone interview, he said he has struck a deal with prosecutors to
surrender in late September or October in return for prosecutors
agreeing to recommend a five-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors won't confirm any such deal.

Emery remains outspoken that the charges stem from his activism having
"insulted" the Bush administration.

"This is their revenge, but it will backfire on them, I'm convinced,"
he said. "It's all politically motivated. Only the DEA (Drug
Enforcement Administration) denies that. To everyone else it's
patently obvious."

Nonetheless, he said he was relieved prosecutors had backed off on his

"I'm pleased they won't be going to jail, and they'll still be able to
do their work in Canada," he said. 
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