Pubdate: Sun, 20 Jun 2010
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Kim Murlphy


Canada's 'prince of pot' tried to plant the seeds of marijuana freedom
in the U.S., but ended up behind bars instead.

For years, his seed catalogues were scrutinized by discerning cannabis
cultivators across the U.S. and Canada, much like the ladies of
Cumbria might fuss over Chiltern's inventories of sweet peas and
heirloom tomatoes.

There was Blue Heaven pot, capable of producing a "euphoric,
anti-anxiety high," or Crown Royal, whose "flower tops come to a flat
golden crown, sparkling with gems of THC," or Hawaiian Sativa, with
its "menthol flavour that tingles the taste buds and tickles the brain."

The difference between Marc Emery's pot seeds and countless others on
the market was that if you bought Emery's, he'd use the money to
launch a cannabis tsunami across North America that would set the war
on drugs adrift like a cork on a massive sea of weed.

"Plant the seeds of freedom, overgrow the government," Emery urged his
clients. With a pot plant on every patio, he declared, violent drug
gangs would see their livelihoods disappear and police would be
reduced to "running around ... chasing all these marijuana plants."

Sooner or later, he promised, "they will simply give up and change the

Well, not yet. Emery, who U.S. authorities fingered in 2005 as one of
the top 46 international drug trafficking targets, was ordered
extradited by the Canadian minister of justice last month and
relinquished to federal marshals in Seattle. He now faces a likely
five years in U.S. federal prison. Sentencing will take place in
September in Federal Court in Seattle.

"In fact I have done these things, so I admit my guilt," Emery said in
an e-mail after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of
conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. "We are winning, especially in
the United States, and I can take a lot of credit for that. . . . When
I am gone, or even locked up here in the U.S., my historical legacy is

Here in "Vansterdam," where cannabis cafes, head shops and even a
supervised needle-injection site are prominent features of downtown,
pot is a multibillion-dollar industry. And Emery, a longtime fixture
at political forums and downtown street rallies, is widely seen as one
of its titans.

The extradition of the 52-year-old self-proclaimed Prince of Pot has
sparked a sovereignty outcry across Canada, where supporters, civil
rights advocates and even several members of parliament have demanded
to know why he was handed over to the U.S. for an offence that Canada
seldom prosecutes.

"It seems like the American war on drugs is just reaching its arm into
Canada and saying, 'We're going to scoop you up,'" said Libby Davies,
a member of Parliament from Vancouver. "The whole thing has struck
people as being over the top, harsh, unwarranted - and at the end of
the day, what are they trying to prove?"

Canada and the U.S. have been on strangely opposite political
trajectories when it comes to the war on drugs.

As early as 2003, the Canadian government appeared poised to
decriminalize marijuana, which is regulated only federally in Canada,
but backed down under U.S. threats to throw up punitive border controls.

Since 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party has
backed a series of bills, one now pending in Parliament, that would
mirror widely criticized U.S. policies and impose for the first time a
mandatory six-month jail term on anyone convicted of growing six or
more marijuana plants.

The U.S., meanwhile, is moving under the Obama administration toward a
stronger focus on prevention and treatment. Fourteen states now allow
medical use of marijuana, and California voters will decide in
November on an initiative that would decriminalize adult possession of
up to an ounce of marijuana and allow small-scale cultivation for
personal consumption.

Emery became a target for police in both nations - in Canada because
his frequent appearances on international television shows was an
irritant to police; in America because his seed business, which at one
point reached revenues of $3 million a year, was supplying
marijuana-growing operations in at least nine states.

"Marc Emery happened to be the largest supplier of marijuana seeds
into the United States," said Todd Greenberg, the assistant U.S.
attorney in Seattle who is prosecuting Emery's case.

Emery believes he caught the eye of the Drug Enforcement
Administration not because of his seeds, but because of what he did
with his revenue. Living in a rented apartment with no car and few
personal possessions, Emery channelled most of the millions he earned
into marijuana legalization and defence efforts.

The Prince of Pot's seed money has helped start "compassion clubs" for
medical-marijuana users across Canada, launch the Pot-TV Internet
network, and fund lobbying organizations and political parties in
North America, Israel and New Zealand.

Many of the state campaigns to legalize the medical use of marijuana
in the U.S. did so with donations from Emery. He ran for mayor of
Vancouver in 1996, 2002 and 2008, finishing a perennial fourth or fifth.

"When Marc was arrested, he had $11 in his bank account," said his
wife, Jodie, 25, who has co-edited Emery's magazine, Cannabis Culture,
and served as his deputy in the Marijuana Party of British Columbia,
which he founded. The party took 3.5 per cent of the vote in 2000 and
made cannabis a must-address issue in every election since.

Emery won few friends in ex-President George W. Bush's administration
when former drug czar John Walters, seeking to stamp out rumblings of
marijuana decriminalization among Canada's then-ruling Liberal Party,
addressed the Vancouver Board of Trade in 2002.

Emery surreptitiously bought a table at the event, and along with
fellow activists David Malmo-Levine and Chris Bennett, heckled Walters
mercilessly. The next day, activists blew marijuana smoke in Walters'
face during a tour of downtown.

Not long after that, they figure, is when the U.S. investigation of
Emery was launched. But his friends say that only increased his sense
of mission - and self-esteem. "A lot of people take great offence when
he gets compared to people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, and
they say, 'Marc, you can't compare yourself to someone like that.' And
he says, 'These are men who stood up for things ... who suffered for
what they represented, and to many, many people, they were the leader
of their movement,'" Jodie said.

"Marc does have a gigantic ego," she said.

"Majestic," said MalmoLevine.

Cannabis has been Emery's holy grail, but it would be a mistake, his
friends say, to think of him as a pothead weaned on tree-hugging and
the Grateful Dead. To the contrary, he is a libertarian capitalist
whose politics lean freemarket, individual-rights Republican.

"A lot of people think he's a leftie, but he's really a true
conservative. He wants to get the government out of people's lives,"
his wife said.

As a 17-year-old high school dropout in London, Ont., he opened his
own bookstore, City Lights, in 1975, and clashed with authorities
there for selling banned copies of High Times magazine and the rap
group 2 Live Crew's forbidden CD As Nasty as They Wanna Be.

Emery was arrested not only for selling banned material but also for
repeatedly defying the province's Sunday closure laws; after years of
conflict, he moved to Vancouver, where he hooked up with local hemp
activists who shared his fascination with the history of cannabis and
the governmental campaigns against it.

Emery opened his pot paraphernalia store, BC Hemp, in 1994 and started
his seed business later that year. Over the years he has been arrested
more than a dozen times, whether for selling seeds in Vancouver or
passing a joint in Saskatoon, but hasn't faced serious jail time until

His seed business, he has argued, did more good than harm by
undermining the criminal cartels that have turned marijuana
trafficking into a corrupt and violent international business.

"What I did was make it possible for small home growers to produce
their own made-in-the-U.S.A. marijuana," he said. "I stopped millions
of American dollars from flowing to terrorists, cartels, thugs and

The mainstream marijuana legalization movement in the U. S. has been
largely silent since his arrest, not lending their voices, for
example, to the rallies in nearly 80 cities around the world that
followed Emery's transfer to the U.S.

Emery sat largely alone in a Seattle courtroom late last month, with
only a handful of supporters on the benches.

He agreed to plead guilty to the single count of conspiracy to
manufacture marijuana, Jodie said, largely to ensure his two employees
also charged in the indictment would not have to serve jail time.

"It was the most preferable of all the alternatives," a subdued Emery
told Judge Ricardo S. Martinez, who asked why he was admitting to the

"Sometimes there are no alternatives, you're right," the judge said.
"There are only bad and worse."

Emery was led away not long after that, but nobody really expected
he'd go quietly.

The Prince of Pot's blog posts from the SeaTac detention centre go out
regularly on the Internet to his supporters. What he wants to do next,
though his attempt to get a recorded phone call out has so far only
gotten him stuck in solitary confinement: Potcasts. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D