Pubdate: Thu, 21 Aug 2014
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2014 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Larry Cornies
Page: 4
Bookmark: (Emery, Marc)


You have to give Marc Emery credit: After more than four years in a 
U.S. prison, he can still draw a crowd. Better yet (from his point of 
view), he can still wrangle the news media.

The "Prince of Pot," as journalists and his disciples have dubbed 
him, has certainly earned that nickname. A native of London, Ont., he 
has spent most of his adult life championing the cause of cannabis 
policy reform.

He lit joints on the steps of police stations and city halls across 
the country. He sold marijuana seeds, home-grow books, bongs and 
other paraphernalia from storefronts in at least two provinces, 
encouraging others across Canada to do the same. He launched a 
cannabis-themed magazine. He founded a legal assistance centre for 
those seeking to challenge existing drug laws. He started Pot-TV, a 
video channel devoted to marijuana culture and politics.

Emery has been in jail numerous times, has inspired films, 
documentaries and stage plays, and has run in elections at the 
municipal, provincial and federal levels under the banners of at 
least five different parties. He continues to lead the British 
Columbia Marijuana Party.

And it was in B.C. where Emery found his greatest successes, both in 
terms of running his marijuana-related businesses and in his 
political influence, nationally and internationally. From his West 
Coast base of operations, Emery funnelled hundreds of thousands of 
dollars from his profits to pro-pot initiatives in several U.S. 
states, as well as a handful of countries overseas, even as he kept 
pressure on Canadian politicians and law enforcement to liberalize 
the country's pot laws.

There can be no doubt that, over the course of three decades, Emery 
played an important (even leading) role in provoking debate about 
marijuana legislation in Canada and elsewhere. It's probably not a 
stretch to say that he managed to catalyze the changing attitudes 
among mainstream Canadians about pot and public policy. Give him that.

Now to last week's scene in Windsor: Having served his sentence in 
the southern U.S., Emery was deported to Canada via the 
Windsor-Detroit tunnel and walked straight into a crowd of about 100 
supporters, media and assorted hangers-on.

He declared his confidence in Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the 
party's sincerity about legalizing marijuana. Then he turned his 
attention to the "pernicious prohibition" of marijuana and trained 
his oratory on the prime minister.

"I will say this: I deplore and loathe Stephen Harper. I think he's 
an evil man," Emery said, calling the prime minister a "tyrant" and 
"a Machiavellian manipulator."

Which, in a country with Charter freedoms such as freedom of speech, 
is his right. And the assembled media, of course, lapped it up, 
pretty much unchallenged.

What should be remembered, though, is that Emery didn't land in a 
U.S. prison cell - and endure what became his most arduous 
incarceration to date - because of Canadian drug laws. He landed 
there because of the much less tolerant anti-drug policies of the 
United States.

His arrest in 2005, which eventually led to the U.S. prison term, was 
the result of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration (DEA), which accused him of money laundering and 
selling marijuana seeds to American customers. It was Emery who cut a 
plea-bargain deal with U.S. authorities in 2008, which would have 
seen him serve a five-year sentence in both Canada and the United States.

After the Conservative government declined to approve the deal, it 
was Emery, again, who agreed to plead guilty to drug distribution and 
consented to serving his sentence in the U.S. He'd managed to get the 
prospect of a minimum 10-year sentence (up to life in prison) reduced 
to five years on the single charge.

Canada's marijuana laws had little to do with it all. Neither did the 
"evil" prime minister, unless you count his unwillingness to shape 
Canadian policy and practice on bilateral law-enforcement issues 
around Emery's particular needs.

There was another bit of unreality in his Windsor media conference, 
too. Emery went into U.S. custody as a kind of poster boy for drug 
policy reform. He returned to a very different country - one in 
which, even in the space of five years, large segments of the 
population have substantially shifted their views on the 
decriminalization of marijuana. Many have come to favour 
legalization. All without his constant harangues.

That national discussion will take on a more fervent pitch with the 
approach of the next federal election, in which Emery's wife Jodie is 
seeking the Liberal nomination in B.C. That fact ensures we haven't 
yet heard the last from the egomaniacal (his description) Marc Emery.

And neither, somewhat to their chagrin, have Trudeau's Liberals.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom