Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2014
Source: Sun Times, The (Owen Sound, CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Owen Sound Sun Times
Author: Larry Cornies
Page: A5


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 Londoner, 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 seed, 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 a recent 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 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
running for the Liberals 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.
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