Emery’s jail term longer than for some violent crimes
After two decades as Canada’s Prince of Pot, Marc Emery will surrender himself today in B.C. Supreme Court and become the country’s first Marijuana Martyr.
Emery will begin serving what could be as long as five years behind bars as Uncle Sam’s prisoner for a crime that in Canada would have earned him at most a month in the local hoosegow.
It is a legal tragedy that in my opinion marks the capitulation of our sovereignty and underscores the hypocrisy around cannabis.
Emery hasn’t even visited America but he was arrested in July 2005 at the request of a Republican administration that abhorred his politics.
He is being handed over to a foreign government for an activity we are loath to prosecute because we don’t think selling seeds is a major problem.
There are at least a score of seed-sellers downtown and many, many more such retail outlets across the country.
In the days ahead, once the federal justice minister signs the extradition papers, Emery will be frog-marched south to Seattle where his plea bargain will be rubber-stamped and he will be sent to a U.S. penitentiary.
For comparison, consider that the B.C. Court of Appeal last year said a one-month jail sentence plus probation was appropriate punishment for drug and money-laundering offences of this ilk.
The last time Emery was convicted in Canada of selling pot seeds, back in 1998, he was given a $2,000 fine.
In July, his co-accused Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams were given two years probation for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.
They were indicted along with Emery for their role in what the authorities described as a $3-million-a-year business.
Rainey, 38, worked for Emery from 1998 to 2005, helping him operate the B.C. Marijuana Party and his mail-order business.
The 54-year-old Williams took phone orders.
Emery flouted the law for more than a decade and every year he sent his seed catalogue to politicians of every stripe. He ran in federal, provincial and civic elections promoting his pro-cannabis platform.
He championed legal marijuana at parliamentary hearings, on national television, at celebrity conferences, in his own magazine, Cannabis Culture, and on his own Internet channel, Pot TV.
Health Canada even recommended medical marijuana patients buy their seeds from his company.
From 1998 until his arrest, Emery even paid provincial and federal taxes as a “marijuana seed vendor” totalling nearly $600,000.
He was targeted because of his success, targeted as surely as pot comic Tommy Chong — who spent nearly a year in U.S. jail because his son ran a company selling glass pipes.
Emery challenged a law he disagrees with using exactly the non-violent, democratic processes we urge our children to embrace and of which we are so proud.
“The same seeds I sold are being sold right in America,” Emery complained. “The people in California are doing it the same way I did so there’s a terrible hypocrisy at work here.”
Emery recently wrapped up a 30-city “farewell tour” of speaking engagements across Canada.
And, he’s banking on the transfer agreement that allows Canadians convicted and jailed in America to serve their time here and take advantage of our very liberal early-release laws.
If that happened, he could be out within a few years. But Ottawa has regularly rejected drug offenders for the program and I doubt Emery will find any sympathy.
I suspect he’s likely to moulder in a violent, overcrowded U.S. jail for probably his full five-year sentence.
“I’m going to do more time than many violent, repeat offenders,” he noted.
“There isn’t a single victim in my case, no one who can stand up and say, ‘I was hurt by Marc Emery.’ No one.”
He’s right again.
Emery is facing more jail time than corporate criminals who defraud widows and orphans and longer incarceration than violent offenders who leave their victims dead or in wheelchairs.
Whatever else you may think of him — and I know he rankles many — what is happening to him today mocks our independence and our ideal of justice.
By Ian Mulgrew