Prince of Pot bids freedom, Calgary adieu

By ├ćndrew Rininsland

Marc Emery — best known to Canadians for smoking massive joints at pro-cannabis legalization rallies and taking bong hits before defending the plant at news conferences — visited Calgary on Sun., July 5, as part of his farewell tour. Emery’s visit marked what will likely be the last time he is here before being extradited to the United States on drug-related charges.

“I want to give out everybody’s marching orders so that more are active and my time in jail is not so bad,” said Emery. “One of the things I used to remember from being in Saskatoon Correctional — three months for passing one joint — was that you get a lot of ‘Oh man, it must suck to be in prison.’ You never need to write someone in prison and say that. So one of the things I like is when all the activists write me while I’m in prison and tell me ‘I was doing this to make pot legal.’

“[The tour is] mostly to give them instructions and effective ways to make me happy while I’m gone,” Emery continued, semi-jokingly.

As the publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, B.C. Marijuana Party leader and the namesake of the Marc Emery Seed Company, few people have had as much interaction with the Canadian cannabis subculture as the 51-year-old.

Emery’s Calgary speech detailed the potential impact of new legislation such as the recently-passed Bill C-15, which adds mandatory minimums for drug offenders, while discussing some of the insights and memories gained during two decades defending the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. Emery also addressed topics ranging from LSD use in Major League Baseball to the importance of fatherhood in preventing drug abuse.

Emery is in the process of being extradited to the U.S. on drug-related charges, something he has fought vociferously against. Along with medicinal cannabis activists Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, he is accused of selling marijuana seeds to Americans and initially faced an enormous sentence in U.S. jails on charges similar to that of a drug kingpin.

Emery believes he is being politically persecuted for his actions, citing a Vancouver event in December 2002 where he and others heckled then-U.S. Drug czar John Walters, and further argues he operated Emery Seeds in compliance with Canadian law — even going so far as to explicitly declare income from marijuana seeds on his taxes.

At one point, Emery alleged Health Canada even referred patients looking for high-quality cannabis genetics to Emery’s organization. After the No Extradition publicity campaign failed to generate any sympathy from the Conservative Government, Emery entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which would have seen him spend a mixed term in American and Canadian jails. This was rejected by the Canadian government, forcing Emery back to the bargaining table and causing him to believe the Canadian Department of Justice wishes to use him as an example.

Despite the gloom surrounding his trials Emery was upbeat and optimistic, rallying supporters and encouraging them to oppose the recently-passed Bill C-15 at the senatorial level. Emery finds the bill troublesome as it adds mandatory minimums for first-time offenders and says it will accomplish little but fill Canadian prisons with young people, as he believes mandatory minimums have done in the U.S.

“A mid-level or high-level dealer is going to get one to three years anyway, so the only people [Bill C-15 is] really going to effect are young people who sell to their friends,” said Emery. “That’s how we all become dealers, right? Four of us want to buy some weed, three of us have money, one person has a connection . . . He begins to pay for his own stash through dealing. Those are the people — because it’s a conspiracy of three or more people — who are going to go to jail for six months, one year, two years. If you’re near a school it’s double, if it’s your second or third offence, it’s double.”

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