NO DEAL: Ottawa Rejects Prince of Pot's Plea Deal With U.S.
VANCOUVER - A tentative deal between Marc Emery and the U.S. government over money laundering and drug charges has been nixed by Ottawa, the marijuana crusader said Thursday. Mr. Emery says the federal Conservatives have refused to go along with a proposal that would have seen him spend five years behind bars for selling marijuana seeds through the mail. Under the defunct pact, Mr. Emery was to plead guilty on both sides of the border and accept a sentence of 10 years imprisonment on the understanding he would serve half, mostly in Canada.
"All that was required for this deal was a rubber stamp from the federal government," Emery told me late Thursday. "They have, instead, rejected the deal without explanation ... it is clearly political."
The long-time cannabis crusader said he originally agreed to the jail time in part to spare his associates and co-accused Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams from prosecution and prison. "I was willing, the Americans were willing and all that we needed was the Conservative government to also agree," the 50-year-old said. "I certainly didn't think that would be a problem. After all, I was agreeing to serve five years for a crime that would result in little over a month in jail for any one of the many seed-sellers operating then, and now, in Vancouver and across Canada."
The trio was charged in August 2005 after a raid by local police and American law-enforcement agents on Emery's downtown Vancouver headquarters. They were accused of violating U.S. laws even though none had ventured south of the border. Emery was the primary target, in particular because of his decade-long campaign to end the criminal prohibition against cannabis in North America. "The Americans targeted me for my political views and activism," he said. "And now my own government won't go along with an American-endorsed deal because they want me gone."
U.S. prosecutors have offered Williams and Rainey jail sentences in the three-to-five-month range and probation in exchange for guilty pleas. Both are mulling it over. Rainey, who suffers from Crohn's disease, was Emery's long-time right-hand but has since become one of the country's leading medical marijuana advocates. A guilty plea in exchange for a brief term of incarceration would allow her to get on with her life and bring an end to these tribulations. "It's in the hands of my lawyer," she said. "But it may be the best option under the circumstances." Emery fumed: "Depriving her of medicine by sending her to the U.S. amounts to nothing less than cruelty."
For Williams, too, the deal is attractive compared to the prospect of facing a long extradition fight, a trial in the U.S. and then potentially a 10- to 20-plus-year sentence in an American penitentiary. "It is hard for me to believe that marijuana is even illegal, much less that I'm facing the possibility of life in prison," he told me. "I'm stunned that our government can't deal with cannabis in our society in an adult way."
Emery's collapsed plea bargain would have expedited the legal process and saved everyone a lot of time and money. The flamboyant and often outrageous activist now is prepared to mount a lengthy and strident fight against extradition. Emery has flouted the law for more than a decade. He has run in federal, provincial and civic elections promoting his pro-cannabis platform. He has 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.
The political landscape has changed dramatically as a result of Emery's politicking for cannabis. Health Canada even recommended medical marijuana patients buy their seeds from Emery. From 1998 until his arrest, Emery even paid provincial and federal taxes as a "marijuana seed vendor" totaling nearly $600,000. "Over the last 10 years, I operated openly and transparently," Emery insisted. "Six times a year, I sent every Member of Parliament a copy of my seed catalogue. I donated tens of thousands to politicians of every party, at every level of government. They all gladly cashed my cheques knowing full well the source of the money. Under the definition of the law, they are all guilty of money laundering, the very crime I'm being extradited for."
Kirk Tousaw, one of the lawyers involved in the defence team, said the government's stance seemed to run counter to the country's "traditional commitment to freedom, justice and compassion." "We know that most Canadians understand that marijuana is a relatively harmless plant that should not be illegal," he said. The governing Conservatives, however, do not hold such a view and are moving to stiffen the punishment for marijuana offences, including imposing mandatory jail time on those caught with even a small number of pot plants.
The last time Emery was convicted in Canada of selling cannabis seeds, back in 1998, he was given a $2,000 fine. Only a few weeks ago, the B.C. Court of Appeal suggested the proper sentence for someone convicted of selling seeds by mail was a month or two in jail and a year or so on probation.
Since Emery was arrested, many have called on Ottawa to prevent his extradition and, if necessary, prosecute him here instead. The federal government has stood back and refused to intervene since the extradition request from the U.S. was approved under the previous Liberal government. Attempts to derail the extradition process by having Emery privately charged in Canada were blocked by the Crown. Emery's friends have collected tens-of-thousands of signatures on a petition decrying this as a travesty of justice. The National Post editorial board condemned it as a loss of Canadian sovereignty.
"I'm disappointed," Emery acknowledged. "Not for myself," he added, "because I've been fighting for freedom for decades and I'm prepared to keep doing it. I'm disappointed for my co-accused. And I'm afraid for this country."
- Article by Ian Mulgrew, from The Vancouver Sun
The Pointless Persecution of Marc Emery
By Rob Breakenridge
"The World Tonight"
770AM CHQR Talk Radio
For a while now, it seemed the persecution of "The Prince of Pot" Marc Emery was driven largely by war-on-drugs hawks in the US, but if the recent news story is accurate, the problem lies in Ottawa, not Washington:
A tentative deal between Marc Emery and the U.S. government over money laundering and drug charges has been nixed by Ottawa, the marijuana crusader said Thursday. Mr. Emery says the federal Conservatives have refused to go along with a proposal that would have seen him spend five years behind bars for selling marijuana seeds through the mail. Under the defunct pact, Mr. Emery was to plead guilty on both sides of the border and accept a sentence of 10 years imprisonment on the understanding he would serve half, mostly in Canada. "All that was required for this deal was a rubber stamp from the federal government," Mr. Emery said. "They have, instead, rejected the deal without explanation . . . it is clearly political."
To me, someone selling marijuana seeds is not really all that different than someone selling wine-making kits. Secondly, with regards to marijuana's legal status, a marijuana seed is hardly going to do much for you on its own - maybe it should be treated more like a bong or water pipe.
In any event, the case against Marc Emery seems incredibly political - and yes, petty. Marc Emery is certainly an in-your-face type of guy, and his activism has made him a target. Emery may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that shouldn't mean he deserves what he's being put through. Keep in mind that for years Emery has publicly sold marijuana seeds - even paying taxes on his income (and listing "marijuana seed vendor" as his occupation!). Now suddenly, he's going to do some hard time. As Emery describes it:
"Six times a year, I sent every Member of Parliament a copy of my seed catalogue. I donated tens of thousands to politicians of every party, at every level of government. They all gladly cashed my cheques knowing full well the source of the money. Under the definition of the law, they are all guilty of money laundering, the very crime I'm being extradited for."
Perhaps Emery went too far when he sold his seeds to Americans, and I suspect had he retained a Canadian-only business, he might not be in this boat. That, however, does not excuse the way he's been treated, and does not account for the contradictions in this case. For example, if Marc Emery has commited a crime, then why didn't Canadian officials deal with it? However, if he has not committed a crime in Canada, why are we extraditing him?
But the bottom line is this: if Marc Emery has committed a crime, who are the victims? How is society protected by locking him up?
Pot crusader says Feds nixed plea deal
VANCOUVER - British Columbia's self-proclaimed "prince of pot" says the Canadian government has nixed a plea bargain with U.S. authorities that would have meant five years in prison. Marc Emery is charged in the U.S. with selling seeds over the Internet. He said Friday he was willing to accept a five-year deal but the Canadian government wasn't. "I was willing to accept the deal that would put me in jail for five years on a 10-year sentence, mostly served in Canada," Emery said at a news conference in the Vapour Lounge, newly opened above the downtown headquarters where he sells marijuana paraphernalia.
Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, his associates and co-accused, are also wanted in the U.S. Reports say they have been offered sentences in the three-to five-month range in exchange for guilty pleas. "The Americans were receptive and all that was required was for this deal to go down was for the Conservative government to rubber stamp it," Emery said. "All we needed was the Conservative government to agree to this and they refused." Spokespersons for the U.S. and Canadian governments were not immediately available to comment.
The U.S. government has been trying to extradite Emery on charges he sold marijuana seeds over the Internet and sent them through the mail. Emery says U.S. officials offered him a deal last fall that would involve him pleading guilty on both sides of the border while receiving a 10-year sentence that required him to serve five years behind bars. Most of the prison time would be served in Canada, he said.
Emery said Canadian authorities have known for years about his business. "The government is far from innocent in this situation," he said. He said he has paid more than $500,000 in taxes between 1999 to 2005 "and I put on my income tax declarations that I was a marijuana seed vendor. "I used to send, and still do send, over 10 years now, every member of Parliament gets a copy of my magazine and the seed catalogue in it."
He said he did not keep much of the "millions of dollars" he made selling seeds. "The whole purpose of raising millions of dollars through the sale of seeds was to provide the cannabis legalization movement with the funding it needed and we contributed to politicians at all levels," Emery said.
The extradition case against Emery was put over earlier this month until April 9 at the request of his lawyer and a federal prosecutor representing the U.S. Justice Department. Emery has been highly visible to Canadian authorities for years, holding highly publicized pot "smoke-ins" in a drive to legalize the drug. He once conducted a cross-Canada tour during which he smoked cartoon-sized joints in front of city police departments. He spent two months in a Saskatoon jail after one of his pro-pot protests.
Open Letter to the Justice Minister from Member of Parliament and Deputy Leader of the NDP Libby Davies
March 28, 2008
The Honourable Rob Nicholson
Minister of Justice
105 East Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Cc: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Joe Comartin, NDP Justice Critic
Dear Minister Nicholson,
I am writing to express dismay that the Canadian government has apparently blocked a sentencing deal negotiated between Mr. Marc Emery and the U.S. government. According to media reports, both Mr. Emery and the U.S. government have agreed to a deal that would see Mr. Emery serve a 5 year prison sentence, most of it in Canada, for charges arising from Mr. Emery's mail-order distribution of marijuana seeds to the U.S.
While it is already unjust that Mr. Emery will be serving a multi-year prison sentence for activities apparently not considered worthy of prosecution by Canadian authorities, it is doubly problematic that the Canadian government has become the primary obstacle to a negotiated resolution of this case.
What possible harm is there in Mr. Emery serving most of his sentence in Canada, when it is my understanding that even U.S. authorities have agreed to this deal? In lieu of any other plausible explanation, it appears that the Conservative government is taking this position because of their own unrealistic, ideologically-driven approach to drug policy.
I strongly urge the government to reconsider its position on this case, and quickly reach an agreement with Mr. Emery and his legal team.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Libby Davies, MP