I had that ?life flashing before me? moment. The frozen second in time when everything was sharp, clear, and signalled a great convergence of all my effort into this precise moment.
?Marc Emery, you are under arrest for Extradition to The United States of America.?
All my seeds sold, all the millions of dollars I had given to the cause, every speech to free our people, every arrest, jailing and raid I had endured: it was all for this moment in time. ?For trafficking in marijuana seeds, for the production of marijuana, and for money laundering?
In 1990, when I became a cannabis activist, all books, magazines, videos, pipes, bongs, everything about even saying the word marijuana was illegal in Canada.
As a bookseller at the City Lights Bookshop in London, Ontario, I was surprised and shocked to learn that the Canadian government had banned High Times Magazine, had police seize all copies of marijuana growing books (including the Canadian classic Grow Yer Own Stone), and had pushed over 500 ?head? shops across Canada into shutting down.
There was no cannabis activist movement left. No books, no magazines, no activists, no hemp stores. Nothing.
Into this strange wilderness, I decided that as a bookseller, I had to defy this peculiar law that passed almost unanimously in the Canadian Parliament, with only one lone opponent, NDP Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, in 1987.
In the fall of 1990, I ordered through the mail a few copies of the Emperor Wears No Clothes, the classic book on the suppression of hemp by Jack Herer. Not available in Canada because of the ban (section 462.2 of the Criminal Code provided up to 6 months in jail, and/or up to a $100,000 fine for distributing books and any printed matter about marijuana or any ?illicit? drug), I imported copies (illegally) and bought newspaper ads in the London Free Press, my hometown daily, to announce that I was breaking the literature ban on marijuana and welcomed the local police to arrest me.
This approach had always worked well for me in the ten years leading up to this time, as I went to court and jail after deliberately breaking the laws on Sunday shopping, the obscenity laws, and other Canadian social control laws that I personally helped change.
While I was handcuffed and being delivered to the dank cells of the Halifax lock-up, raids by Vancouver police were underway in my home, my offices, and the BCMP Bookstore in Vancouver. No real quantities of drugs or marijuana were found, and in fact really only 5,000 seeds at the most were available to be taken. Up to 50 police officers were used to comb the premises of all the locations. A battering ram was used to force the door at 22 East Cordova Street. Various computers were taken but little else was of interest to police. Warrants specified that any records relating to the seed business were to be seized. Presumably, police have access to phone records to calls made to Marc Emery Seeds. Otherwise, it wasn?t a business where we kept records. We destroyed all information after sending out orders.
In my cell in the Halifax lock-up, I knew that my life had entered a critical and inevitable phase. I have always been very, very transparent in the way I have conducted a career I have often described as ?revolutionary retail? or ?capitalist activism?. From the day I arrived in Vancouver on March 1st 1994, I was going to change the way marijuana activism existed. Even by 1994, everything about cannabis and used to enjoy cannabis was still illegal in Canada, and I was determined to make an aggressive change in this landscape.
Penniless after losing all my money on an ill-advised house building project in Indonesia, I arrived for the first time in my life in Vancouver, British Columbia, determined to build a movement that used a retail model to generate money that would feed a vast network of activism. Within days of getting off the plane, I was selling High Times Magazine and a variety of banned marijuana grow books that had been fronted to me by a distributor. I sold door-to-door, to strangers on the street, to magazine stores, to book stores, to students. I would make on average $1 profit per item, and fortunately, after 6 years of non-availability, there was a pent-up demand in this new place.
My children, spouse and I lived on $20 a day for food, and all other money was put back into these books and magazines. Within one year, I was distributing 2,000 copies a month of High Times magazine and was wholesaling and mail order retailing over 40 books about marijuana and other ?illicit? entheogens. After selling these products on the street for 3 months, a former Communist book shop that had been subject of a firebombing was available to me for $500 first month?s rent, and as long as I cleaned the heavily damaged building up, the landlord said my ?Hemp revolution business?, as I explained it to him, was fine.
On July 7, 1994, I opened the HEMP BC retail store and began a decade of principled, purposeful lawbreaking, every action aimed at ending the marijuana prohibition by any peaceful means possible.
While the police were raiding the various places they believed seeds and records were stored, activists like David Malmo-Levine and brave others protested the attack with street protests. The media, who were informed immediately by Chris Bennett and the Cannabis Culture magazine team, descended on the scene at BCMP Headquarters. Within hours everyone in British Columbia was bombarded in the media with the news that the US government was seeking to extradite myself and two friends back to the USA for my seed selling ways. It was clear the potential penalties were severe if I were to be extradited and prosecuted in the US, probably a life imprisonment. Under Drug Kingpin legislation, selling over 60,000 seeds qualifies for the death penalty in the United States. The manufacture or distribution of 60,000 kilograms of marijuana, 60,000 plants or 60,000 seeds all are included in death penalty provisions of the medieval law passed by a Newt Gingrich congress. I would be the first person under this recent law who could qualify to be executed for the activity I have clearly done with the tacit approval of everyone in Canada.
Revenue Canada received $578,000 in personal income taxes (1999 to 2005) on income that was explicitly from the sale of marijuana seeds, and they ALWAYS were aware of it. It said ?Marijuana Seed Vendor? on my tax returns. I explained my entire banking and money systems and always gave income tax all access to my accounts so they could verify everything I said was true. I told them the Money Mart location where I cashed money orders; my bank accounts were explained so they could track the flow of money. I explained how expenses and disbursements worked in the incriminating world of seeds. They knew how it all worked because I had nothing to hide. The government of Canada received about $378,000 of this money; the provincial government of British Columbia received about $200,000.
As to politicians, every Member of Parliament in Canada, all 305, had a free subscription to our magazine, which often their assistants read and perused if not the Member themselves, for eight years. My seed catalogue was in every issue. They knew it was there. None ever complained to me or the police about it. Former MP Svend Robinson has said that when he was NDP Health Critic and he asked Health Canada where medical cannabis people were supposed to obtain seeds, ?Health Canada said to go to the internet and buy seeds there.? And that?s what he told them to do: buy seeds on the internet. In fact, that?s what Health Canada told others also in letters that we have from Health Canada in 2003.
NDP leader Jack Layton came to my home 18 months ago and did a beautiful interview on POT-TV. I think Jack Layton is a wonderful guy. I think NDP Justice Critic Libby Davies has done a sterling job. If I had any kind of reputation as a ?drug dealer?, do you think a man who is a serious contender for Prime Minister (as Jack Layton now exceeds Paul Martin or Stephen Harper in polls measuring trustworthiness and competence) is going to some drug dealer?s house to publicly ask for support?
I was asked to testify before the Senate Subcommittee in both 1996 and 2002 as to my views on legalizing marijuana. Do you think they would ask any known drug dealer to attend?
When the Wall Street Journal put me on the front page of its massively influential newspaper in a very favourable article ten years ago on Dec. 10, 1995, Quentin Hardy, the journalist who wrote it, told me six editors were assigned to check out my background. ?They talked to your teachers, your neighbours, business associates, your parents. They are NOT going to let anyone with even a whiff of ?drug dealer? appear on that front page.? Nine years later, Mr. Hardy came to British Columbia and wrote the definitive piece on the British Columbia marijuana industry for Forbes Magazine, and I personally introduced him to many in the industry while he did that piece.
I spoke at IDEA CITY in 2001 and 2003. I spoke on the same stage at former Prime Ministers John Turner and Kim Campbell, and I was the marijuana provider to many famous Canadians at the Friday Night IDEA CITY Party at MUCH MUSIC/CHUM TV. In my speeches I talked about the incredible work in helping 18 year old Webster Alexander in Alabama, having his sentence for selling two ounces of pot reduced from an unbelievable 36 years to one year served on weekends. I talked about the amazing work at my Iboga Therapy House, with heavily drug addicted persons and the amazing results we had. I talked about my mission in life and how I had developed this ?seed thing? that paid for immense amounts of activism.
In my time in British Columbia (over 11 years now), I never owned a car, any property, bonds, investments, assets, offshore accounts. Nothing but the things necessary to produce information or revenue for our beloved cause. I leased everything on a month-by-month basis. If I had money stashed, the police or Income Tax people would have found it. I was watched extensively. I presumed my cell phone was always monitored. When the DEA undercover agent tried to get me to sell her ten pounds of pot over the phone, I refused and told her that I always assumed my cell phone was monitored, so how could she be so foolish and na?ve. When she asked again at a later time, I lectured her at length. Not only did I not sell pot, but she was very foolish to even think about importing pot to the USA.
The DEA even has a subscription to Cannabis Culture, with their money orders on US Department of Justice stationery. I figured if the US government was that pissed off, they?d just ask the Vancouver Police to raid me like in the 1996 to 1998 period. I was always raided after appearing in A-list US media. A month after the Wall Street Journal: raided. A month after Rolling Stone: raided. Two months after the CNN special (CNN Visits Canada?s Prince of Pot): raided. The police took a million dollars in store and business assets in total, but I was not even charged on two occasions, and received small fines from the courts when I was charged on two others. The last fine I got for selling seeds in 1998 was $2,000. From $2,000 in 1998, to life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty in 2005… that?s a fantastic contrast.
A lot of good was accomplished through all of that struggle, trial and tribulation. In 1994, there were no hemp stores, no activist activity, no medical marijuana program, no pot retail industry, not even legally obtained books and magazines about marijuana in Canada. Now, eleven years later there are over 75 hemp activist stores, literature and magazines were made legal, medical marijuana is legal, the hemp industry is in a revival. Marijuana legalization and the drug war have been discussed in the Canadian media every day for the past ten years. Regulations continue to improve for Canada?s medical cannabis program.
Phillip Owen, a former Mayor of Vancouver (1993 to 2001) was at one time in office a very vocal prohibitionist. He denounced me in the New York Times. But by the end of his third term, he became a brilliant and articulate anti-prohibitionist. He met with the US Drug Czar John Walters and said ?It was the most intense meeting of my life. There is no one more uninformed about drugs than a drug Czar.?
Current Mayor, and newly appointed Senator, Larry Campbell was my rival for Mayor in the Vancouver 2002 election. I got to speak about legalization on over 15 occasions in his presence. He was elected. He spoke at the Beyond Prohibition 2004 Conference in which a grant from Marc Emery Direct Seed proceeds went to the BC Civil Liberties Association ($18,000) to produce the conference where Mr. Campbell famously and momentously announced that marijuana should legalized, taxed and regulated, and that prohibition should end.
I participated in elections in 1996 (Mayor of Vancouver); 2000 (Canadian Marijuana Party, federal election); 2001 (BC Marijuana Party, provincial election); 2002 (Mayor of Vancouver); 2005 (BC Marijuana Party, provincial election). Only a few months ago, I was invited to a fundraiser by Tim Stevenson, who is on Vancouver City Council. During the recent 2005 provincial election he unfortunately lost his bid for MLA by 11 votes. But he had introduced me proudly to his supporters and said ?Marc is here to lend his support because he knows I believe in legalization.? And I did not run against him in that riding because Tim is a good man; but again, do you think if there was any taint anywhere in my life that these people would introduce me to crowds of key supporters?
Adriane Carr is leader of the BC Green Party. In 2002, the BC Greens launched a petition drive to get proportional representation on the ballot as a people?s initiative. The BC Greens didn?t have the money, I believed in the cause, so I gave Adrianne Carr $8,000 personally to finance the petition drive. That was seed money. I?ve never had any other source of income.
I never met a person, government, government agency, politician, tax department, or any charitable or non-governmental agency who ever refused any money from me, even though I was world famous as a marijuana seed seller. Banks opened accounts and issued credit cards, and I was honest and candid with every last one of them.
Over 10 years, I gave $4,000,000 Canadian to activist organizations, activist politicians, ballot initiatives throughout the United States, referendums, court challenges, Supreme Court of Canada challenges, refugees, bail costs, legal defence funds, political parties, individuals, drug addiction clinics, media, medical bills for activists (Terence McKenna, Jack Herer), Compassion Clubs (legal bills and start-up money), Hemp fests, conferences, Global Marijuana Marches (2000 to 2005), full page ads in Canadian newspapers, HEMP BC Legal Assistance Centre… and the list goes on. It?s an extraordinary record of unparalleled distribution of the proceeds from our beloved plant.
And I never met anyone who complained. Even that last judge who fined me in 1999 for that 1998 seed charge gave a nice speech on my behalf, decrying the drug war.
Overgrow the Government. Absolutely right. Inherent in that beautiful phrase are so many ideals and glories of a co-operative, peaceful society. Plant the seeds of freedom. Not overthrow, which speaks of violent conflict. But overgrow, using God?s greatest plant, and the enlightenment that comes from ingesting marijuana, to further a peaceful, democratic, revolution based on tolerance and peace and unity of all peoples. Plants, not violence. Reason, not murderous incarceration. Personal freedom, not the Nazified paramilitary violence of the DEA.
I am being punished for my success. I have achieved much in my eleven years, but clearly now, the enemy, the very dark and powerful forces emanating from the White House believe they have the upper hand. That they have stopped our revolution. That this is the time when the Bush-Walters White House is making the most aggressive attack on our culture ever, and I don?t mean just on me. The current Rolling Stone talks of the Bush White House and the DEA arresting more Americans than ever before for marijuana, and pursuing us with a frenzy not yet seen in history.
My wonderful friend Mike Smith last March 2004 received a 30 year sentence in an Oklahoma federal prison for growing 200 plants. He had already spent six years on a previous cultivation offence. His wife, Yvonne Toy, received a 15 year sentence, her first offence ever, for those same 200 plants.
Not comprehensible to the sensitive, rational mind. Why would beautiful people like Yvonne and Mike be given medieval torture like that over marijuana? Why would the taxpayers of America spend a million dollars to make them miserable in a cold unloving and dangerous federal prison? This is madness.
And so this is my request, this is a challenge. Help me cope through this very difficult period ahead. You know I will try to speak on behalf of our culture with passion, reason and good values. In the months ahead, I will be interviewed extensively, and I hope I am a spokesman and activist and leader you can be proud of.
Now I live at your pleasure. Any money I use to live on will be charitable donations from people like you. Pot-TV, CC Magazine, the BCMP: they cannot be giving me money. I returned my rented car, moved into a small affordable apartment, and am selling my furnishings. I work every day and have no leisure time.
If you believe that this record of service to our culture merits your support, then I will tell you that we can use your support.
As you know, I am not afraid of jail, I am not afraid to die. But I do not want to see Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams get extradited. Michelle Rainey is the most selfless activist I have ever known. A fantastic woman who daily suffers with Crohns Disease, needs marijuana to control her very damaged and disabled organs, yet has helped hundreds, if not thousands of people with her unrelenting effort to make marijuana legal. Michelle has been my greatest ally in this struggle, and she surely should be nominated for Sainthood. She is so worthy of your support. She MUST NOT be extradited to a US jail. She will die in horrible pain there. My American friends, and my Canadian friends, this cannot be permitted to happen. A terrible injustice will have occurred if Michelle Rainey exists in pain and torture in an American jail. There will terrible karma in the world if one of God?s most beautiful souls is allowed to be destroyed by apathy and cowardice in this, her most critical time of need. The people can save her from extradition, if they speak out to the Canadian Minister of Justice. Speak to power, my friends, her life depends on it.
Greg Williams, aka Marijuana Man, is a fine and wonderful man who brought knowledge, joy and good feelings to everyone he met. He is being punished for being a good friend to me and the movement; he did what hundreds of us do every day in Canada, which is to help people find the cannabis products they are looking for.
Marijuana is a 7 to 15 billion dollar industry in Canada, where hundreds of thousands of us, perhaps half a million people, are growing marijuana, and selling marijuana. Millions and millions of Canadians and Americans consume this marijuana. Canadian growers, dealers, and seed sellers deal with Americans every day. Now we could all be extradited, because if you have any minor connection to any marijuana transaction that leads to the USA, you are liable to be considered party to a conspiracy to import marijuana into the United States. That?s certainly bringing the US drug war into Canada in an incredible and dangerous way. Everyone in the cannabis culture in Canada is now at much greater risk by this precedent set.
Yet Canadians don?t want this barbaric drug war. In the 10 years of our activism, Canadians now overwhelmingly reject fines, jail time or any sanction as an option for marijuana possession, according to a Nov. 2004 Nation-wide SES poll (which our seed money paid for). A majority of Canadians favour a tax and regulated way of distributing marijuana.
While Canada pursues an independent approach to cannabis laws and prohibition, away from the US drug war model, there is hope for both Canadians and Americans of the cannabis culture. If Canada becomes prohibition free, then American prohibition will fall. But if the United States government is allowed to triumph with intimidation, blackmail, and increased arrests in Canada, stifling our progress, sending Canada backwards, then liberation for all North America is that much more elusive.
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