Editorial: Persecuting the Prince

Marc Emery, from the Seattle Times (Alan Berner)Marc Emery, from the Seattle Times (Alan Berner)Whatever you may think of the United States’ persecution of marijuana loudmouth Marc Emery, try to bear in mind it’s about more than just pot. Admittedly, it’s pretty hard to separate that stem from those leaves when it comes to Emery, B.C.’s self-anointed Prince of Pot.
He revels in the U.S. government’s claims he’s responsible for an estimated 1.1 million pounds of marijuana grown illegally in the states and brags to the CBC that he’s responsible for more of the pot being smoked on earth than anyone else but God. He’s gotten high on the steps of police stations, he’s staged rallies, he founded the Marijuana Party, started the magazine Cannabis Culture and, of course, set up a marijuana seed-selling service that ended up doing $15 million worth of business in Canada and the U.S.

Nevertheless, the key p-word here isn’t pot, but persecution. Emery persecuted two governments — in the second sense of the word, annoying persistence — through his life-long quest to produce so much marijuana and so much public pressure the police would be overwhelmed and forced to make it legal across North America. In turn, the U.S. persecuted Emery — in the first sense of word, by making him suffer for beliefs.

Now, that’s not to say this country should blindly give shelter and support to Emery, regardless of what he’s done. But what’s galling in this is the disproportion of the U.S. response and Canada’s wholesale acquiescence. Take away all the words — the War on Drugs, decriminalization, the children, oh, the children — and concentrate on the acts.

Emery sold the seeds of a plant that, the rights and wrongs of it aside, is neither as dangerous nor as addictive as, say, over-the-counter codeine-laced cough syrup or a bottle of wine. He’s just noisy about it — burdened with an ego one reporter says “must make up 40 per cent of his body weight,” Emery thinks he’s Gandhi in a nice suit carrying a full bong on a mission to “overgrow” the United States through peaceful political means.

He succeeded and the DEA, embarassed by Emery’s blaring appearances on CNN, Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal, slurred him by saying he’s worse than the murderers and thugs of the Hells Angels and Triads. It forced the Vancouver police to interfere in his place of business, livelihood and political activism. It then attempted to bleed him financially by setting in motion the complex legal mechanism of extradition.

At the root of the DEA charges was a blatant act of extortion: voluntarily accept exile from your country and a lifetime of imprisonment in the U.S. or two of your closest friends will share the same fate. The reason was political — even then DEA boss Karen Tandy bragged about it, calling his arrest in a now notorious press release: “a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also the marijuana legalization movement … Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.”

Basically, the DEA wanted to shut up a Canadian because it didn’t like what he was saying and the causes he supported — and Ottawa helped stick a fist in his mouth by supporting the whole thing. That’s the problem and the outrage. This country chose the interests of a foreign power over protecting its citizens not because it was right, but because it was more convenient. It’s a frightening, loathsome truth that’s played out too many times to be denied, from Maher Arar to Afghanistan to the Avro Arrow.

Basically, if it’s a choice between you and mildly offending the U.S., don’t count on Canada. That’s unacceptable.

In the end, with him and his two friends facing extradition, a deal was reached [edit: negotiated] last month: his friends should avoid jail, Emery will serve five years in Canada and the DEA gets a conviction against a lone stoner they’ve deluded and lied themselves into thinking is one of the 46 most wanted criminals on earth.

But at least he’s still here — and at least there’s one person who isn’t afraid to be Canadian, no matter what the U.S. says.

– Article by Associate News Editor Rodney Venis, from the Prince George Citizen, February 6th 2008

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