This editorial board has more than once presented its strongest moral case for the Canadian government to block the extradition of Marc Emery, the West Coast marijuana advocate who faces a possible life sentence south of the border for operating a mail-order seed business out of his Vancouver headquarters. It is our view that the differences in the two countries’ handling of seed vendors make extraditing Emery a shameful abdication of judgment by the Canadian authorities.
Others have argued that (after a fair trial) he deserves whatever punishment the Americans choose to slap him with. Some take this view because they regard marijuana as dangerous and destructive, others because the result of Emery’s open goading of the Americans was quite foreseeable and they find it hard to sympathize.
But now there is a fresh wrinkle in the proceedings, one that even those most hostile to Emery’s cause should be able to see the absurdity of. Earlier this year Emery was able to arrange a plea bargain with U.S. prosecutors that would see him accept a 10-year sentence on their charges, of which he would serve half. Under the deal his co-accused colleagues would go free and Emery would serve the first 45 days of his sentence in the U.S., after which he would be returned to Canada to finish his stretch in a more comfortable Canadian prison.
All that was needed was the agreement of Canada’s department of justice. But last week, after a month of pessimistic media reports, they gave a final “No.” The Americans insisted on guarantees against Emery being released before his five years was up, and such arrangements are forbidden in Canadian law, so no Canadian judge can order the application of such a sentence. That means Emery will have to go ahead with the extradition proceedings that were held over in the face of the plea-bargain, and face a possible life sentence down south.
Catch-22: because Canada is too humane and liberal to apply the punishment that the Americans would like — a punishment Emery has voluntarily agreed to — there appears to be no option but to hand him over to the Americans without protection against much worse treatment!
It is time for the Minister of Justice to exercise his prerogative and end an extradition farce that has become tainted with illogic as well as inhumanity. If we have a legitimate social interest in seeing Emery arrested, tried and imprisoned, why don’t we do it ourselves? Why was he permitted to run his business freely and openly in Vancouver for years (a business recommended to legal users of medical marijuana by Health Canada) and to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal and provincial taxes? How can a provision in the criminal law be taken seriously when it’s applied only upon the urging of a foreign government?
Canadian police, conscious of the awkwardness, are in fact starting to take belated and perhaps slightly shamefaced action against Emery’s fellow seed dealers. Earlier this month the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a sentence imposed on Vancouver Island vendor Daniel Konstantin, who owned a prizewinning mail-order business advertised in High Times magazine and had been caught with about three pounds of seeds. Prosecutors had appealed the decision of the trial judge, who had given Konstantin a month in jail plus probation. They thought the sentence should have been all of 15 months. That’s how seriously Canadian justice takes this crime. And it is still a good deal more seriously than many Canadians, presumably including the 10 million among us who have tried marijuana at least once, would like.
– Article from the National Post, Monday March 31st, 2008
Listen to Marc Emery talk about the recent extradition news on CKNW Talk Radio by clicking here.