London, Ontario – Marc Emery is standing behind the counter at his former business, the City Lights bookstore on Richmond Street, talking about his quixotic quest to end society’s prohibition on marijuana. “My argument for marijuana is not that it’s good for you and not that it’s safe,” he says. “It’s that any law that punishes peaceful and honest behaviour is an unjust law and must be struck down.” Canada’s self-proclaimed “prince of pot” — the man whose ongoing legal battle with the U.S. government has prompted profiles by the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone magazine, 60 Minutes, CNN and CBC — is in London to visit his ailing mother. But Emery rarely passes up a chance to proselytize. And so, he talks.
“The contributions made to life on this planet in the past 40 years by people who smoke marijuana is unparalleled,” he says. “There is no other sub-culture that has given so much to the world as have the potheads, yet we’re hunted down like dogs.” It strikes me that much of what Emery says (well, maybe not the part about being hunted down like dogs, but certainly his view that marijuana is less destructive than alcohol) makes some sense. Couple that with a UN report showing nearly one in five Canadians between 15 and 64 had smoked pot the previous year, a report from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health showing cannabis is becoming more acceptable for adults and the big-time box-office success of a stoner comedy called Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and it seems peculiar more people don’t embrace Emery’s message.
So I ask him: Why do so many people dislike you so much? “I’m an arrogant loudmouth and I’m always speaking my mind,” he says. Well, that’s true. It’s also true Emery upset the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which wants him prosecuted in the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds to Americans through his Vancouver-based mail-order business. Emery is now awaiting an extradition hearing scheduled for February 2009. Emery figures he’ll be “at large” for another two years; if the hearing doesn’t go his way, his lawyer can still appeal. So, Emery continues to publish his Cannabis Culture magazine, oversee his online Pot TV video site and operate a new Vancouver convenience store which, he says, is “run by stoners, for stoners.”
Authorities have shut down his seed-selling business, which he estimates pulled in $15 million over 10 years. But Emery insists the pot prohibition isn’t really about marijuana. “The real reason we (cannabis users) are hunted down is because pot makes people critical thinkers,” he says. “We question authority and don’t accept existing dogmas and that’s the biggest threat to any government.” He says pot isn’t the problem. “There are 165 million marijuana smokers in the world. If we were a big problem, you’d have noticed by now.”
– Article from the London Free Press, Wednesday May 7th, 2008
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– Watch this YouTube video of Marc Emery behind the counter at his first storefront, “City Lights Bookshop” in London, Ontario!