Dubbed “The Prince of Pot” Emery is a powerful influence in the global ganja culture. Currently facing extradition to the United States, Emery told MiD DAY in an exclusive online interview from Vancouver, British Columbia, that the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr are two of his greatest influences and he seek to emulate them.
Emery who has been twice to India in 1992 and 1997 said he procured marijuana easily in all the places he stayed “a lovely kilo of cannabis from an Ayurvedic doctor in Trivandrum,” from the tuk-tuk wallah in Mysore, smoked with the first generation of silicon computer nerds just starting in those days and Mehrangargh Fort in Jodhpur, and in the desert sands beyond Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
The pot activist says coconut toddy and methylated alcohol would kill more people in India this year than cannabis would over the next century. According to him Mumbai and Bangalore are the most open and transparent communities in the country and could be considered for legalising marijuana in India.
Why do you want a contraband substance like cannabis to be legalised?
Each citizen has autonomy and choice over the use of their own body and their mind. That is, a free man or woman is not censored, and they are free to act on any peaceful, consenting impulse or decision. Criminalising any action that is peaceful and consenting is wrong and is an abuse of law.
Even if the argument of medical use of the drug stands, don’t you think the abuse factor still holds stronger?
Abuse of cannabis is much less dangerous to the community than abuse of arak, or even coconut toddy’s, or tobacco, or prescription medicines. In fact, bad air, bad water, fireworks explosions in Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu), or even badly mixed methylated alcohol (arak) during an Onam festival (in Kerala, say) will kill many, many more people this year in India than cannabis will over the next century. Cannabis marijuana is non-toxic, no quantity is fatal. Almost no other substance on earth is as safe as cannabis is.
Where does India stand on the marijuana map of the world?
When I lived in India in 1992 and 1997, I procured marijuana in all places I stayed. I bought a lovely kilo of cannabis from my Ayurvedic doctor in Trivandrum in 1992 that came from the Western Ghats in Kerala. In Mysore I bought cannabis from the tuk-tuk wallahs. In Bangalore, I smoked with the first generation of silicon computer ‘nerds’ just starting in those days. In Rajasthan, I purchased excellent charas from Manali in Pushkar, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur. A lot of the enjoyment of cannabis is the setting and the situation. I loved smoking by the ocean in Kovalam, or at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, or in the desert sands beyond Jaisalmer.
You’ve been to India twice; do you plan to launch a similar campaign here?
I have not left Canada since 1998. The US government would arrest me anywhere in the world and have me brought to the US in chains. They are now seeking to extradite me to the US where they want to imprison me for my activism. I hope one day the US will rescind the indictment against me, so that I may visit and meet the 1,70,000,000 people around the world who are devoted to the cannabis culture.
Which country, according to you, produces the best marijuana?
The best marijuana is often not the strongest. I have had excellent cannabis in Kerala, Rajasthan, Sumatra (Indonesia), British Columbia, California, Seattle (Washington, USA), and Amsterdam, Netherlands. My seed catalogue until 2005 had over 525 varieties of cannabis seeds from almost every country on earth including varieties from Kerala and Manali.
If the Indian government declares that only two or three cities would be identified to legalise marijuana. Which should they be?
In the 1990s, it was considered common and virtually legal for a tourist to buy bhang in Jaisalmer, charas in Pushkar and Puri (Orissa) and Varanasi. If it was up to me, I would say make it legal everywhere, but if one were to begin an experiment, I think Mumbai, Bangalore would be the first places because these are the most open and transparent communities in India, the most accepting of new ways.
Is there any celebrity or government official, diplomat supporting your cause?
I meet many celebrities, most recently the actors John Cusack, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. I have the support of several Members of Parliament in Canada. But I have powerful enemies in both the US and Canadian government who want to jail me for life because of my impassioned and persistent freedom campaign.
People who take marijuana are known to indulge in violent sexual activities. How do you react to that?
In Indonesia, I was told eating too many mangoes can make a man a sex criminal, but I have never seen a rape case where the perpetrator was smoking cannabis. Men using alcohol however commit thousands of rapes every day the world over. Repealing the prohibition against cannabis will reduce alcohol consumption, and thus reduce sex crime and violence.
Do you aim to launch your campaign in India too?
On May 2, I will be parade marshall for the largest Global Marijuana March in the world in Toronto, Canada. Over 20,000 people will convene all day and march through Canada’s biggest city, smoking marijuana, carrying cannabis plants, cannabis flags and banners high in the air, One day, I hope to lead the same kind of parade of the cannabis culture in India, perhaps in Mumbai, Pune or Bangalore.
What is the inspiration behind Marc Emery? Any ideals?
I began fighting against dominating government policy in 1979 after reading ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. It is still the most influential book that changed my life completely. Then in 1980, I began smoking marijuana, and the enlightenment I received from smoking it, combined with my conversion to the philosophy of freedom and capitalism as articulated by Ayn Rand, I decided my life would be dedicated to liberating the oppressed and persecuted. Thirty years later, I am very grateful I chose this path, although I have been arrested 23 times for marijuana advocacy, jailed 17 times, raided 6 times.
What made you going despite several police crackdowns?
I love my work, I love my people, I am never discouraged and I see reason for hope everywhere on earth. The cannabis culture is active in every nation and through the Internet we are coming together as one of the largest cultures in the history of mankind. We are meeting online and organizing. We are participating in elections and we recently made marijuana legalization the number one question for the Obama administration to answer on a television news conference for the president where he promised to answer the question.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done after taking marijuana?
I typically don’t do anything strange after taking marijuana. I like to work, think and excite my senses while using it. I use it for relaxation and improved creativity.
What do you see is the problem of people growing cannabis in their houses?
Even a killer or rapist does not lose their home or property like a person accused of growing these wonderful plants in their homes. The governments in Canada and the USA can take your children away, force you to lose your job, take your house away, put you in jail, make you pay for expensive lawyers, deny you access to your own children, and many, many punishments.
You have brought a retail revolution to the hemp business in Canada, any plans for expansion?
Our organisation has a convenience store (The 420 Convenience), two smoking and vaporizing lounges, a retail store, the offices and video studios of POT.TV and Cannabis Culture online, the British Columbia Marijuana Party. It’s a busy place bustling with activism.
– Article from MiD DAY on April 8, 2009.