After four years of politically charged legal wrangling, two employees of B.C.’s so-called “Prince of Pot” have avoided prison for their roles in exporting marijuana seeds to the U.S. by mail order.
The plea deal, finalized Friday, sets the stage for the Prince of Pot himself, Marc Emery, to surrender to U.S. authorities later this year to face prison time. That will finally close the long-running, high-profile case that had pitted some of Canada’s most vocal marijuana activists against the U.S. justice department in a war of words.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez accepted the deal for Michelle Rainey, 38, and Gregory Williams, 54, to be sentenced to two years of probation for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. Both may return to Canada, where they remain active in the marijuana-legalization movement.
Rainey and Williams were indicted along with Emery in 2005 on drug and money-laundering charges for running a lucrative mail-order pot-seed business out of Emery’s Vancouver book-and-paraphernalia shop, which doubled as headquarters for B.C.’s Marijuana Party. Emery claimed to have sold some four million pot seeds, most to the United States.
Williams took phone orders and Rainey helped pack up the seeds and ship them.
Emery has been fighting extradition to the U.S. ever since, meanwhile maintaining his public persona as a “libertarian capitalist” and strident opponent of anti-marijuana laws.
He has said his seed business was a way to “overgrow” the U.S. war on marijuana, which he has called “immoral and lethal.” And he and supporters accused the justice department of indicting him and his employees for political reasons.
Federal prosecutors have vehemently denied that.
“We went after him for his criminal activities, not for his political views,” Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, reiterated Friday.
In court Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg asked Martinez to accept the plea deal for Rainey and Williams so the government could give up its expensive extradition fight for them and focus its energy on Emery.
Greenberg said Rainey and Williams played minor roles in Emery’s business and are otherwise law-abiding. And he noted that Rainey is seriously ill with Crohn’s disease and skin cancer.
“This is clearly a lenient sentence,” Greenberg told Martinez. But the extradition fight “has been four years running and it would be more years from here on out.”
Rainey and Williams both apologized to the judge for their crime, and pointedly offered no rhetoric about U.S. drug laws.
Though he accepted Greenberg’s reasoning for the deal, Martinez said he was frustrated by it, because while sparing Williams and Rainey, he is “forced to send so many young people to prison” in similar marijuana cases.
“Do you recognize that these are the laws of the United States, and until those laws are changed, you and people like you cannot do what you were doing?” Martinez asked Rainey.
She said yes. And she wept when Martinez said he would accept the deal.
“I’m very grateful,” she said afterward. “We broke the law in the United States. That’s what it comes down to.”
But she added that she will remain a leader in Canada against the “reefer madness” of marijuana prohibition. “There’s no moratorium on my career whatsoever,” she said.
In the meantime, Emery, 51, has been on a 30-city “farewell tour” of speaking engagements around Canada. On Friday, he spoke in Barrie, Ont., at a “water pipe and lighter superstore” called Liquid Chrome.
In a phone interview, he said he had struck a deal with prosecutors to surrender in late September or October in return for prosecutors agreeing to a five-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors won’t confirm any such deal.
Emery remains outspoken that the charges stem from his activism having “insulted” the Bush Administration.
“This is their revenge, but it will backfire on them, I’m convinced,” he said. “It’s all politically motivated. Only the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) denies that. To everyone else it’s patently obvious.”
Nonetheless, he said he was relieved prosecutors had backed off on his friends.
“I’m pleased they won’t be going to jail, and they’ll still be able to do their work in Canada,” he said.
– Article from The Vancouver Sun.
Vancouver ‘Prince of Pot’ activist’s associates sentenced in U.S. court
by The Canadian Press
SEATTLE – Two associates of Vancouver pot activist Marc Emery have been sentenced in a Seattle courtroom to two years’ probation.
Thirty-eight-year-old Michelle Rainey and 54-year-old Gregory Williams pled guilty to charges stemming from a 2005 grand jury indictment.
According to the facts in her plea agreement, Rainey worked for Emery from 1998 to 2005 and helped him send marijuana seeds and growing instructions to mail order customers – mostly in the U.S.
Williams’ plea agreement says he handled the phone orders and wire transfer information used for payment and also sold cannabis seeds at Emery’s store, numerous times to an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Williams also says in his plea agreement that Emery made more than $3 million a year selling marijuana seeds.
The so-called Prince of Pot has been on a cross-Canada farewell tour as he prepares for a minimum five-year sentence in the U.S.
– Article from The Canadian Press.