Even before the judge makes his ruling, Marc Emery knows his fate: five years in a federal prison in the United States for having sold millions of cannabis seeds here and across the border. The well-known marijuana activist from Vancouver is traveling across Canada this summer on a “farewell tour” before his extradition to the U.S. after a legal battle that started four years ago. This past July 16, he stopped off in Toronto as part of his tour. Toronto In September, maybe October, he’ll heaad to U.S. prison for dealing drugs. But behind bars, the “Prince of Pot” will cultivate his dream: to become justice minister and legalize marijuana.
How do you feel about going to jail?
“Well, I’m an unusual person perhaps. I’ve been arrested 23 times for marijuana and I’ve been put in jail 17 times, always in Canada. One time in 2004, I was jailed in Saskatoon for a three-month sentence for just passing a joint.
“So, I’ve been to jail before for things that were unjust, because it’s not right to send someone to jail for smoking or passing a joint. I’m familiar with jails and they don’t scare me. I have no real choice because Canada has never refused an extradition [request]from the United States, so I would have to go there anyway, probably next year. Then I’d be facing three charges, which could be as little as 25 years in jail or as much as 50 or 75 years.
“My lawyer said, ‘Marc, if you want your wife to see you alive again one day, you should take this deal that the United States is offering you to plead guilty to one charge. It’d be five years but if you can get back to Canada it might only be one or two years.
“And in the United States, [with a]five year sentence you can get out in four years and two months. But it’s a long time and it’s a federal penitentiary and it’s not very nice. But at least one day I’ll be able to see my wife and she will be able to see me again and I can continue my work.”
So there is a chance that you could be transferred to Canada?
“Well, in the old days when the Liberal government was here it’d be automatic that all Canadians in U.S. prisons would eventually be transferred back to Canada. But now the Conservative government is no longer doing that, so my fellow Canadians will have to help me by sending letters to the Parliament and the people in the government urging them to bring me back to a Canadian jail, so then maybe I will be out in two years. If the judge received thousands of letters saying I’m a good person and I shouldn’t spend a long time in jail, he might just say three or two years. He can change his mind. It’s not very likely but it’s possible.”
Are you going to be fined as well?
“That’s the thing. One of the charges is money laundering. That’s all about the $4 million we gave away to political activity and charities and drug addiction clinics and court challenges. It’s really useful to do good things like that, but the United States is still calling it money laundering. They could impose a fine up to a million dollars on me because they are saying we did a lot of business selling the little seeds. But if I plead guilty to the one charge – distributing marijuana – there is no financial penalty to this.
“It’s important you mentioned that because if I have a financial penalty, I can’t get transferred back to Canada until I’ve paid that penalty. But I’d never be able to pay a hundred thousand dollars or two hundred thousand dollars or maybe one million, so I’d have to spend the whole time in a U.S. jail. [But] this way, there is no financial penalty and we are agreed on the five-year term.”
Why did you sell cannabis plant seeds to the United States?
“There are two parts to the revolution “Overgrowing the government” (that’s the term we use for our campaign started in 1990). One of the difficult things about having a revolution, even a peaceful one, is that you need money to raise awareness, to buy ads in the newspaper, to compete politically. We needed a lot of money, so I decided to sell the seeds. We sold millions of seeds every year and we used all the money, all the profits, to pay for this revolution. I didn’t keep all this money and I’ve never owned any properties, any stocks, any investment, any cash, any kind of assets or properties or goods. Everything I’ve earned went back into the movement, into the revolution.
– Article from Tandem on July 26, 2009.