Dear Jodie: I am now aware of a disturbing series of occurrences with my mail in and out of the prison here at SeaTac Federal Detention Centre. A number of items I send, and that I am due to receive, have gone missing without explanation so far.
You know that for our 4th wedding anniversary on Friday, July 23th, I sent in the mail on Wednesday, July 14th a beautiful envelope decorated on both sides in colour pencil, with a hand-done calligraphy-style written page inside. I sent it in the mail here at SeaTac FDC nine days early so you would be sure to get it in time, for you were to visit me on the day of our anniversary, arriving the Friday evening at your hotel in Seattle just down the street from my prison.
The envelope was decorated on the front with two beautiful roses on each side of a brilliant red heart. Across the heart was a ribbon drawn with the neat calligraphy words “Happy 4th Anniversary” on the ribbon (drawing) across the heart. Around this trinity of red was a textured blue for the rest of the envelope, like the infinite sky, the sky I cannot see, trapped in here. The blue sky surrounding the woman I know whose heart is always full of love. On the reverse side of the envelope was another heart with two roses beside it. But this heart has jail bars inside it, and that of course, is my heart, my love held in bondage here until such a time as our supporters appeal to my jailers and have me released to love you in the flesh once again. Two hearts kept apart, symbolized by being on opposite sides of the envelope, with 4 roses to represent our 4 wonderful years of marriage. On the flap of the envelope was calligraphy that read “Our triumphant rapturous love will conquer all”.
Inside was the headline: “Idealism is the Testament of True Love” because the willingness to risk one’s liberty, to live with the burden of my knowing daily that – for the cause of principle and for the benefit of our cannabis culture and the future generations that may benefit from my sacrifice – the absence of my great wife is indeed an act of true love. Revolutionaries like Malcolm X and George Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr., those great American men you know I have read about and studied since the very first days you began to know me, 9 years ago, all describe the struggle for the right of peaceful men and women to live without persecution as being the greatest act of love one man can offer his fellow beings.
Below the headline was my most famous quote in my activist career, from an essay I wrote in 2004 while imprisoned at Saskatoon Correctional for three months (for passing one joint to a university student in the park after my speech at the University of Saskatchewan).
“It is the height of moral conscience to refuse to obey an unjust law. To obey an unjust law is to give credence to its oppressive power. To obey a law that punishes where no crime exists is to surrender to tyranny and, by acquiescence, endorsing the oppression. The only righteous place for this kind of man is the jail cell. He must break the bad law openly and without apology, and without any victim but the pride of the state, it will be soon apparent to all that an injustice has taken place. Gradually, eventually, a crisis in the public confidence occurs, and in this vacuum, in this opportunity, change will come.”
– Marc Emery
That quote is from my original jail blog I kept in those days of incarceration, the days that ultimately prepared me in some small part for my greater and longer challenge in this period of captivity. Those were the days you have told me you fell utterly in love with me, painstakingly listening to my voice for hours each night as you transcribed my phone-call jail diary audio reports for Pot-TV (before YouTube or “podcasts” existed). I would call the office and read my notes to Chris Bennett of Pot-TV and he would record them for online, then he would put the recording on CD and then give it to you. Then, each night, you would toil for 3, 4, 5, sometimes even 6 or 7 hours taking every sentence I spoke and typing it up and putting it out on the internet as my jail blog, so people who couldn’t listen to the Pot-TV video/audio report were able to read it instead. Since my job at Saskatoon Correctional was the janitor of the Administration Center, I often saw the staff reading my daily jail blog and was satisfied to know the even my jailers were captivated by my words you had transcribed while they held me in captivity physically. In Canada, of course, one does not go to solitary confinement for doing audio podcasts or recordings as I was cruelly punished here with solitary confinement for 21 days for doing far, far less. Such is my life in the “land of the free”.
The earnest hope was that you would receive this beautifully hand-done gift letter at home, and then when you arrived at your hotel, only a few blocks from your beloved behind these bars, you would find 4 beautiful scented rose in a vase with a card from me reading: “Our triumphant rapturous love will conquer all”.
It was all meant to be such physical poetry, the flowers of the material word after the greeting on stationary, in colour, of the metaphysical world, to be my gift to you. But alas, the letter never arrived, and I don’t know if you or I will ever know where it went.
Previously, two photographs taken of me here by the jail photographer, and paid for by me, were sent to you three weeks ago, and they too did not arrive. Additionally and curiously, numerous letters sent to me here have not arrived. A film script and lengthy letter from my Vancouver friend Mahara sent 25 days ago did not arrive here. Photographs sent to me by ExpressPost two weeks ago by CC editor Jeremiah Vandermeer, of the July 1st celebration at the Art Gallery, did not arrive. If items sent to me are refused by the FDC, I am supposed to be informed with a notice from the mailroom, but I have received no notice of any refusal.
Letters to me from others have been returned to the sender inexplicably. My supporters “The Individuals”, the African-American musicians from Chicago, had their letter to me, correctly address to Box 13900 here in Seattle, returned to them with a sticker that read “FORWARD TIME EXP RTN TO SENDER” with this return address printed on a yellow sticker:
Mothers and Brothers Inc.,
199 Melrose Ave. E. Apt. 407,
Seattle, WA 98102-5562
I know of one other who also had their letter returned with the exact same “FORWARD TIME EXP RTN TO SENDER” and the Mothers and Brothers Inc. return address. Can you please investigate who Mothers and Brothers Inc. is and why they have mail intended for me? I have already put a COP-OUT (the name used for inquiries or requests from an inmate to staff here) request to the mailroom here at FDC for explanation. I will also speak to my counselor Mr. Erickson tomorrow to see if he has any explanation that would satisfy me or make sense. If this problem is not resolved I will have to appeal to our lawyer Richard Troberman to make a more official request for an explanation. That my mail to you is being stolen without notification, or that mail to me is being obstructed, I am sure is not legal without proper explanation. (If your mail is returned with that “Mothers and Brothers Inc.” label, please email [email protected])
As you know, I rely on letters from you and my supporters to sustain me here, and unlike the telephone, email or commissary (which are described as “privileges” the prison can take away whenever they interpret a breach in the so-called rules) the delivery and receipt of mail is a right, not a privilege.
Our supporters are many and varied. Eric Hafner of Red Bank, New Jersey is on a roll; for example, he’s had 3 letters to the editor posted in his local paper, The Two Rivers Times: “Let’s End the Drug War”, “A win-win situation” where he suggests a recently shuttered municipal building be turned into a medical marijuana production facility, and “Legalize Alcohol for 18-20 year old non-drivers”. And all those just this month, and he says I inspired him to do it! How wonderful! Eric sent me copies of his three published letters. This is a great example how anyone in our culture just taking time to read the news can begin to incite local debate on important issues.
This one is a “small world” story. My supporter and “Students for Sensible Drug Policy” organizer on his campus, Tyler Markwart of Pullman, Washington, went to a Simply Stoopid concert in Spokane in late June. The band Slightly Stoopid, you will recall my dearest, we included in the first issue of Cannabis Culture you and I edited together, CC #55. It was just a one-pager article by our music journalist Jennifer Zimmerman, from the South by Southwest Music Festival. She convinced us these proud stoners would be big one day. Well, that day, 5 years after we printed a page long piece about them, is here. But that’s not this story – although I’m glad we know how pick ’em! The story is, Tyler went to the Slightly Stoopid concert with a FREE MARC EMERY sign, went to the front of the stage during the concert and flashed the FREE MARC EMERY sign throughout the entire performance, to the band on stage and the audience behind them. The band was videotaping the audience and the film crew trained the camera numerous times on Tyler holding up the sign.
Then, a few days ago, Rick Saris of Idaho wrote me to say, “I was at a Slightly Stoopid concert in Spokane a few weeks back and I was packed in the middle, and near the stage a guy and girl were holding up FREE MARC EMERY signs throughout the whole show. That was awesome, and me and others cheered when we saw it.”
That’s what I’m talking about! Concerts are a great place for people to wear their FREE MARC t-shirts and hold up FREE MARC EMERY signs. I hope at the Canucks games in Vancouver this upcoming season some fans think of a “Go, Canucks, Go” sign that has FREE MARC EMERY on the reverse or underneath it. The possibilities are endless.
K.C. of Charlotte, North Carolina wrote a sentiment about you, my magnificent wife, similar to those I get in letters every day: “I have an illness related to Crohn’s Disease (a bowel wasting occurrence spurred by an auto-immune system disorder). I have watched you on YouTube, MSNBC, and on cannabisculture.com. Your wife Jodie is amazing. I am inspired by her love and conviction, as a woman. I can feel her passion when she speaks. I guess I can say because of your wife, I am becoming an activist. I used to watch the Big Government run over the everyday person. I am now learning how to stand up for my rights. Thank you both.”
Most first time letter writers emphasize to me that it is largely your passion for me and our great movement that inspired them to write me or even to activism. I wrote K.C. back and asked her what ACTION she intends to take and offering her some suggestions, as I try to do with everyone who writes to me.
By the way, a brief interruption: Someone named Middleton put $25 in my commissary. Jodie, if you ever find out who did that, be sure to thank them. That $25 will pay for 7 hours of my email, which costs me $3.50 an hour to use. And I also got an incredible donation of $300 from someone named Lew – that’s really generous and will help me out for a long time, and it means you can spend your money on visiting me instead of sending it to my commissary. Money goes a long way in here; I have to buy my deodorant, razors, soap, paper and stamps, phone and email time, and I can get snacks like nut mix, and extra food items like mayo, spices and tuna – additional things that I desperately need in addition to the “meals” they give us.
The best thing I have read lately was Radical Russ’s great article “Proposition 19: Word-For-word Analysis”, which was on the front page of Cannabis Culture. If there any naysayers to Prop 19 left, I hope they read that terrific piece of real journalism. Keep up the fine work, Russ!
Perhaps the most intriguing pieces of mail I have received are the 42 letters from each student of the “Critical Thinking & Ethics Project” at Sannasastra University in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. The professor, Ray Christl, has had two classes with his students all about the extradition of myself to the United States. Each student had to watch some parts of the documentaries “Principle of Pot” and “Prince of Pot”, as well as my Wikipedia page. From there, the students each wrote to me, by hand, in English, which is their second language after their native Khmer. These students are from the upper classes, merely by the fact their parents can afford to send them to University, so I am writing each student back individually, one per day (among the 5 – 8 letters I send out daily). They may end up as civil servants, teachers, businesspeople or professionals or simply influential, so I would like to have an impact. Mostly, I answer their questions, many of which are similar or identical (I think with a little prompting by Professor Christl) with assertions like this:
“I believe that all humans have a right to put plants and drugs in their own body. Each human owns their own body and mind. It is wrong for government to punish individuals for peaceful and honest behaviour and actions. It is important for all individuals to question authority. The government’s purpose should be to provide physical infrastructure like roads and sewers and drainage. Government has no moral authority to determine the contents of our bodies. I am in jail because of my peaceful politics. The chief of DEA Karen Tandy says ‘Marc Emery is leader of legalization groups. Marc Emery gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to legalization groups operating in United States.’ It is important for all citizens to QUESTION AUTHORITY!”
Lots of that goes to each of them in my letters to them. That’s a lot of 98-cent stamps I have to buy! (And I have to buy all of my stamps, so make sure no one sends any in the mail or they get refused.)
Each letter from the students is accompanied by a small portrait photograph of the student. Some of their questions verbatim (spelling and grammar not corrected):
Chlim Vitadane asks: “Why they put you in jail? How can American government put you in US jail when you are Canadian citizen? How do you feel, are you sad or angry? My teacher says you are a just person who sell seeds. Maybe you are bad person and you do something bad and this is why they put you in jail.”
Sopheakna writes: “Hello Mr. Marc I am sorry you are in prison in USA. As I know you are Canadian citizen and never went to USA, why are you in prison in USA. The law in Cambodia says persons shall be punished for growing and marijuana seeds, because its illegal medicine that will cause many bad sectors of instability of society and effected the people’s health. So our society will losed the human resources for developing the whole country in the future.”
Touch Matin writes: “I feel so sad and sorry for you. My professor say you sell seeds to make the medicine to help humans for good health, that’s not a mistake. I wonder why they got you in prison. Where is the ethic? It is not a mistake to help human beings.”
Keo Pichta writes: “For me, I don’t know why police put you in jail. Can I know it? How many times that you have a shower there? Are the people in jail bad to you?”
Mab Chanthey writes: “How well the guard prisoner treat Mr. Marc Scott Emery in the prison or will you be mistreated because you are well educated guy of the world, not just for Canada? I am afraid that prisoner in democratic country is mistreated in prison as what Cambodian prison police do to Cambodian prisoners. Even though the constitution of democratic country should protect you, the guard men may not follow the proper ethic. One more thing, I am afraid you would be raped as what happened in the prison.”
Leng Han writes: “Why a Canadian citizen who was prisoner brought to jail in United States? Is Canada a subjugated state of the United States? … In the Buddha’s life, the cannabis seed was used by him as food for life.”
Sok Naroeum writes: “In my country, we grow ganja and no one goes to jail, even though it is against the law. Law in this country does not focus to that kind of plan. Why the US government have the right to bring to jail a Canadian citizen?”
War Anasojie writes: “This is first time ever writing letter in English to anyone. What is American jail like? What did you do with the money from your business? In my country, prisoners are bad persons or criminals. Dr. Ray says “Marc Emery is good person, he is in jail for telling the people to plant the seeds” he said. Unfortunately, you are in jail but do not give up. I don’t think what you did is wrong. You must be strong, no giving up. Moreover, your friends and family are miss you and waiting for you to be free, for sure. You have pretty wife who loves you. Be strong for her.”
Eng Sokunthea writes: “Through the internet, I have realized that you are a businessman since you were eleven years old, a young boy, and now you are great Canadian representative for the world…It was very awful when you were not allowed to meet your wife face to face when you are in the solitary, the Hole. However you are a prisoner, you should still have a right to see family face to face even in solitary. I are told United States is a democracy and believe in fundamental human rights, so why they treat you like this? Is that a legality?”
And finally, Ros Sereysophea writes: “I did come to realize your great kindness and compassion towards the less fortunate than you by watching the documentaries and reading about you. I do know you are highly respected in your community and profession, and you good works have changed the lives of many. The people are truly fortunate to have you as a role model. Please pass on my deepest sympathies on your activities, and to your family.”
I love letters of depth, activism and substance; I hope people will keep sending mail.
I love you, my dear wife, and pray for you every day that you may stay safe and healthy.
I remain your devoted husband,