The former U.S. prosecutor who put Vancouver’s “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery behind bars appeared alongside his wife, Jodie Emery, Wednesday to call for the regulation and taxation of marijuana.
Appearing on behalf of the coalition Stop the Violence BC, John McKay, an expert on cross-border gangs and the drug trade, said marijuana prohibition puts billions of dollars into the hands of “violent, despicable” Mexican drug cartels.
“Mexican drug cartels, dangerous gangs operating both in the United States and Canada, are all profiting from the black market that’s created by our failed policy,” said McKay during a 20-minute speech at the Century Plaza Hotel.
“What do we do about the violence that’s being spawned here? The pits with headless bodies that are thrown in? It’s because they are servicing the demand for drugs, beginning with marijuana, moving all the way through to cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroine — driven principally, I believe by the huge dollars that are tied to marijuana. Not to the cocaine, to the meth and the heroine, but to the marijuana.”
McKay said as much as 60 per cent of Mexican mobsters’ funding comes from the persistent U.S. demand for pot, and that law enforcement is acutely aware that only a tiny percentage is ever confiscated.
Activist Jodie Emery appeared briefly to say that she harbours no hard feelings toward her husband’s former prosecutor, and that he was “just doing his job.”
McKay explained he believes Marc Emery “chose the wrong path” by exporting marijuana seeds to the U.S. illegally, but that he shares a lot of beliefs with the Emerys and wishes Marc had chosen advocacy instead of bootlegging.
Jodie Emery, by contrast, characterized her husband’s seed business as a necessary act of civil disobedience, but under the glare of the cameras she and McKay seemed chummy despite their adversarial history.
“I think it’s always a great moment when we have more people joining the call to end prohibition in order to save lives, save money, and get rid of the criminal control of this industry,” Jodie said.
Former B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant and Dr. Evan Wood, lead researcher with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, also appeared to argue marijuana use should be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.
Stop the Violence BC pointed out McKay joins a growing chorus of law enforcement and health officials who have spoken out in favour of taxation and regulation of marijuana to improve public safety, including the Health Officers Council of B.C., and eight former Vancouver mayors and provincial attorneys general.
– Article from Metro.
Marc Emery’s U.S. prosecutor urges pot legalization
by CBC News
The former U.S. district attorney who prosecuted B.C. marijuana activist Marc Emery in a cross-border sting is calling for the legalization and taxation of pot in Canada and the U.S.
John McKay, a former U.S. attorney for the western district of Washington State, was joined by Emery’s wife Jodie and former B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant at a lecture in Vancouver on Wednesday.
McKay said he did not regret prosecuting Emery because he broke U.S. law, but he believes the war on pot has been a complete and total failure. He said the laws keeping pot illegal no longer serve any purpose, but allow gangs and cartels to generate billions in profits.
“I want to say this just as clearly and as forthrightly as I can, marijuana prohibition, criminal prohibition of marijuana is a complete failure,” McKay said.
McKay said marijuana, like alcohol, should be produced and sold to adults by the government, and that would generate at least half a billion dollars in revenue annually in Washington State alone.
More importantly, he said, ending prohibition would end the violent reign of gangs and drug cartels who are profiting from the situation. He said any prohibition in society requires broad support from the population, and that isn’t the case with marijuana.
The appearance was organized by Stop the Violence BC, a coalition of high-profile academic, legal, law enforcement and health experts, which is working to reduce crime and public health problems stemming from the prohibition on marijuana.
The group includes several former B.C. attorneys general, several former Vancouver mayors, a former B.C. premier and a former RCMP superintendent for the province.
McKay, a Republican, was a U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007, when he resigned or was fired along with eight other U.S attorneys by President Bush.
He is now a professor in the faculty of law at Seattle University and an avid supporter of the Washington State ballot initiative for the November election to implement a regulated, taxed market for marijuana.
Marc Emery remains in prison in the U.S., serving a five-year sentence for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana through his mail-order cannabis seed business.
– Article from CBC News.
Prince Of Pot Prosecutor John McKay Calls For Marijuana Legalization
by Canadian Press
As a former high-profile U.S. federal prosecutor, John McKay stands behind actions that had Canada’s “Prince of Pot” arrested, indicted and ultimately sentenced to five years in an American prison.
But he does agree with Marc Emery on one point: marijuana should be legal.
McKay sat side-by-side with the cannabis activist’s wife, Jodie Emery, on Wednesday as he joined the growing call from British Columbia to end pot prohibition in favour of the drug’s regulation and taxation.
“We do share, I think, a belief that the underlying policies are wrong,” he told a public forum in Vancouver on throwing support to a coalition spearheading a public education campaign that’s been growing steady momentum.
Emery’s decision to sell marijuana seeds by mail to U.S. customers, including minors, was a “tremendous mistake,” McKay said, and it has barred the man from gaining the platform he needs to make change.
McKay was Washington state’s chief law enforcer for five years, and that’s where he fully witnessed how current policy fuels gang violence through the cross-border drug trade, he said. He now teaches law at a Seattle university.
“As a person who is knowledgeable of the facts underlying our failure in marijuana prohibition, I am free now to speak out.”
Since October, four former B.C. attorneys general, several Vancouver mayors and a host of police and health officers, academics and the Brazil-based Global Commission on Drug Policy have challenged provincial and federal governments to reform Canadian laws.
Jodie Emery, an advocate herself who has spoken on her husband’s behalf since he went to prison in 2010, said she welcomed McKay’s support.
“I don’t believe my husband should be in prison, I still miss him terribly. But I understand that this law, the prohibition of marijuana, forces police to continue to arrest people and put them in prison,” she said.
“When we get people who are on the frontlines, who saw the damage done, admit the policy needs to be changed, I think that’s always a wonderful thing.”
Speaking two days before the annual 4-20 celebration — a counterculture holiday where marijuana users gather to smoke weed — McKay said Canada’s policy is out of step internationally.
He said that’s harming citizens on both sides of the border.
Ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado will ask voters in November if they agree to legalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for adult use.
Tax proceeds could reach half-a-billion dollars in one state on its own. The money would be earmarked for education, treatment and to ensure it stays out of the hands of minors, McKay said.
“It would be regulated at every point of its production, its sale, its taxation, its content and the use of its proceeds,” said McKay, who is co-sponsoring Initiative 502 in Washington.
Medical marijuana is legally permitted in 16 states and the District of Columbia, while 14 states are moving to decriminalize pot possession in some form.
He rejected arguments that the U.S. government would take punitive action against Canada for reforming its laws.
“There’s been talk that somehow there would be retaliation by the United States if there were regulation and taxation scheme here. Hardly,” he said. “The same debate, perhaps further along, is occurring south of the border.”
A spokeswoman for Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has repeatedly said the federal government has no intention to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. B.C. Premier Christy Clark has previously said she is deferring to the feds.
Geoff Plant, who was B.C. attorney general from 2001 to 2005, said he believes the campaign is building momentum starting in city neighbourhoods that will eventually reach Ottawa.
He doesn’t expect pot to be legalized under the current Conservative regime.
“But I think there’s a realistic chance it could be within the term of office of the next prime minister of Canada,” he said. “That’s a target that I think has an aura of reality about it that I think we should commit to.”
– Article from Canadian Press.
U.S. prosecutor who jailed Emery calls for legal pot
by CTV News
A former U.S. attorney responsible for the investigation that put “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery behind bars has joined the swelling ranks of prominent officials calling for decriminalization of marijuana.
John McKay, who spent more than five years as a federal prosecutor in Seattle, told reporters in Vancouver Wednesday that marijuana prohibition has been a “complete failure” on both sides of the border.
“I’m very pleased to be here today to discuss my support as a private citizen for the regulation and taxation of marijuana as a much better answer to the enormous threat facing citizens of both Canada and the United States because of our failed policies on marijuana,” McKay said.
He spoke at a press conference organized by Stop the Violence BC, which has already gathered support for its pot decriminalization campaign from the province’s chief medical officer, four former B.C. attorneys general and a growing number of municipal governments.
McKay, who is now a law professor at the University of Seattle, obtained the indictments for Emery that ended in a five-year U.S. prison term for selling marijuana seeds to Americans.
McKay said that he does not regret his prosecution of Emery.
“Mr. Emery chose to change marijuana policies by breaking them rather than advocating for change. I think that was a tremendous mistake,” he said.
But McKay said that he and Emery share a fundamental belief that American and Canadian marijuana laws are seriously misguided and have become a serious threat to public safety.
“We are, through our policies, promoting a huge black market with billions of dollars that are being exploited through criminal cartels, through gangs, though organized crime on both sides of the border,” McKay said.
He pointed to the scores of Canadians sentenced to jail time in the U.S. in recent years for arranging deals with Mexican cartels to provide B.C.-grown pot in exchange for guns or cocaine and methamphetamines.
“This is an enormously potent and dangerous environment, which it is only fair to say, is created and maintained by our failed criminal marijuana prohibition,” McKay said.
The lawyer is a sponsor of Initiative 502, a pot legalization proposal that will appear on Washington State ballots in November. If approved, the initiative would make it legal for adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, while sales to minors and driving under the influence would be forbidden.
McKay said that 75 years of marijuana prohibition have failed to convince North Americans that it’s wrong to smoke pot, and the threat of jail has done nothing to dissuade users. Every year, about 10,000 people in Washington State and close to 1 million across the U.S. are imprisoned for simple possession of marijuana.
“I think it’s really important that when societies choose to criminalize behaviour, we have broad agreement and support that that behaviour is criminal,” he said.
“I don’t think there is broad agreement that persons with guns and badges, judges with authority, jailors with jails and prisons, should be used for this.”
McKay added that he does not believe legalizing marijuana in Canada would result in a backlash from American officials, explaining that a very similar debate is now happening south of the border.
Emery’s wife Jodie also spoke at Wednesday’s press conference, and said it was a “wonderful thing” to see respected legal professionals like McKay support marijuana legalization.
But despite the efforts of groups like Stop the Violence, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly stated that the issue is not up for debate. At the Summit of the Americas in Colombia this weekend, the Canadian leader acknowledged that the war on drugs is not working, but joined the American contingent in rebuffing Latin American leaders’ push for decriminalization.
– Article from CTV News.
U.S. attorney who prosecuted pot activist Marc Emery calls for legalization
by Michael Mui, 24 Hours
It’s local, grown from dirt and seed, and known outside B.C. as “some of the best pot in the world,” but that could soon be irrelevant to weed smokers in Washington State, according to the U.S. attorney who put ‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery behind bars.
Former prosecutor John McKay, who oversaw Emery’s case that led to a five-year jail sentence for selling pot seeds to U.S. customers, is now throwing his support behind legalizing, taxing and regulating the plant.
Speaking in Vancouver Wednesday, he said Washington State is now poised to vote on legalization in November after hundreds of thousands of signatures were handed to the state legislature to pass the initiative.
McKay acknowledged Canadian legislatures work differently, but his voice adds to a growing chorus of legal, medical and political support locally to legalize the drug — including past and current Vancouver mayors, four former attorneys general and B.C.’s chief medical health officer.
“Criminal prohibition of marijuana is a complete failure. It’s a failure in the United States, and I would respectfully offer it’s a failure in Canada as well,” he said.
Now a law professor, McKay doesn’t have any regrets on throwing activist Emery behind bars, saying ‘the law is the law.’ However, laws can change.
“Mr. Emery chose to change marijuana policies by breaking them, rather than advocating,” he said. “That was a tremendous mistake.”
Despite McKay’s unmovable stance on her husband’s prosecution, Emery’s wife Jodi remained collected throughout the press conference.
“I don’t believe my husband should be in prison. I still miss him terribly, but I understand this law — the prohibition of marijuana — forces police to continue to arrest people and put them into prison,” she said.
“He is very pleased, as I am, the fact that John McKay here is supporting an initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in Washington State. It’s a great step forward.”
Canadians, however, will have to push for change in the House of Commons. Drug laws in the Great White North are a federal jurisdiction.
– Article from 24 Hours.
Man who put BC pot activist in jail pushes to legalize it
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The former US Attorney in Seattle who prosecuted BC pot activist Marc Emery was in Vancouver today, and he’s calling on the federal government to legalize marijuana.
John McKay is not saying that he regrets prosecuting the pot activist for selling marijuana seeds to US customers using a Vancouver-based mail-order business. But he says prohibition, as a policy, is a complete failure.
“I’m very pleased to be here today to discuss my support, as a private citizen now, for the regulation and taxation of marijuana as a much better answer to the enormous threat facing citizens of both Canada and the United States, because of our failed policies on Marijuana,” says McKay. “And I want to say this just as clearly and as forthrightly as I can – marijuana prohibition, criminal prohibition of marijuana, is a complete failure.”
“It’s a failure in the United States. I would respectfully offer that it is a failure here in Canada as well.”
“The problem posed by the vast marijuana black market, criminal marijuana black market, is a threat to public safety both in the United States and in Canada.”
“I think it’s time to rethink our criminalization policy and prohibition policy on marijuana.”
McKay is here on the invitation of Stop the Violence BC, a coalition including members of law enforcement, legal experts, public health professionals and academics. The group is calling for marijuana policies that improve public health while reducing social harms, including violent crime.
McKay compares marijuana prohibition to a similar policy in the US that banned alcohol until the 1930’s.
“We had a constitutional amendment to make alcohol illegal. We then had a repeal through another constitutional amendment in our history after we learned that alcohol prohibition was funding mafia and violent gangs. If that sounds familiar, it should.”
In November, voters in the US will choose their next president, while voters in Washington State will also decide on a ballot initiative calling for the legalization of marijuana. A group collected well over a 250,000 signatures in order to force the vote.
McKay says legalizing and taxing pot in that state could generate up to a $500 million in revenue annually.
Former BC Attorney General Geoff Plant, who in the past has spoken in favour of legalizing pot in BC, also spoke at today’s event. Jodie Emery, wife of the man John McKay helped put in jail in the US, was also on the panel.
– Article from News 1130.
U.S. attorney who jailed Marc Emery calls for legalization of marijuana
by Global News
A former top U.S. attorney, B.C.´s former Attorney General and the wife of Canadian pot activist Marc Emery joined forces in Vancouver today to call for an end to the prohibition of marijuana.
John McKay, who helped send Emery to jail in the U.S. when he was a prosecutor, is now an outspoken voice in a growing battle to change how governments deal with marijuana production and use.
“Marijuana prohibition is a complete failure. It’s a failure in the US, and it’s a failure here in Canada as well. The problem posed by the black market is a threat to public safety in both the US and Canada,” said McKay.
McKay adds marijuana produced in B.C. is being exchanged for weapons, cocaine and money, and is directly contributing to the finances of Mexican drug cartels.
He says that if we regulated and taxed marijuana like we do alcohol and tobacco, governments on both sides of the border would be able to improve public safety and generate significant tax revenue.
Washington State is currently considering initiative 502, which would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulate its sale. If the initiative passes this summer, it’s estimated to bring in $500 million in the state of Washington alone during the first year.
McKay says he still doesn’t regret sending Emery to jail, as he believes Emery should have advocated for change instead of breaking the law.
Former B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant says he has changed his perspective on the issue since he was AG almost 10 years ago.
“With cannabis the effect of law enforcement is to make the problem worse, in every effect.”
Dr. Evan Wood, founder of Stop the Violence BC and a professor of medicine at UBC says the average British Columbian doesn´t realize what the prohibition of marijuana is doing to our communities.
“Most don´t realize that all of the grow ops and organized crime concerns are a direct result of marijuana prohibition,” said Wood.
A poll by Stop the Violence BC shows that 78 per cent of B.C. residents are dissatisfied at the provincial government´s response to problems stemming from the illegal marijuana industry.
The call for changes to how governments approach marijuana will grow even louder this Friday at the annual 4:20 marijuana rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
– Article from Global News.
Former U.S. prosecutor of Marc Emery condemns pot prohibition in B.C.
by Stephen Thomson, Georgia Straight
A former top U.S. law enforcement official who prosecuted marijuana activist Marc Emery says prohibition of the drug is a failed policy in North America.
John McKay, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington State, is among those calling for marijuana to be taxed and regulated.
“Criminal prohibition of marijuana is a complete failure,” he said during an event organized by the anti-prohibition group Stop the Violence B.C.
“It’s a failure in the United States. I would respectfully offer that it’s a failure here in Canada as well.”
McKay said marijuana prohibition fuels a violent, organized crime-controlled black market that is a threat to public safety on both sides of the border.
“I think it’s time to rethink our criminalization policy and prohibition policy on marijuana,” he said.
Emery’s wife, Jodie, sat beside McKay at the event and welcomed his support in the campaign to change drug policy.
Jodie Emery said she understands McKay was just doing his duty as a law enforcement official when he prosecuted her husband.
However, she said she does not believe her husband should be in prison.
“I still miss him terribly but I understand that this law, the prohibition of marijuana, forces police to continue to arrest people and put them in prison,” she said.
“And when we get people who are on the front line, who saw the damage done, admit that the policy needs to be changed, I think that’s always a wonderful thing.”
McKay, a law professor at Seattle University, said he is speaking out now that he is no longer responsible for implementing U.S. drug laws.
He said he does not regret prosecuting Marc Emery, a Vancouver entrepreneur who admitted to selling marijuana seeds and is now serving time in a federal prison in the U.S.
“If that was Mr. Emery’s purpose, to change policy, I think he chose the wrong path,” McKay said.
In Washington State, McKay is also sponsoring a ballot initiative to allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated.
Geoff Plant, a former B.C. attorney general who also opposes marijuana prohibition, welcomed McKay’s efforts.
Plant said he is pleased to hear assurance from McKay that drug-policy reforms in Canada would not harm relations with the U.S.
Stop the Violence B.C., the organizers of today’s event at a downtown Vancouver hotel, is supported by officials from a range of fields including public health and law enforcement.
The advocacy group is also behind the recent release of letters from former Vancouver mayors and former B.C. attorneys general calling for an end to marijuana prohibition.
Evan Wood, founder of Stop the Violence B.C., said the province faces gang violence and organized crime problems because of the illegal marijuana industry.
“Although police have been acknowledging this, your average British Columbian, and Canadian for that matter, doesn’t know that all the grow-ops and all the organized crime concerns are really a direct result of marijuana prohibition,” he said.
– Article from The Georgia Straight.