True calling

Two months in jail has not deterred me from my true calling.
On August 19, I was sent to jail on a three month sentence for passing a joint. After working six hours Monday to Friday as the “front administration cleaner” in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, I earned 30 days off my 92-day sentence for passing a joint. 62 days cleaning toilets for the man! Over pot! Harsh.

But I’m glad it happened to me. I have no bitterness about it. While there I felt isolated from family, friends, the familiar ? my occasional despair and alienation is covered in my jailhouse diaries found at But that’s not what I remember most strongly only a month later. Sure, since I was released on October 18, during a gorgeous Canadian prairie blizzard, every meal has been a gourmet treat compared to prison food. All the food out here is to die for. The sex? 62 days was the longest period of celibacy for me ever since I was 17. Yet I never even thought about sex in the way you do in the real world.

Food, friends, sex, family, choices, my life as it was… I missed it, yeah.

But I really felt like I learned a lot about myself in jail. I’m not afraid of jail anymore. In my speeches I point out that I have been arrested 20 times for marijuana (or marijuana seeds, or marijuana bongs), jailed 15 times (in Vancouver eight times, plus once each in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Moncton and St. John’s), and raided five times (four times in Vancouver, and once at my home in Victoria). But despite this, I have never served a stretch before. When I’d been jailed before, it was always from overnight to four days. 62 days is a stretch of time, although relative to many of us who are hauled away by the drug warriors for marijuana, not even a long stretch. But it was a long stretch for me.

I was always cheerful to all the inmates and staff, and yet I never was less than myself. I got along with everyone and stayed involved. I never once felt disrespected by the staff or other inmates, although the bureaucracy, the rules, and the futility of prison were maddening. I spoke up to the head of my part of the prison if I saw them behave in a way I thought was unfair (though tact was the operating word here). I reported in my audio diaries everything I saw and never felt compelled to censor my work. I wrote for two to five hours every day, mostly at night and during my lunch period on the job.

During my tedious job cleaning the toilets and bathrooms and carpets and floors and garbage containers of the front block of Saskatoon Correctional Centre, I thought hard about the drug war, the other inmates, the system, the law, sentencing, the world outside, the injustice. I wrote 475 pages of diary notes which thousands of people have read on the Internet or heard at I also started a book tentatively called The Persecution of the Cultures, outlining the six cultural pogroms of the Europeans and their descendants against 1) The Jews of Europe from 1500-1940, 2) The Africans kidnapped and used in slavery, 3) The Aboriginals of North & South America & Australia, 4) The cannabis culture, 5) The female healers of Europe (called witches or sorcerers by the Inquisition), and 6) The Chinese in western Canada.

This book is now being researched and traces how 24 million people of this planet have been, since 1959, arrested or jailed or killed because of their relationship with marijuana. (Over 11 million in the US alone, with over a million in Canada, just under a million in New Zealand, well over a million in England, plus half a million in Australia ? that’s 14.5 million arrested, jailed or killed in just five English speaking countries alone since 1960!). 24 million arrested? Jailed? Killed, even? All over a beautiful plant?

On the great day I got out, I had about 500 letters from you, my fellow advocates for a just world, in one bag, and my simple belongings in another bag, both trailing in the snow as I walked out past the wire gates of the jail. And I felt serene. I could do it. I could talk the talk, and I had proved to myself that I can walk the walk.

I wasn’t bitter. I’d used my time to learn and think, to read the works of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. (the most amazing guy ever) and Paul Theroux (Dark Star Safari). The food situation in jail was difficult as a vegetarian, but now everything I eat is like manna from heaven.

It wasn’t like 62 days in jail discouraged me from my true calling, after all, 12 hours after my release, I was sponsor and master of ceremony of Saskatoon’s most distinguished pot smoking party.

The night I got out I had a lovely party with the Vigil Keepers (my Saskatoon Sensi Warriors) and shared over a quarter pound of pot in a charming Asian restaurant in Saskatoon. For 56 days, these hardcore activists of Saskatoon had held a great vigil in my honor for five hours daily across from the Saskatoon courthouse where I was sentenced.

The night of October 18, 35 people in Saskatoon had a virtual Prairie Tokers’ Bowl with seven primo strains in plentiful supply, as my further thanks for great local commitment. Also, arrests for pot in Saskatchewan dropped after my incarceration and the vigil, so maybe the attention I received had an effect, who knows?

I’ll be jailed again for pot, that’s a certainty. For me, jail has no more fear factor, even if it’s for a longer time. I can do it. On behalf of our movement, our rightful place in the world, it’s an honor.

Marc Emery
Publisher, Cannabis Culture