Marc Emery Considers Plea: 10-Year US and Canadian Prison Sentence

Front page of the Vancouver Sun, Monday January 14thFront page of the Vancouver Sun, Monday January 14thThe fight is not over yet! The deal has not yet been taken! Please, call the Justice Minister even more regularly (613-957-4222) and protest against American-mandated punishment for Canadians. Insist Canada protect its sovereignty! The majority of Canadians, 58%, oppose the extradition according to Strategic Counsel/Angus Reid polls and research. Keep sending in your signed petitions!
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – A Canadian marijuana activist has reached a tentative deal with U.S. authorities to plead guilty in a case that ignited debate over the countries’ diverging drug policies. Marc Emery said on Monday January 14th he has agreed to plead guilty to U.S. charges of illegally selling marijuana seeds to American buyers, in return for being allowed to spend the bulk of his prison sentence in Canada. Emery, nicknamed the “Prince of Pot”, was willing to fight the charges on principal, but said the deal is designed to help two co-accused avoid lengthy sentences in a U.S. prison and to keep him closer to family and friends.

U.S. officials say Emery illegally sold millions of dollars of marijuana seeds from his business in Vancouver, but he and supporters said his activities were well known and tolerated by Canadian officials, including the federal Health Department. “My complaint is that there is no victim. Nobody who can say I hurt them, yet there are thousands of people who I can point to and say I helped,” said Emery, who paid taxes on his earnings and gave money to charities and political causes. Emery also helped found the B.C. Marijuana Party, whose offices were raided in 2005 when police arrested him.

Emery said he has agreed to plead guilty and will receive a 10-year sentence, five of which must be spent in prison. He will waive his right to early release or an appeal. The deal has been approved by U.S. prosecutors but must be okayed by Canada. A court hearing is scheduled for January 21. A U.S. grand jury in Seattle indicted Emery in 2005 for conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds and for money laundering. He could have faced life in prison.

Emery said being in prison will curb his political activities, but he has not given up the fight. “I’m going to sit my time in jail, but when I get out I have expectations,” he said, suggesting Canadians should reward him with political office for taking a longer jail sentence than he would receive in a Canadian court.

– Article from Reuters Canada, reporting by Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

Marc Emery agrees to five years in Canadian prison

VANCOUVER – Marc Emery, Vancouver’s self-styled Prince of Pot, has tentatively agreed to a five-year prison term in a plea bargain over U.S. money laundering and marijuana seed-selling charges. Facing an extradition hearing Jan. 21 and the all-but-certain prospect of delivery to American authorities, Emery has cut a deal with U.S. prosecutors to serve his sentence in Canada. He also hopes it will save his two co-accused – Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, who were his lieutenants for so much of the past decade.

The American Government dictates Canadian policyThe American Government dictates Canadian policyThe three were arrested in August 2005 at the request of the United States and charged even though none had ventured south of the border. Since then, they have been awaiting the extradition hearing. With the proceedings about to begin, Emery says his lawyer brokered the best deal possible. If accepted by the courts in both countries, Emery said he will serve the full term and not be eligible for Canada’s lenient get-out-of-jail-early rules. “I’m going to do more time than many violent, repeat offenders,” he complained. “There isn’t a single victim in my case, no one who can stand up and say, ‘I was hurt by Marc Emery.’ No one.”

He’s right. Whatever else you may think of Emery – and he grates on many people, what is happening here is a travesty of justice. Emery’s case mocks our independence as a country. Prosecutors in Canada have not enforced the law against selling pot seeds and all you need do is walk along Hastings Street between Homer and Cambie for proof. There are numerous stores selling seeds and products for producing cannabis. Around the corner, you’ll find more seed stores. You’ll find the same shops in Toronto and in other major Canadian cities. The last time Emery was convicted in Canada of selling pot seeds, back in 1998, he was given a $2,000 fine. Emery has flouted the law for more than a decade and every year he sends his seed catalogue to politicians of every stripe.

He has run in federal, provincial and civic elections promoting his pro-cannabis platform. He has championed legal marijuana at parliamentary hearings, on national television, at celebrity conferences, in his own magazine, Cannabis Culture, and on his own Internet channel, Pot TV. Health Canada even recommended medical marijuana patients buy their seeds from Emery. From 1998 until his arrest, Emery even paid provincial and federal taxes as a “marijuana seed vendor” totalling nearly $600,000.

He is being hounded because of his success. The political landscape has changed dramatically as a result of Emery’s politicking for cannabis. Emery challenged a law he disagrees with using exactly the non-violent, democratic processes we urge our children to embrace and of which we are so proud.

But along the way he has angered the anti-drug law-enforcement community – the same gang that insists we must continue an expensive War on Drugs that has failed miserably for more than a quarter century and does more harm than good. Canadian police grew so frustrated that neither prosecutors nor the courts would lock up Emery and throw away the key, they urged their U.S. counterparts to do the dirty work. And that’s what’s wrong.

Emery is being handed over to a foreign government for an activity we are loath to prosecute because we don’t think it’s a major problem. His two associates were charged only as a way of blackmailing him into copping a plea. It’s a scandal. Emery is being made a scapegoat for an anti-cannabis criminal law that is a monumental failure. In spite of all our pricey efforts during the last 40 years, and all the demonization of marijuana, there is more pot on our streets, more people smoking dope and more damage being done to our communities as a result of the prohibition. There is a better way and every study from the 1970s Le Dain Commission onward has urged change and legalization.

Regardless of what you think of Emery, he should not be facing an unconscionably long jail term for a victimless, non-violent crime that generates a shrug in his own country. Emery is facing more jail time than corporate criminals who defrauded widows and orphans and longer incarceration than violent offenders who have left their victims dead or in wheelchairs.

And while he has long seemed to court martyrdom, Emery is by no means sanguine about what is happening. He is angry at local lawyers for failing to come up with a viable defence. “They had two years and $90,000 and they came up with nothing,” he fumed. “John Conroy called me up and said ‘take the deal – Michelle will die in jail. Michelle will die in jail!’ What can I say to that?” Rainey, who has a medical exemption to smoke marijuana, has Crohn’s disease. Incarceration in the U.S. would deprive her of her medicine, and she fears it could lead to her death.

“It’s an ugly situation but Marc expects miracles,” Kirk Tousaw, one of the lawyers involved, told me. “There aren’t any here.” He’s right. Our extradition law puts Canadian citizens at the mercy of foreign governments and judges can’t do much about it. Emery is being forced to accept a deal because not only are two of his friends in jeopardy if he doesn’t, but also to go south for an unfair trial would mean serving as much as 20 years in prison, perhaps more. One of his friends, for example, was handed a 30-year sentence for growing 200 plants. This is wrong.

If Emery has been breaking the law and must be jailed, our justice department should charge him and prosecute him in Canada. It’s time for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to step in and say, sorry, Uncle Sam, not today – not ever.

– Article from Vancouver Sun, reporting by Ian Mulgrew

Plea deal for Prince of Pot means jail time for marijuana activist in the U.S.

VANCOUVER – Canada’s so-called prince of pot is planning for prison after reaching a plea bargain with U.S. officials over his Internet sales of marijuana seeds. But Marc Emery remains defiant, despite the prospect of serving a five-year-jail term and has no regrets over his pot-promoting antics through the years. “I’m really pleased and proud of what I’ve done,” Emery said of his legacy. “I wish I could have done more to piss the U.S. government off actually.”

Greg Williams, Marc Emery, Michelle RaineyGreg Williams, Marc Emery, Michelle RaineyEmery, 50, said Monday that U.S. prosecutors made the offer to his lawyer for a 10-year-prison term that would mean he would have to spend at least five years in prison, most of it in Canada. The agreement also spares his co-accused Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams from doing jail time. Emery said that’s especially important for Rainey, who smokes marijuana to control symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a painful digestive-tract disorder. It was one of the reasons he considered the offer. “Well, what if something did happen in jail to her?” said Emery. “You know I would always be responsible.”

In July 2005, Emery was arrested in Halifax on an extradition request from the United States. A U.S. federal grand jury had indicted the self-proclaimed “prince of pot” on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. The charges related to his sale of marijuana seeds to U.S. customers over the Internet. Emery still has trouble recognizing what he did wrong. “There’s no victim in my case,” he said. “There’s nobody who’s claiming I hurt them … so you’re talking hundreds of thousands of happy customers.”

For almost 15 years, Emery has been an outspoken advocate of the cannabis culture, even creating a magazine and forming the B.C. Marijuana Party. Three years ago, he travelled across the country lighting up giant joints at pro-marijuana rallies in front of police stations in his quest to legalize pot. He spent two months in a Saskatoon jail after he was arrested passing around a marijuana cigarette at a pro-pot rally. “I’m a victim of political advocacy,” he said Monday.

Alan Young, a professor at Osgood Hall Law School at York University, said extradition requests from the United States are very difficult to fight and the plea gives Emery some certainty. “It looked a bit hopeless,” Young said. “That’s not to say a great fight could not have been mounted.” Young, who has known and worked with Emery since 1990, said on that level he’s relieved that Emery knows the sentence he will face. But on a political level the sentence is a travesty, he said. “I think it’s remarkable that I could cripple someone and put them in hospital … and get less time that Marc will serve,” Young said. “It’s grossly disproportionate by Canadian standards. But, unfortunately, by American standards, it may appear to be a kiss.”

Emery said he’s always been open about his actions, lobbying and meeting politicians such as Sen. Larry Campbell and New Democrat Leader Jack Layton and even filing income tax on his seed sales. “Nobody ever treated me like a drug dealer in this country,” he stated. That wasn’t the case in the U.S. after his arrest in 2005. “The tentacles of the Marc Emery criminal enterprise reached out across North America to include all 50 states and Canada,” Rodney Benson of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency told reporters in Seattle.

The plea agreement still needs the approval of the Canadian Department of Justice, which Emery believes won’t oppose it. “Because it spares the Conservative party government … with a looming election, this awkward decision of whether to extradite me,” he said. “In a sense, it takes the heat off the government too, which I’m really disappointed by because one of the great things about having a crisis is something politically good might come of it.”

Alain Charette, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the plea is a negotiation between other parties and doesn’t yet involve the department. He noted in all such extradition decisions, the minister is left with the final decision. Emily Langlie, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle, said it was not appropriate for officials there to comment on the plea agreement. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration did not respond to a request for an interview.

– Article by Canadian Press, reporting by Terri Theodore

For more information about Marc Emery, his history, and the extradition battle, please visit