Marijuana users have contributed more beauty and more richness to the world than anyone else, yet they are hunted down like dogs. That was the message Vancouver’s “Prince of Pot”, a.k.a. Marc Emery, had for his rapt audience at Doc’s Cafe and Bakery on Thursday evening. Following introductions from event organizer Chris Gilberds and Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate for Vancouver West, Emery spoke for more than two hours about the benefits of marijuana and the harm inflicted on society by the war on drugs.
“Fabulous profits (for the drug dealers) could be ended overnight without prohibition,” said the wiry Emery. “It’s so simple. All it takes is the stroke of a pen.” A legalized, regulated drug industry would reduce property crime, theft, prostitution and gang violence, said Emery. Police forces could be cut in half, he said, and disease transmission though shared needles would be reduced.
As it stands, he said, an ounce of marijuana can cost $200 to $300. But if the substance were legalized, that price could be decimated to $30 an ounce. “Prohibition is designed to achieve nothing but its own perpetuation,” said Emery. “It’s a great job-guaranteer for cops. It’s a war that can’t be won.”
The wild profits currently available through drug trafficking make the industry irresistible for many young people, said Emery. “It makes working at McDonald’s for $8 an hour seem, shall we say, futile.”
The marijuana industry in B.C. is worth $7 billion a year, said Emery, and is second only to the construction sector. Emery, a longtime cannabis activist who formerly sold marijuana seeds by mail, said he has been arrested 23 times, jailed 17 times and raided by police six times. He’s been jailed in eight provinces and has had $1 million in assets seized by police. He is currently free on bail.
Some of his convictions, which have included promoting bongs and giving hash away for free, are “quite amusing,” he said. “I’m a very happy warrior. I have no regrets.”
Emery is currently facing extradition to the U.S., where he could receive a sentence of 20 years or longer to be served in a U.S. jail. Emery said he will be sad if he ends up going to a U.S. prison, but will have no regrets. He added that a 20-year jail term would be a “death sentence” for him since the average life expectancy in American jails is 65. And Emery is already 50.
Emery spoke openly about his reputation as a radical, saying he was once described as the “number one drug trafficker in U.S. history” on the Lou Dobbs Tonight show on CNN. “There’s only 45 dudes in the world more bad than me,” said Emery, in reference to his standing as the 46th most wanted man in the U.S. Emery also noted he is the only Canadian on the list.
While Emery has sold marijuana seeds through the mail to Yukon customers in the past, he said, this is the first time he has visited the territory. “I heard your premier is an ex-heroin dealer, he commented. “I find that fantastic. And they want to put me away for 20 years!” (Premier Dennis Fentie served time for a narcotics offence in Alberta in the 1970s.)
No police presence was visible at Thursday’s event, which saw upwards of 50 people in attendance, despite an earlier statement from the RCMP that uniformed officers would be present. “We have a police state here,” said Emery. “Nobody should be in jail for an hour for marijuana. We live in a free society. We should be able to do what we want to our own bodies.”
Emery reiterated the benefits of marijuana use throughout his talk. He claimed that marijuana kills cancer cells, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cures morning sickness and is beneficial for pregnant women, increases creativity, and does not lead to violent behaviour.
“You will never date-rape on pot. No one has ever died of pot.” Emery also said that “it’s a complete slander” to say marijuana users proceed to use harder drugs more often than non-marijuana users. “I’ve never met an author who didn’t smoke pot. Most journalists smoke pot. Every video game was made by a person smoking pot,” said Emery. He also cited many prominent musicians such as the late Bob Marley, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as prolific marijuana users. “And yet we’re hunted down like dogs. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Larsen echoed many of Emery’s views, agreeing that marijuana is “the best plant on Earth” and has a “vast array” of medicinal and industrial uses. Larsen said the war on drugs is an “absolute failure in every way. We have to end Prohibition.” Larsen urged audience members to ask their local candidates about their stance on drugs, particularly if a federal election is held in the fall. “When it ends, we’re going to look back on this terrible nightmare and be glad we woke up.”
Gilberds said he encountered several roadblocks during the planning stages of last night’s event. In his advertisements, Gilberds said, he wasn’t allowed to say the event was a “friendly talk on illegal drugs” or an “open debate on marijuana.”
“I couldn’t say anything. I expected people not to be happy about it, but I expected air time,” he said. Gilberds said rumours of throwing marijuana plants into the crowd circulated before the event. “No, this isn’t a smoke-in,” said Gilberds. “It’s a public forum by two people who really believe what they believe in.”
– Article from the Whitehorse Daily Star, Friday August 29th 2008