Marc Emery on Bill C-15 and Mandatory Minimums

CANNABIS CULTURE – Marijuana activist Marc Emery thinks new drug legislation supported by Conservatives and Liberals will mean more Canadians in jail for non-violent crimes.

Marc, who is facing extradition to the US for selling seeds on the Internet (also the publisher of Cannabis Culture), sat down for a quick interview with CC about C-15, the bill to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

CC: Bill C-15 passed the house yesterday with Liberal and Conservative support and just needs to pass the senate to be put into law. If it is put into law, what does this mean for Canadians?

Marc Emery: We’re going to see thousands of young people arrested if the bill gets Royal Ascent.

It will mean is that mid and upper-level traffickers will get no particular increase in punishment, because a major dealer would already get six months or a year for any kind of trafficking. What we’re going to see is people who wouldn’t normally go to jail, they’re going to be the people affected. Largely young people in schoolyards – because if you are dealing around a school, it’s an enhanced penalty. If you’re dealing around where young people frequent, that could be anywhere from parks to clubs or anywhere kids go. The enhanced penalties of six months, a year, two years, are going to affect, almost exclusively, people under the age of twenty-five.

A lot of people who grow and are not established in gangs will get caught. We will take a lot of young people who have had no exposure to gangs and put them in prisons that are run by gangs – so what happens is people are induced to join gangs while in prison, and when they come out they continue gang activity. So we are actually helping gangs recruit by sending more young people to jail under this new law.

And when we start seeing a lot of young folk being rounded up and shocked by hearing they got six-months or a year mandatory minimum, we’re going to see a lot more finking, snitching, people turning informer – petrified of going to jail, and a larger cascading effect that will see a much more severe police state than we have now.

CC: What’s wrong with mandatory minimum sentences?

Marc Emery: Mandatory minimum sentences take all the discretion away from judges so that even people who by no means deserve to be in jail will be in jail. It means that some dealer is going to be taken off the street and people are going to fight over their territory. It means the jails are going to more full, and they require about $75,000 in taxes per inmate. We’re going to need to build more prisons. We’re going to basically give police the weapons they need to continue the drug war, but that will only entail more policing in the future, more money, and more of the same things we get year after year with the drug war we’ve got. Our problems and budgets get bigger, and all we get are more police. The police are the leading cheerleaders of Bill C-15 and the drug war, because they are the biggest beneficiaries.

CC: Why are the Conservatives pushing this bill and why are the Liberals supporting it?

Marc Emery: The Conservatives are pushing it because they have an anti-Sixties agenda, an anti-counterculture agenda and they don’t believe in skeptical thinkers or libertarian thought – they are very much about Faith, Family and Friends – that’s their three Fs of freedom. They believe that if it can be read in the bible, it’s OK. If it is consistent with a social-conservative Christian demographic then they are all for it, but if you’re a young city-dweller, a cosmopolitan person with curiosity, then you are definitely out of luck with this government.

The Liberal party is supporting the bill because of a weakness – a lack of core principles – and political expediency.

CC: How can Canadians help to fight this bill?

Marc Emery: We have to encourage the senate right away to reject it – first of all, don’t pass it before the summer recess – and then hopefully over the summer we have to lobby the Senate to either make changes to bill C-15, or reject it entirely. That’s important, because most Conservatives and Liberals in the Senate had favoured legalizing marijuana in the past. We have to remind them of what they found out when they researched this in the past: how mandatory minimums will only make worse all aspects of the drug war. There’s not a single improvement in Bill C-15 that will benefit Canadian society, and the Senate has to know that Canadians won’t stand for it.