Pot Crusader Has High Hopes

Marc Emery speaks to a crowd in Lethbridge, Alberta on his Farewell Tour (Photo by Tamara Cartwright)Marc Emery speaks to a crowd in Lethbridge, Alberta on his Farewell Tour (Photo by Tamara Cartwright)Marc Emery, the self-titled Prince of Pot, is no stranger to a jail cell but this time he’s heading south of the border and fully expects he’ll get a five-year sentence when he pleads guilty to a count of distributing marijuana for selling cannabis seeds.

Emery, who also publishes Cannabis Culture Magazine, stopped in Lethbridge Tuesday as part of his farewell tour before he pleads guilty to the charge in a Seattle courtroom in September or October. He was scheduled to give an evening presentation at the University of Lethbridge Student Union Building, an event sponsored by the Southern Alberta Cannabis Club and B.O.B. Headquarters. He’s travelling across the country and calling on supporters to ready themselves to lobby politicians.

“The thing I am asking my supporters to do once I am sentenced and put in a U.S. jail is to get me transferred back to Canada,” Emery said.

In return for his guilty plea, other charges for conspiracy to money launder and conspiracy to manufacture will be dropped. Two of his employees have also pleaded guilty to distributing marijuana and are awaiting sentencing, likely two years of probation. That allows him to avoid facing longer prison terms and hefty financial penalties.

Emery gave up his fight against extradition on the advice of his lawyers. Even so, he said he finds it ironic that the biggest beneficiaries of his seed business were the Canadian and British Columbian governments. He maintains he conducted his business out in the open and paid taxes on the money he made. But he admits to being belligerent and unrepentant, too, and that likely hasn’t won him any favours with the U.S. criminal justice system.

His ultimate goal has always been to legalize marijuana because he believes it’s the right thing to do. He became a crusader for marijuana users after reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged some 30 years ago.

“Ever since, I’ve been on this one-man tear to bring justice to the people I thought were most oppressed and unable to defend themselves,” Emery said. “Nobody was defending the marijuana people when I started in 1990. There were a quarter of a million people in jail then as there are now for marijuana. So there’s no group of people on Earth that have been scapegoated in as large numbers and with that kind of punishment as the cannabis people.”

More people are being arrested for growing, selling or possessing marijuana every year and that creates its own set of problems, he said. Prisoners violate each other and gangs wage turf wars on the street because of the lucrative profits involved.

“All the things that do kill you are legal — tobacco, alcohol, guns, fast cars and fatty foods, even Walkerton, Ontario had eight people die from the government-approved water, Maple Leaf Foods (through listeriosis-contaminated products) killed people, basically everything out there will kill you but marijuana will not. And yet it’s held in the highest degree of revulsion by the government. To me it’s very, very curious.”

While some gains have been made, including medical marijuana and industrial hemp production, progress has still been slow. He cites statistics that show more than half of people support legalizing marijuana but only about a quarter support legalizing the sale of marijuana.

“So there’s a disconnect. People believe they should have it without punishment but they don’t provide a way for anyone to get it without punishment,” he said. “We’re scapegoated because the government has always wanted to control free thinkers and they’ll use violence and suppression of any kind. Citizens insisting on their freedom are a terrible inconvenience to government.”

– Article from Lethbridge Herald.