Just Another Casualty in the Criminal War on Drugs

It’s certainly not the worst crime committed in the name of the war on drugs.

That title probably belongs to the countless innocent people killed in botched raids. Or the police officers who died in pursuit of the impossible. Or the lives lost to easily preventable overdoses, adulterations, and blood-borne diseases. Or the funding handed on a silver platter to thugs, terrorists, and guerrillas, like those killing our soldiers in Afghanistan. Or the civil liberties eroded, the corruption fostered, the chaos spread. Or maybe it belongs to the hundreds of billions of dollars governments have squandered in a mad, futile, and destructive crusade.

Next to all that, the extradition of Marc Emery to the United States is no great travesty.

Emery is the Vancouver activist who has spent most of his life campaigning for the legalization of marijuana. To fund his efforts, he ran a little seed company similar to thousands of other little seed companies, except when Emery’s seeds were put in soil, watered, and given sunlight, they grew into cannabis plants.

Showing rare good sense, Canadian officials decided that prosecuting a man for selling the seeds of a common plant is not a public priority. In effect, they permitted Emery’s business, and others like it, to operate. Health Canada officials were even known to direct those licensed to possess medical marijuana to Emery, so patients could grow their own medicine in the kitchen window.

But such modesty and pragmatism smacks of heresy to the holy warriors of prohibition. Verily, the plant is Evil unto the last seed.

In 2005, Emery was arrested by Canadian police acting at the behest of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Innocent Americans had been lured into purchasing Emery’s wicked wares, the DEA alleged.

Emery fought extradition for five years. On Monday, justice minister Rob Nicholson ordered him handed over. Thanks to the insanely punitive sentencing laws in the Land of the Incarcerated, Emery faced as much as 20 years. He accepted a plea bargain for five.

Emery argued all along that he was a political target, that the DEA was out to get him in order to silence a prominent advocate of marijuana legalization. One might suspect Emery has delusions of grandeur, except the DEA issued a press release in which the agency’s chief is quoted saying pretty much exactly what Emery alleges: “Today’s DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement.”

Incidentally, the DEA posts all its old press releases on its website, but that release has vanished. There is, however, a different press release, which makes no mention of the legalization movement.

But let’s not get distracted by the mendacity of the DEA or the embarrassing servility of a Canadian government willing to go along with this farce. Let’s stand back and ask the only question worth asking.

What the hell is the point of all this?

Marc Emery will only be the latest of millions upon millions of people to be imprisoned for possessing or selling marijuana. The cost of this effort, in liberty and dollars, has been immense. Is it worth it?

Now, please don’t wave around this or that study showing marijuana consumption can elevate this or that risk under certain circumstances. Of course it can. Marijuana isn’t “safe.” No drug is. No substance is. Drink too much fresh water too quickly and it will kill you. Saying that marijuana isn’t safe in no way supports the policy of criminalization.

What would support criminalization is evidence showing that by putting nice, tax-paying businessmen like Marc Emery in prison, we so significantly reduce marijuana consumption and related harms that the benefits of the policy outweigh the costs. Is there such evidence? I’ve studied the issue for more than a decade and I’ve never seen anything remotely suggesting this is true. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that criminalization has little or no effect on consumption rates and, ipso facto, it does bugger all to reduce related harms.

What criminalization does do is generate a long list of unintended consequences, all of them bad. Take the Taliban. It’s well known they fund themselves, in part, by “taxing” opium growers and heroin traffickers. Less well known is that the Taliban make big money from Afghanistan’s marijuana growers and hashish traffickers — which means there’s a good chance that when a Canadian soldier loses his legs to a roadside bomb, the components of the bomb and the wages of the man who planted it were paid for by the black market in marijuana.

There wouldn’t be a black market in marijuana if it were legal and regulated, and the profits of the marijuana trade would go to nice, taxpaying businessmen like Marc Emery instead of gangsters, goons, and medieval maniacs. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? You would think politicians would at least want to study the issue.

But they won’t study it. They won’t even talk about it. Wrapped in a cosy blanket of ignorance and group-think, they’re perfectly comfortable with a policy that funds people who blow the legs off Canadian soldiers and puts guys like Marc Emery in prison.

This is no ordinary stupidity. It’s criminal stupidity. Which is, come to think of it, probably the worst of the many crimes committed in the name of the war on drugs.

– Article from The Ottawa Citizen.



  1. Sick of this bullshit. on

    Now, this is a shitty situation for anyone to be in. The U.S. Federal (and many state govts….) and Canadian govts. have their heads in the wrong places, and up their own asses entirely. But get the fuck over it.. its five years…. that is nothing compared to what others, who actually merit being called a drug war casualty, have received. At best, Marc Emery committed “suicide”. This article talks about unordinary stupidity, well Marc Emery is guilty of some unusually stupidity. He brought this on him self. At least the big walking talking ego got to gloat him self around like he was “the prince” of pot or something in front of all those cameras for all the ignorant uninformed zombies that watch the bullshit that news stations air, and the shit the spin off.
    He seems to show good intentions, but the fact that Marc Emery, and every other air headed douche are blowing these five years out of proportion is doing no good at all for what he originally intended to do.

  2. Paul Goodman on

    It’s too bad Obama didn’t get charged with a pot offense when he was younger, then he’d know the bullshit he and his administration are putting people through. Then again if he did have a pot offense against him he likely never would have made it into politics. I wonder if he ever thinks about that? Something to ponder in this crusade for cannabis policy reform. Free Marc Emery and all pot prisoners and release the weed from it’s shackles!

  3. Anonymous on

    It’s frustrating that there’s not more news on this story in the US. This really needs to become big news on cable network news and major newspapers in the US now. Few Americans are aware of this story. I really hope that Marc Emery is greeted in Seattle by a strong American support for his case.

  4. Anonymous on

    That’s why they kept requesting Canada to prosecute Emery instead of extraditing him. They know very well that if they actually prosecute him in the US they will be in violation of the Single Convention. Why else would they have asked Canada to charge him when it was THEM who were so eager to punish him. Doesn’t even make sense other than because they know full well that they can’t legally prosecute him. That’s also why they wanted him to plead guilty. That way, he doesn’t actually have to be prosecuted in court. He’s just saying “here I am, please show me to my cell”, no trial necessary.

    Here’s the revised gameplan. All Emery should ever say to anyone involved in this case is “I am a Canadian citizen. The actions for which I am charged by the US occurred in Canada and therefore, under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, I must be prosecuted in Canada or both Canda and the US will be in violation of that convention”. Then he should say “by the way, where’s my lunch, I’m hungry”. Needless to say, he won’t be pleading guilty to anything, unless he’s insane. Let’s see if he’s insane or not.

  5. Anonymous on

    Just wait until the soon to be law BILL S-10, the revamped BILL C-15 that Mr Harper has reintroduced into his Senate of unelected rubber stamped Senators bypassing our MPs in the House of Commons who may not support it now since better informed by the current national debate. The cops will becoming in everywhere with their guns drawn more often KILLING pot people because they will view marijuana crimes as more “serious” since they will have MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCES even though the political police lobby (that they no right to do unlike Mr Emery who was actually doing his right as a citizen) are the ones who have promoted BILL S-10 and importing the BRUTAL US WAR ON DRUGS.

    Its going to be real bad.

    Anyone notice, they already stated to take out all the medical marijuana clubs.

    The war has started.

  6. Anonymous on

    In section 1 Marc’s offense would be “dispatching in transit”. He dispatched from Canada. That’s where the offense occurred. Get charging, Nicholson, or face the world court, you scofflaw.

  7. Anonymous on

    Here is Article 36 of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The important part is part 2,iv). It says that a person must be prosecuted by the Party (country) in whose territory the offense was committed. He can only be prosecuted by another country if he goes there and they can’t extradite him. In other words, if Marc went to the US on his own volition and their extradition law didn’t allow him to be extradited to Canada THEN the US could prosecute him. That’s not the case. Marc is still in Canada. If they refuse to charge Marc in Canada, where the offense occurred, they will be in breach of the convention. They might say that the offense was the growing of weed in the US so Marc must be prosecuted there. I don’t see it that way. He didn’t grow the weed, he “conspired” to grow the weed, and that’s what he’s charged with. Marc’s conspiring occurred in Canada, where Marc remained the whole time. Not charging Marc Emery in Canada is therefore a violation of international law. Harper and Nicholson are outlaws and Canada is a rogue nation.

    I pasted the whole text of Article 36 here just so part 2,iv) won’t be out of context.

    Article 36

    1. a) Subject to its constitutional limitations, each Party shall adopt such measures as will
    ensure that cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession,
    offering, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery on any terms whatsoever,
    brokerage, dispatch, dispatch in transit, transport, importation and exportation of drugs
    contrary to the provisions of this Convention, and any other action which in the opinion of
    such Party may be contrary to the provisions of this Convention, shall be punishable offences
    when committed intentionally, and that serious offences shall be liable to adequate
    punishment particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty.

    b) Notwithstanding the preceding subparagraph, when abusers of drugs have committed
    such offences, the Parties may provide, either as an alternative to conviction or punishment
    or in addition to conviction or punishment, that such abusers shall undergo measures of
    treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation and social reintegration in conformity with
    paragraph 1 of article 38.

    2. Subject to the constitutional limitations of a Party, its legal system and domestic law,
    a) i) Each of the offences enumerated in paragraph 1, if committed in different
    countries, shall be considered as a distinct offence;
    ii) Intentional participation in, conspiracy to commit and attempts to commit, any
    of such offences, and preparatory acts and financial operations in connexion with
    the offences referred to in this article, shall be punishable offences as provided
    in paragraph 1;
    iii) Foreign convictions for such offences shall be taken into account for the purpose
    of establishing recidivism; and
    iv) Serious offences heretofore referred to committed either by nationals or by
    foreigners shall be prosecuted by the Party in whose territory the offence was
    committed, or by the Party in whose territory the offender is found if extradition
    is not acceptable in conformity with the law of the Party to which application is
    made, and if such offender has not already been prosecuted and judgement

  8. Rhayader on

    I’d just like to apologize to Marc Emery, and to all the people of Canada, on behalf of our corrupt and inept US government. I’m sure you realize that the DEA doesn’t speak for all — or even most — of us. Marc has done as much as anybody to push back against the moral disaster that is US marijuana policy, and untold numbers of Americans have benefited from the tireless work of Marc, Jodie, and others.

    So while I’m sure it’s little consolation given the situation our government has placed Marc in, I’d just like to extend my thanks and my support from all the way down here in North Carolina. We’ll keep doing our best to overgrow the government — Marc’s message is out, and nothing the DEA can do will change that.