Marc Emery’s Tax Dollars at Work

Jodie Emery speaks at the Vancouver Art Gallery shortly before her husband, Marc, was extradited. (Photo by Miranda Nelson)Jodie Emery speaks at the Vancouver Art Gallery shortly before her husband, Marc, was extradited. (Photo by Miranda Nelson)Marijuana activists Jodie and Marc Emery have always kept interesting company. But people might be surprised to learn that Marc, who was recently extradited to the U.S., has spent quite a bit of time with officials from the Canada Revenue Agency.

“They would have meetings with him,” Jodie Emery told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Officials from Revenue Canada would sit down and say, ‘Hey Mr. Emery, how is it going? Good, good. How are sales? Oh, slow time of year? That’s too bad. Well, hopefully you can sell some more.’ ”

Read this article at THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT!

While the meetings were apparently congenial, the CRA wasn’t wasting its time. According to Emery, between 1999 and 2005, her husband paid over $580,000 in provincial and federal income tax on the sale of marijuana seeds alone. And the CRA is currently after an additional $300,000, Emery said.

She questioned whether or not this made the CRA culpable for profiting from a criminal act, which is illegal under Section 462.31 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Bradley Alvarez, a spokesperson for the CRA, told the Straight that privacy legislation prevents him from talking about specific cases.

“What I can tell you is the fact that the Income Tax Act does not distinguish between income…being legal or illegal,” he said in a telephone interview from his office in Vancouver. “All it says is that any income that you make is reportable and subject to income tax.”

Alvarez explained that the CRA has a division called the special enforcement program, which assesses income derived from illegal activity.

Numbers supplied by Alvarez show that, during the 2009–10 fiscal year, the program conducted a total of 921 audits that resulted in federal tax assessments totalling $73.4 million.

According to Caitlin Workman, a CRA spokesperson based in Ottawa, a body of federal and provincial case law has established that collecting taxes on illegal income does not constitute a breach of the Criminal Code.

In 1983, then–B.C. Supreme Court judge Beverley McLachlin ruled that the proceeds of a crime constitute income as defined by the Income Tax Act.

In her decision, she quoted a 1927 court decision that stated: “There is no doubt that the word income in the Income Tax Act is sufficiently wide to include money other than that received from bona fide transactions. The fact that profits are derived from an illegal business does not make them immune to taxation.”

Furthermore, McLachlin dismissed the argument that by taxing illegal income, the CRA is profiting from a crime.

“The Tax Department would be in violation of section 312 only if it had in its possession property which it knows or wilfully blindly ignores is obtained by unlawful means,” McLachlin wrote. “The monies used to satisfy the tax debt may come from lawful means, even though they are calculated on unlawful activities…”

Neil Brooks, an expert in tax law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, argued that it would be downright odd if the Canadian government did not try to tax illegal income.

“It would seem to me to be quite strange that we would treat—for tax purposes—people that were making their income illegally more favourably than we treated people who were making their income legally,” he said in a telephone interview. “Income tax is supposed to be levied on the basis of people’s ability to pay.”

Brooks noted that privacy protections built into the Income Tax Act make the release of information on specific cases a rare occurrence. But he said that some people who make their income illegally do report that money to the CRA.

“They worry more about being charged with tax evasion than they might worry about being charged with their illegal activity,” Brooks explained. “Al Capone is the paradigm case—the Americans sent him to jail on tax evasion.”

In an interview conducted on May 25, five days after Marc Emery was extradited to the U.S., Jodie Emery described the federal government’s actions as “ironic and somewhat unjust”.

“Let’s ask the federal government and Revenue Canada if they can explain how it is fair that Marc Emery gets extradited and sentenced to five years when they accepted the proceeds of crime,” she challenged.

What are your thoughts about the federal government extraditing Marc Emery after taxing his marijuana profits?

Libby Davies
NDP MP for Vancouver East

“The whole thing is absurd; he hasn’t done anybody any harm. There was a huge movement to try and prevent his extradition. I presented thousands of petitions in the House of Commons, and the fact that he has been extradited to the U.S. and will now serve a prison sentence that he had to plea-bargain down is outrageous. It’s something that he was never charged with in Canada, and if he had been, he would have just gotten a small fine. There are many levels to this, one of which is a slap in the face to Canadian sovereignty.”


Ujjal Dosanjh
Liberal MP for Vancouver South and former premier of British Columbia

“A lot of laughter, if you can represent that in writing. I just think that while this is tragic for Marc and his family, it is silly for the government to charge taxes, obviously implying that the activity is legal. And then letting him be prosecuted—but in other words, persecuted—letting him be persecuted by the United States of America. I’ve always believed that this is the wrong thing to do. And I continue to believe that.”


Elizabeth Junkin
Vancouver tax lawyer

“The issues are entirely separate. The taxation system is neutral, whereas the extradition has to do with a perceived criminal activity and is an entirely separate branch of the government. Taxation is based on your source of income, and the Crown doesn’t owe somebody a duty—as a result of collecting taxes on their income—to stop an extradition. There is not a public-policy override on the fact that it is not a legal business or that it’s not a socially acceptable business. As long as it’s a business or at least a source of income, the government can tax you on it.”


Ann Livingston
Executive director, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users

“I didn’t even think of that. I guess he more than paid for his extradition.…They need to make up their mind. That’s like speaking out of both sides of your mouth. I just never realized that of course he pays taxes.…At one point, someone said that the fact that Marc Emery has participated so wholeheartedly in promoting the discussion around the legalization of marijuana is the only reason they are targeting him. And I guess this really shows that that is true.”

– Article from The Georgia Straight.



  1. Retardoman on

    Wow! You really know alot about Marc, man, but I cant’ help wondering, after you tell us how you see it as pretty obvious that he was a nerd and then how you knew that there was a 99% chance he was shunned and teased and then how you knew that he then decided to be a cool guy then you knew how he realized that he had to use his verbal skills to con the wise men of Vancouver then oh man I love this part-you were right there as he kept going, kept escalating, kept being brasher and more arrogant, why oh why, in the end you leave us guessing as to whether or not it was worth it to Marc. Why do we have to ask him? Come on now man surely someone with your obvious insight can let us know if Marc feels he accomplished anything he set out to do or if he would do it all again bedamned of the consequences or even if the cause is a noble one or are you my fine anonymous friend just a dirty hairy troll as we all suspect?

  2. Anonymous on

    Here’s what I think Marc Emery’s story comes down to. Judging from early videos of Emery, it’s pretty obvious that he was the classic “nerd”. 99% chance he was shunned and teased by the others. Then one day he decided that to become one of the cool guys he was going to have to start smoking Cannabis. Then he realized that by using his verbal skills he could say a bunch of pro-Cannabis stuff and all the cool Vancouverites would accept and encourage him. Now he was no longer nerdy used book store guy, he was “the Prince of Pot”, hero of the Cannabis subculture because he could speak well and they couldn’t.

    Emery then had to keep escalating his pro-Cannabis activities, to keep the attention and adoration of the Cannabis users. Starting the seed company answered all his needs. Now he was the money man of the Cannabis subculture. What will get you more attention and at least fake temporary love than that? The possibility of imprisonment was little deterrent compared to the benefits of being Cannabis money guy, so he kept going, kept escalating, kept being brasher and more arrogant. As is generally the case with all such scenarios, the bubble eventually burst and it was time to pay the piper. Was it worth it? You’d have to ask Marc. I guess it depends on what your priorities in life are, getting stoner chics or freedom.

  3. Anonymous on

    “Canadian court rulings on taxes have no jurisdiction in the US.”

    Funny you would say this, because some in the US seem to think that they have jurisdiction over criminal activities here in Canada. And Canadian laws WERE broken, the penalties just aren’t as draconian as in the US.

  4. Jodie on

    That information wasn’t removed, it’s still available on the page where we ask people to send Marc money.

    The $300,000 is 5 years of interest stacked up on top of a smaller amount he owed when the raid happened. He paid diligently and handsomely for many years, with a small amount owing which has since ballooned into a ridiculous amount.

    Here’s the info again, which is still available on our website at

    Marc does not make any income from the store or anywhere. I get paid so I am supporting him. Supporters of Marc WANT to help him, so if you don’t care, then go away.

    Some people think Marc and I are filthy rich, but that is SO FAR from the truth. We own nothing or any value except for my modest wedding ring that Marc’s father’s small inheritance paid for.

    Marc had $11 in his bank account the day of the raid in 2005 because he knew that if he ever got busted, the cops would take everything he owned or kept. The whole POINT of making money through seed sales was to give it away. Most people are instinctively greedy (that’s natural, not an insult) so they can’t comprehend why Marc didn’t keep anything. He’s a brilliant and selfless guy, that’s why.

    Marc has more debt than most people. He owed Revenue Canada a couple thousand dollars when he got busted by the DEA on July 29th, 2005. Up until that point, Marc was making regular large tax payments because he had regular income that could afford the big payments owed. But after the bust, that income tax bill could not be paid because we had nothing at all.

    Since 2005, the interest rate on that owed income tax is HUGE. Marc owes Revenue Canada over $300,000. We cannot afford to pay that off, it’s absolutely impossible. And if Marc makes any income, the government takes 150% of it — so we have to pay the government twice as much as anything we pay Marc! That’s why Marc has no money at all except for what I can afford to send him from my paycheque, and what supporters send to him or donate in the store.

    We paid our lawyers ourselves, through our company. Thankfully our lawyers have been very generous because they know how unjust Marc’s case is compared to all the “bad dudes” they normally work for. They know Marc has no money. Yes, my store does well business-wise, but like all businesses, the vast majority of income goes to paying employees, rent, electric bills, payroll and PST taxes, buying stock, and making improvements to the building — not to mention all of the activism and campaigns we fund too, and that’s where all the “profit” goes.

    So Marc does need money. If you don’t want to send him anything, then don’t. But there are many people who do, so this information is for them to utilize.

  5. urnrg on

    This tax lawyer is correct but the point is that from the US perspective the Government of Canada profited from the proceeds of a US crime even though no Canadian laws were broken. Canadian court rulings on taxes have no jurisdiction in the US.

  6. Mary on

    This is a lie. Emery owes over $300,000 to Revenue Canada in taxes he never paid after his arrest in Canada in 2005. It was posted in the Cannabis Culture forums but was taken down quickly.

  7. Tony Aroma on

    Yes, the DEA should charge the Canadian government, or the responsible officials, with money laundering, as they knowingly participated in the same activities that Mr. Emery did. Emery was charged with money laundering, wasn’t he? That makes the Canadian government his accomplice. In fact, I bet a good prosecutor could make a case for a conspiracy involving a large number of Canadians.

    I would be willing to bet if the Canadian government was as pro-marijuana as Mr. Emery, such a thing might conceivably happen. But since this case was not about drugs per se, but about Mr. Emery’s political activities, nobody really cares about what actually happened or who was involved. Remember, Mr. Emery’s case is not about laws being broken, but about silencing a critic of the government.

  8. Anonymous on

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Doesn’t this make the current government guilty of some sort of proceeds of crime law? If they knowingly accepting the proceeds of a crime (and by cooperating with the DEA, they admit as much) doesn’t that make them guilty of something?

  9. alex on

    I’m sure the meaning of the word, marijuana, is different for many people. Ever see that South Park episode when the word, fag, is used to describe Harley riding douche bags? The meaning of the word is in its context, which can be used in a racist fashion.

  10. Anonymous on

    truth is your evil and pot should be legal. period.

  11. ray christl [email protected] on

    Marc is a master of what I think “cheeky”means with a British sense of humoUr. Learned as ex-pat living in Asia about this interesting word.The intrigue that was set in motion has created good vibrations globally.I’ll be lecturing on FREE MARC at Meta Art House in Phnom Penh on July,4th.Teach people they should not say MARIJUANA. This M-word is VILE and RACIST and must be put in a locked box .The non-smokers can hear that message and learn.You have a ton of work to turn people ON to TRUTH and not blow smoke.Listen to TOM JAMES at Hemp and prevent illness with hemp achene nutrition.

  12. Anonymous on

    So if you want to launder some drug money you just overpay your drug income tax and then wait for the nice fat refund. Bingo, your dirty money is now nice clean government issued money. Basically, you just send in your total income and they send back all but the taxes. Now you go to the bank and cash the government check. Everything that took place between you and Tax Canada is confidential. All anybody ever sees is the huge government checks coming into your account. You tell everybody you’re a “consultant” for Tax Canada, a really well paid one.