Silencing a Political Prisoner: Marc Emery Released From Solitary After Three Weeks

CANNABIS CULTURE – Imprisoned cannabis activist Marc Emery has been released from solitary confinement after spending three weeks in a small cell, 24-hours-a-day, with little human contact.

He has lost over 15 pounds since being moved from his regular cell on June 3 after unknowingly breaking a prison rule by recording a telephone message to his supporters.

Emery’s supporters view the punishment as an excuse to silence a successful political activist who has been a thorn in the side of government officials and drug policy makers for years.

On Thursday, June 3, officials at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in Washington gave Emery an official citation for allowing his wife, BC Green Party Director-at-Large Jodie Emery, to record a message from him over the phone, claiming it broke the prison’s rule forbidding third-party calls. Emery was locked in a Segregated Housing Unit (SHU) and denied access to books, television, the telephone, or contact with his wife and family.

On June 24, an internal “disciplinary hearing” was held for Emery. The Disciplinary Hearing Officer said he realized that Emery didn’t know he was breaking a rule (as it wasn’t explicitly stated in the rule book), but told him he can’t do third-party political lobbying over the phone. Emery has been denied phone access until July 25, but is allowed access to electronic mail and to have visits.

“I’m just so relieved not to be in the torturous SHU unit,” Emery wrote in his latest blog post at Cannabis Culture. “That’s plain mind-bending, being in isolation.”

Emery’s attorney Rick Troberman says he thought the prison’s reaction was “completely overblown” and “unusual”. “There was nothing in the conversation that was derogatory about the Federal Detention Center or his current situation or anything else,” he told CC. “Why they’re choosing to make such a big deal of it is, frankly, a mystery to me.”

Troberman said prison officials seemed upset that several Emery supporters had staged a small protest “inside the lobby” of the Federal Detention Center and probably wanted to send a message to the activist.

Emery is currently awaiting sentencing after being extradited to the US by the Conservative government of Canada. Emery was raided and arrested by the US DEA and Vancouver police in 2005 for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet and using the money to fund activism.

Many see Emery’s move to solitary and other punishment as way to shut him up, intimidate his supporters, and silence criticism of the government and its policies.

On the day of Emery’s arrest, the US Drug Enforcement Administration admitted their investigation was politically motivated, and that the activist’s arrest and extradition was designed to target the marijuana legalization community that Emery spearheaded for over a decade.

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy’s statement released on July 29, 2005:

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.

His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today.

Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General’s most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets — one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canda. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.

Since Emery was extradited, Canadian cannabis activists have staged over twenty Conservative Party Office Occupations, some resulting in arrests and police brutality. Protestors have shown up at the offices of several high-profile Conservative lawmakers including Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appears to be rattled by the protests, sending RCMP officers to homes of cannabis activists and hiring personal body guards.

Rather than face several charges with mandatory minimums attached, Emery agreed to a 5-year plea deal on one charge. This deal contributed to his two co-accused receiving probation in Canada instead of jail in the US. After sentencing, Emery will apply for transfer to Canada for the remainder of his sentence. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will decide if Emery will be allowed to come home.

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