Marc decided to write the complete story of his status as a political prisoner in the US federal prison system: what he does, what it’s like, his future prospects at Sea-Tac Federal Detention Center in Seattle and wherever he gets sent after sentencing, and the process of returning to Canada.
This letter was written to be copied and sent to everyone who sends him mail so he doesn’t have to write it out repeatedly, but he still writes personal messages along with every letter he sends out.
As of August 20th 2010, I will have been here 92 days. With the 70 days I spent in Canada awaiting extradition, that’s 162 days total time credited to my sentence. In the US prison system an inmate receives 15% off their sentence each year (54 days) in their sentence as a “good conduct time” credit. Of course, the rules can be severe in a US prison, and it takes effort not to be punished with loss of good time or solitary confinement. So, with 162 days in by August 20th, plus 270 days “good time” over 5 years, if I spent every single day of my 5-year sentence in the US system, my release date is mid-June 2014, or 3 years and 9.5 months away.
As a Canadian citizen (a “criminal alien”) in the US system, I cannot qualify for designation to a minimum-security “camp” that my offense would normally fit under. I am only permitted in the next level up of security, a “Low”. I also cannot get the 12-month sentence reduction American citizens in the system receive for the Residential Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Program (R-DAP), nor do I qualify for the early release to a halfway house six months prior to the end of sentence. However, once transferred to the Canadian Federal Corrections system, I qualify for accelerated parole.
My sentencing is actually September 10th in the Seattle Federal Court of Judge Martinez. The judge, the district attorney and myself, represented by the very able lawyer Richard Troberman, have agreed on a 5-year sentence in a procedure called an 11(c)1(c). It’s pretty well guaranteed, but nothing in a courtroom is really guaranteed so this is as close as it comes. There will be rallies in many cities on the day after my sentencing, September 18th, so stay tuned to www.FreeMarc.ca and www.CannabisCulture.com for details and updates.
Should everything go as expected in court on the 10th, I will be sentenced that day to a 5-year term. Depending on a Pre-Sentence Report compiled by the court, I should get designated to a “Low” Security Federal Correctional Institution (FCI or CI). This FCI could be anywhere in the United States, and I will be sent there some time in October, November, January or even February. (No prisoners are moved in December). It will be likely a roundabout journey involving a few stops on the way where I will be housed in an FDC like Sea-Tac until I reach my destination jail; it could take several weeks of buses and FDC’s just to get to where I am headed.
I would like to be designated to Terminal Island FCI in California, but Lompac FCI “Low” or Taft CI are more likely. Taft is a prison in the California desert that specializes in “Criminal aliens” – that is, non-US citizens in the system like me. There are 12 FCI “Lows” in the USA that specialize in “criminal aliens”, two in California (California City and Taft), 4 in Texas, one each in New Mexico, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio. I can ask the judge to recommend a preferred place to be, relative to my wife Jodie’s ability to visit me, but the Bureau of Prisons reserves the right to send me to any prison in their system. You can find out about the Bureau of Prisons at their website www.bop.gov.
Immediately after my sentencing on September 10th, I will make an application to the Canadian Minister of Public Safety to serve my sentence in the Canadian Correctional system. Canada and the US have a treaty whereby each country promises to repatriate their nationals that are convicted in the others’ criminal justice system. The process involves me applying to Canada first, and then, when I reach my designated prison in the US, making my US application. The decision in Canada is with the Minister of Public Safety, currently Mr. Vic Toews, and he will have my application on his desk by late September.
If you are Canadian, I need your help! Please write to:
The Honourable Vic Toews
Parliament Hill, Suite 306, Justice Building
House of Commons
Urge him to repatriate Marc Emery. Impress on him that I am a good Canadian who has made many valuable contributions to Canadian life, that I love my country, and will not be selling seeds at any time in the future. Add your own personal reasons relating to my worthiness in being brought into the Canadian corrections system. Be polite and not too long. Put your complete name and address on the letter. This letter should be sent to him as soon as possible in August, September or October. Ask your Member of Parliament to send a letter to Mr. Toews urging the Hon. Minister Toews to repatriate me.
Once I am back in the Canadian system, I will qualify for full parole by Christmas 2011, and it is possible I could celebrate Christmas with my beloved wife if you and all those you know take the time and effort to write Mr. Toews a good letter. Your support here is SO VALUABLE and IMPORTANT to my future! It’s actually the law that Canada has to repatriate its citizens from US jails under this treaty, and the only grounds for refusal are 1) being a member of organized crime, 2) being a threat to the public safety, and 3) likely to commit the offense again. One of the important points about me is that in 5 years of bail (August 2005 to May 2010), I never violated my commitment to not sell seeds in that time, and can be counted on to abide by my commitments in my parole and post-parole period IF I am repatriated to Canada.
Once I am designated to a US FCI, I can, and will, make application to the US Bureau of Prisons for transfer to Canada. The US, when they approve such applications, does so usually within 3-5 months of application. Canada takes back prisoners 3 times yearly, publishing a list issued by The Minister of Public Safety. The US Bureau of Prisons, a division of the US Justice Department, makes its decision in conjunction with the prosecuting District Attorney, and any victims (none in my case).
My American supporters are urged to send a letter to the Bureau of Prisons at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, urging my transfer to the Canadian Corrections system as soon as the possible.
Attn: Canadian Inmate Treaty Transfer section
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534
If all goes well and I am accepted by both countries for transfer, I could find myself in the Canadian system by late summer of 2011, and on full parole (under current Canadian law, which is unfortunately under threat of being changed by the Conservative government of Canada) by November or December 2011, or January 2012.
The more support I receive in letters to the Canadian and American officials, the better chance I have of repatriation, so please write a letter. It doesn’t have to be long or complex, it just needs to demonstrate that citizens want me sent home.
Not much changes here in my life, so my routine has to keep me busy and motivated!
I get up at 5:45 am each morning and go down to the computer room. That’s because the inmate email service, which costs $3.50 an hour, comes alive at 6:00 am. I am usually the first waiting! Jodie sends me an overnight email telling me how much she loves me and all the things she did in the previous day and what her plans are for this day. It’s usually a wonderful comprehensive and information packed email of politics, business, personal stories, support, and addressing my many questions and requests for money, books, information, news.
I have 30 email contacts, the maximum allowed, and I rely on them to write me an email as often as they can. Sometimes they write, “You haven’t written me recently” as an excuse for why THEY haven’t written, but in jail not much changes, each day is virtually the same, so I have, in effect, over several days, nothing new to write about EXCEPT reacting to their lives as they share them with me. In the real world, decisions are made, things happen, travel, restaurants, work, love, sex, disappointment, joy, sunny days, stormy days, money matters, family, all these things HAPPEN to people on the outside. There is little going on here but my daily routine, which I’ll shortly describe to you. I’m not going to travel, there will be no change in my diet, there will be no sex, I’m not going to see the sun or the rain, makes friends of my own choosing, etc. My life has one purpose here, to be as productive as possible in extremely restrictive circumstances so as not to fall into despair from loneliness and boredom. The only distraction I have is you, my dear correspondent. The quality of your email or letter to me has a great bearing on how my day is. The only reaction I can have is from photos, articles, letters, news, and information from the outside world. That’s my ONLY stimulation here, reacting to the input of friends and correspondents.
Well, not quite the only stimulation. I do about 3 to 4 hours of email everyday, largely to Jodie and my close friends and associates. I write editorials, do interviews (through letters and emails), and work on projects like my 2010 Canadian Voters Guide to Defeat the Conservatives and a book of my cannabis activist career, tentatively called ‘Overgrowing The World, My Cannabis Revolution’. I receive three newspapers daily when the mail arrives at around 3:30 pm: USA Today, Seattle Times and the wonderful New York Times. I have 9 magazine subscriptions: Reason, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, National Geographic, the Economist, Rolling Stone, MacLean’s, Harper’s, and Mojo. My favorite is MacLean’s because it is efficient in keeping me informed (albeit from the conservative perspective most times) about Canadian news and politics. The Economist is next most useful. Rolling Stone and The Atlantic are very readable. I really haven’t had enough time to read National Geographic, but it is very popular amongst the inmates who I lend the magazines to. I have a nice collection of books and graphic novels. In jail I have read Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN twice, PROMETHEA (best graphic novel ever done, all six volumes), Tom Gordon (Vol. 1 & 2), with Top 10 and SWAMP THING still to go. Still to read are Nelson Mandela’s Autobiography, the Philosophy of Gandhi, and The Noam Chomsky Reader. I finished the magnificent book ‘Parting the Waters’, a remarkably well-researched book on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. This is just the first volume of a three-volume set, each volume is 1,000 pages thick! It’s by Taylor Branch and is truly a wonderful, inspiring history that I read every night from 11 pm to 2 am by my battery-operated booklight. I received volume 2, ‘Pillar of Fire’, and will get volume 3 after I finish volume 2. I finished and greatly enjoyed Christopher Hitchens’ erudite and extremely literate memoirs ‘Hitch-22’. I also have his ‘god Is Not Great’ book to read. I finished the expose of the Christian fundamentalism that permeates the Conservative party of Canada and the Canadian government in ‘The Armageddon Factor’ by Marci McDonald.
I only get 300 minutes per month of phone use, so that limits me to call just Jodie 10 minutes a day over 30 days, but I use 15 minutes a day on days when Jodie doesn’t visit me, so that’s 22 days a month I call her. Jodie visits me twice each weekend while I am at SeaTac FDC, which is a very time consuming and expensive effort on her behalf. If you want to contribute any money so I can see my beloved wife, give Jodie a donation to help her afford to visit me, it costs about $600 every weekend for her to see me twice, and it’s a struggle to find that money! (Email [email protected] if you want to help!)
Only relatives or spouses can visit here at FDC Sea-Tac, so Jodie is my only permissible visitor. She visits me on the Fridays to Monday on even numbered days so, for example, she is visiting on Friday August 20th in the afternoon, and Sunday August 22nd in the early morning. She is speaking at the Seattle Hempfest that particular weekend, meeting activists and enthusiasts of the cannabis culture, and seeing me. This is the most exciting part of my life for sure! It’s a 2-hour contact visit so when we first meet I grab Jodie around the waist and swing her around and kiss her for a passionate 30 seconds. It’s electric! It’s like getting married each time! It’s so thrilling! Then after our intense embrace and kiss, we sit opposite each other and hold hands the entire time (which I love) and our faces are about 6 inches away and we talk, talk, talk and that 2 hours goes by lovingly but quick. But it sure is heaven for me. Jodie always wears a beautiful dress and I think she looks so magnificent. When she leaves I can kiss her for 30 seconds, and oh I do! It’s a little bittersweet when she leaves but I know I will see her in two days or no longer than a week later. She stays just down the road at a nearby hotel until she takes the airplane back to Vancouver after the second visit of the weekend. I cherish every visit! When I am moved to an FCI elsewhere in America, it will cost much more money and take up even more travel time so Jodie will only be able to visit me every second week, but it will be two or three days in a row on the weekends she does visit.
The computer in the email room has no cut & paste, or any function other than straight typing of a Corrlinks email. I can’t forward emails. I can’t access the internet. But it’s still a wonderful thing. I suspect the $3.50 an hour the BOP charges me for it barely covers the cost of their staff screening my emails. All letters in and out, all emails and all phone calls (except to my lawyer) are screened by BOP staff. They haven’t censored anything, but I was put in solitary confinement for 21 days on June 4 for allegedly breaking a rule on the phone, which I was not aware of (making a podcast) and did not even find in the rulebook here, nor was 21 days in the grueling deprivation of solitary a justified punishment, in my opinion. Nonetheless, rules here can have severe consequences if broken. I did not lose any of my good time though, and since being released from SHU (Special Housing Unit) solitary confinement on June 25, I have not had even a write up, so I do try to obey all rules when I am aware of them.
Phone calls to Jodie cost 35 cents a minute. The postage stamps they sell me for letters are the ‘Liberty Bell’ universal 44-cent stamp (two for Canada) and I can only buy 20 a week. It is unsurpassable irony that a political prisoner as I am has to purchase ‘Liberty Bell’ postage stamps to send my letters from jail. Oh these United States of America! It’s like the license plates of New Hampshire that say ‘Live Free or Die’ on them, while they are made by prisoners at the state jail in Concord, New Hampshire!
I do email from 6 am to 6:40 am, I still manage to get my two breakfast milks and down them just before morning lockdown, from 6:40 am to 8:00 am when we are locked in our cells. I, like virtually every other inmate, go back to sleep. Lately I’ve been sleeping to 10 am, waking up too late for the showers, which are available 3 times daily (8-10 am, 1:30-3:30 pm, 7:30-9:30 pm). I go check email from 10 am to 10:45, at which time we have lunch. Today lunch was canned vegetables, beans and two cheese sandwiches plus a small salad of onion, tomato and lettuce. After lunch I read the newspapers I received from the day before, and any magazines I’ve received that I haven’t finished. Then we get locked down from 12:15 to 1:15 pm, and I start writing my replies to mail. Any correspondents will get this letter plus a handwritten reply to their specific questions and comments. This permits me to not have to write the same basic information I have done in the previous 200 letters I have written from Sea-Tac FDC so far since I arrived here on May 20.
I usually point out that I consider myself a political prisoner, because the chief of DEA specifically stated this in her letter to the media and public on the day of my arrest in July 29, 2005, when DEA and RCMP had me arrested just prior to a speech I was giving at the Maritimers United for Medical Marijuana festival in Laurencetown, Nova Scotia. The head of DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration) proudly proclaimed:
“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 Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.” (See the original document here)
Her entire statement talks about my politics, money to legalization groups, my “propagandist” magazine. At no point are any victims identified, nor have there ever been any victims or identification of victims. No other person brought before a US court has been tried exclusively for seeds.
No other Canadian seed seller (and there have been over 150 in Canada over the last 10 years) has been sought for extradition. Only one Canadian seed seller has even gone to jail in Canada, for one month, and that was for a huge quantity, three pounds of seeds, along with corresponding sales ads in High Times Magazine and marijuana samples of each strain seized – that was Daniel Anthony Kostantin in March 2008, as reported in the Vancouver Sun. Even the owner of Heaven’s Stairway, accused in Montreal of exporting seeds to the US, and convicted in March 2010 received 2 years house arrest, no prison time at all! So this 5 year sentence I have received in the US, aided and abetted by my extradition by the Canadian Justice Minister, is punishment solely based on my massive $4,000,000 in contributions to the cannabis liberation movement from 1995 to 2005, and my endless speeches in documentaries, television specials, Canada-wide tours (2003 – Summer of Legalization Tour, 2004 – Canadian University Tour) and articles, editorials and my brazen seed catalog in my “propagandist” magazine Cannabis Culture. I was put on the radar as far back as the front page article on me Dec. 5, 1995 in the Wall Street Journal, “Pot Seed Merchant, winked at By Police, Prospers in Canada”. Then when CNN did a special on me in September 1997, on “Impact, with Bernard Shaw” in a long, in-depth segment titled “Canada Cannabis”, it came to the attention of US and Canadian officials, and I was raided shortly afterward (but still remained in business). Articles lauding my work (I have only ever received negative coverage in the National Enquirer of December 1996) have appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine (April 1998), New York Times (September 2005), Washington Post (summer 2006), CBS 60 Minutes (2006), The Economist (August 2000), Time Magazine (2000), MTV (2003), National Geographic (2009 – Explorer, “Inside Marijuana”), Australian Broadcast Corporation’s 60 Minutes (2007), in documentaries “Escape to Canada”, “The Union” “Prince of Pot” “Principle of Pot” and numerous others available on Youtube and found by Google. I have been interviewed by the Times of India, and media in Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Czech Republik, the Netherlands, Mexico and numerous other countries.
In the afternoon I write letters, check my email mid-day and then receive my mail – newspapers, magazines, books and letters – around 3 pm. We are locked down from 3:40 pm to 4:30 pm. It’s dinner time when we get out at 4:30 to 4:45 pm. In lockdown, I usually continue to write letters, leaving newspapers, magazines to read in the evening lockdown from 9:40 (lockdown) to about 11 pm, when lights go out and then I read my current book with booklight from 11 am to 2 am. I call Jodie once a day (when not a visitation day) between 7:30 pm and 9:15 pm, for 15 minutes. Use of phones and email stop at 9:40 pm lockdown.
My cell is shared with another ‘cellie’, the name we use for the other inmate who shares the 12′ x 7′ cell that has a washbasin and toilet, two lockers, a double bunk, and a desk & chair. It’s all made of steel, though we have two plastic chairs in the cell for fellow inmate visitors or just a more comfortable seat instead of the bunk bed. There are 63 cells, the maximum capacity in this unit, DB, is 125 men, but the usual is 85-105 men. The unit is shaped like a triangle, measuring 80′ x 70′ x 60′, with two stories. The upper story is used like an exercise track by most inmates, 21 laps equals one mile. The lower level has 4 raised televisions, one for Spanish language programming for the 45 or so Mexicans/Hispanic Americans, the other 3 are news, entertainment and various shows in English or with English subtitles. You hear the television over portable Sony radios you can buy from commissary for $45, and you buy Koss headphones for $34 to listen to either the radio or TV, so it’s not audible for anyone to hear on the range without headphones. Also on the range are 20 tables with 4 seats attached to each, the C.O.’s quarters (the C.O. is the on-duty Correctional Officer/guard) is a 9′ x 9′ structure where he or she works and monitors the range.
We don’t ever get to go outside, there is no ‘yard’ here at an FDC (pre-trial detention center) – ‘yards’ are only at the designated jail or prison you get sent to after sentencing. There is a gymnasium for playing basketball or volleyball, it’s a concrete floor and in my opinion leads to injury, but the air in the gym is through a grating to the outside, so it’s fresh air. There are no weights here, but the inmates do a lot of improvised exercises throughout the range and in the gym. I sure do miss going outside and feeling the warming, satisfying rays of the sun.
I am the only inmate in the unit on a no-flesh diet, a poor mans ‘vegetarian’ diet that usually lacks any fresh vegetables, except recently, for the first time in 75 days, I had a fresh vegetable feast for my dinner, 5 green pepper slices, 5 tomato wedges, 4 broccoli pieces, 2 cauliflower pieces, 3 cherry tomatoes, medium cheddar cheese (real thing!) and 3 hard boiled eggs. It was spectacular. It has never been that good. I felt really healthy that day, but such a fresh vegetable tray like that is extremely rare! Normally, the meals are considerably underwhelming in taste and nutrition, the diet is repetitious and discouraging. But I eat any apples, bananas, and oranges and grapefruits we get, that’s for sure. In fact, I eat whatever I get!
Once a week we put all our clothes worn in the previous week in laundry bags with our name on it and put them in a laundry bin and later that day they come back washed. We have to iron the t-shirts, trousers, and smocks after we get our laundry back, otherwise they look very wrinkled. Our clothing issuance is 7 pair of socks, 7 pair of underwear, 3 trousers, 3 smocks, 6 t-shirts. We also have our bed linen washed each week, but they get returned pressed.
I have three photo albums full of photos, one album is sexy and beautiful pictures of Jodie, which I look at every day, another is an album of Jodie and sometimes Jodie & I, doing political activity, and a third album are photos from supporters wearing their FREE MARC shirts or holding up FREE MARC signs throughout the world. I have more photos of Jodie and supporters so I am getting two more photo albums next week from commissary.
One of the most satisfying things to get in the mail are photos of my correspondents doing FREE MARC activism in their hometown. Most every letter I get says “I support you”, but to me, a photo is proof that their support is real and has become action. Action is the only real support there is. Letter writing, holding a FREE MARC sign at a major intersection, concert, rally or sports event, wearing a FREE MARC t-shirt, composing a FREE MARC song – this is genuine support, and any picture or photo is very satisfying proof.
The Commissary is the inmate store. We put in orders on Monday, and on Tuesday we get the items back. We can spend $320 a month at the commissary, and I usually reach my maximum. Monthly costs are $320 for commissary, $350 for email, $105 for phone calls, $100 for newspaper subscriptions, total $875, which is a burden on Jodie unless I get donations from supporters, which fortunately I do. The Government of Canada garnisheed most of my money, and of any money I could earn, 80% is seized by the Government to pay back taxes, interest and penalties. Currently I have no employment source of income as a result of my incarceration, so I do rely greatly on the kindness of strangers, to quote the play ‘Streetcar Named Desire’.
From the commissary I get razor blades, shave cream, soap, floss picks, tuna packs, tortillas, pens, stationery, postage stamps, oatmeal, the radio/headphones, calcium tablets, vitamin E, aspirin, shampoo, photo albums, etc. I spend about $70 a week on those kinds of items. Some supporters want to donate to my prison commissary to make my time here more comfortable, so if you’d like to contribute, you can deposit funds directly into my account by using Western Union (the “Quick Collect Form”) and filling in the following information:
Recipient: Marc Scott Emery #40252086 US BOP (SeaTac FDC, Seattle Washington) City code: FBOP
You can also send money to Jodie for her to deposit into my account if you’re not able to get to Western Union, or you can even donate to her for travel fees, as I love nothing more than seeing her and it’s really helpful to have assistance with the cost of flying and staying in hotels to visit me. Email [email protected] or send mail to Jodie Emery, 307 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1H6, Canada.
If an inmate has a medical issue, it takes time to get attention here so you have to stay in good health on your own. When I had an abscessed toe (from picking with my fingers and not using nail clippers that I have from commissary; lesson learned), I put in a cop-out (that’s what requests to staff are called) and requested oil of oregano to put in the abscessed area, which I know from my doctor in Vancouver and personal experience is very effective. You soak the toe in really hot water for 30 minutes 4 times a day for two days and by the second days it softens the area up, then you break open the area easily and drain the pus, put it back in the hot salted water, and then put oil of oregano in the open wound. Jodie was worried so she told me to just start soaking my foot in hot salted water even without the oil of oregano, so a day after I put the cop-out in I started soaking it in hot water, broke the area open the next day, drained the pus, immersed it in really hot salted water, kept it clean and dry and it was completely healed within 24 hours. Nine days after putting in my request, I was finally called to the doctor’s office to hear they only have antibiotics for that kind of thing and don’t have oil of oregano – which, fortunately, I was not in need of any longer. Medical attention improves somewhat once you are sent to the designated jail after sentencing, so I hear.
One final request! Nothing makes me feel better than knowing you might be helping me in my cause! Campaigning against Bill S-10 (mandatory minimum prison time for cannabis) in Canada, working to pass Proposition 19 in California, getting out to vote in both countries, supporting ballot initiatives for medical marijuana, all these things delight me when you write me about your ACTION! When you wear your FREE MARC shirts (available at www.cannabisculture.com/store), write the Minister of Public Safety or the Bureau of Prisons at the US Justice Dept, or hold a sign up or a rally on my behalf, then that is the best news I will receive all day.
To write to me by mail send your letters, photos and clippings to:
Marc Scott Emery, #40252086, Unit DB
I will answer your specific questions and comments by hand along with this printed letter, so thank you for writing me and I look forward to hearing about what you’ve done for freedom lately, and the cause of cannabis liberation!
Marc Scott Emery