Broken Borders

Marc Emery, Canada’s self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot,” is set to be sentenced in a United States Federal Court on September 10. Emery was extradited to the U.S. on May 20, 2010, to serve a five-year prison term for the sale of marijuana seeds over the Internet. Canadian police worked with the U.S.’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to have Emery extradited and charged under America’s vastly more severe drug laws rather than having him serve his prison term in his home country. Emery’s extradition to a foreign country to serve a sentence for activities that took place on domestic soil raises questions not only about prohibition and drug policy issues, but also about Canada’s ability to act as a sovereign nation and protect its own citizens.

Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds openly sold seeds through online mail order from 1994 to 2005. Emery practiced a great deal of transparency in his business, accurately declaring the source of his income and paying all provincial and federal taxes. Though Emery’s store was raided for selling seeds on multiple occasions, Canadian courts repeatedly sentenced him only to fines and no prison time. In Canada, seed sellers face a $200 fine and one month in jail. U.S. penalties are much harsher, and if Emery is not sentenced to the five-year prison term agreed upon in his plea bargain, he faces 30 years to life in the American prison system.

Though the distribution of seeds is illegal in Canada, no case has been prosecuted for decades and Canadian businesses similar to Emery’s are allowed to operate with little state interference. What makes Emery’s case unique is the fact that the profits from his business were routinely used to fund anti-drug war and anti-prohibition activism worldwide and within the U.S. The DEA press release issued upon Emery’s arrest confirmed that the motivation for his arrest and extradition was mainly political and intended to deal a “significant blow” to “drug legalization lobbyists.” Emery’s admittedly illegal business had no American branches, no American employees, and he never set foot in the U.S. Despite this and despite being a Canadian citizen, he is being extradited to a foreign country to serve a prison term far harsher than any he would have received in a Canadian court.

Whether or not one agrees with Emery’s practices, activism, and drug law reform efforts, it remains clear that his extradition represents our country’s failure to protect its citizens and administer its laws within its own borders. Bending under American pressure to make an example of Emery in the political context of a costly, ineffective, and increasingly unpopular war on drugs, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s extradition order is representative of Canada’s inability to stand independently of U.S. policy and pressure. If Emery is to serve time for his seed sales, he should do so on Canadian soil and under Canadian law, not as a “criminal alien” who has limited rights within the U.S. prison system.

Emery’s extradition is unnerving because it demonstrates our government’s willingness to hand over its citizens to a foreign country when their actions and beliefs are not in agreement with that country’s policies. Clearly, the safety of citizens is not as important to the Canadian government as compliance with American ideology and policy. This is a case in which the alleged legality or illegality of Emery’s actions is far less relevant than the Canadian government’s response to them. Our justice system should not be outsourced on demand.If Emery has committed illegal actions in Canada, he should be prosecuted under Canadian law. Ultimately, Emery’s extradition is a gross injustice done to a Canadian citizen who has never harmed anyone, and a clear violation of the rights and protections promised to citizens by our government. At this point in time, only Emery’s repatriation can serve as a sign of respect for Canadian sovereignty and the right to choose how laws are enforced within our own borders.

– Article from The Varsity.