Marc Emery: Mandatory Minimum Sentences For Marijuana Will Not Work

It won’t work

The new mandatory minimum sentences will do the opposite of what Stephen Harper says is the intention (Worries Grow Over Stiffer Drug Sentences – Nov. 13).

In the U.S., where I am incarcerated for five years for selling seeds from my desk in Vancouver, hundreds of prisoners have been sentenced to 20 years to life without parole for drugs. A man in my unit was sentenced to life without parole for 99 grams of crack cocaine. It’s costing U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars to imprison him for 40 to 60 years. Yet, others will fight over the area where he used to sell crack.

No amount of imprisonment or penalties stops the drug trade. The U.S. has more than 3,200 gangs; many countries in South and Central America and West Africa are destabilized by cartels that drug wars and prohibition create.

The new harsher mandatory minimum sentences for as few as six marijuana plants are part of legislation called the Safe Streets and Communities Act. The real answer to drug use and safe streets is transparency – acknowledging the human reality that people want drugs, that a just society makes these available in regulated, taxed and controlled circumstances without letting organized crime fulfill this inevitable human desire. Prohibition is a wretched formula for destroying societies and hurting all the citizens in them.

Marc Emery, 40252086, Yazoo Federal Prison, Yazoo City, Miss.

– Letter to the editor from the Globe and Mail.



  1. incognito on

    American Exception. Inmate Count in US Dwarfs Other Nations’. April 22, 2008. New York Times. Page 1 quote starts: Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher. … “Rises and falls in Canada’s crime rate have closely paralleled America’s for 40 years,” Mr. Tonry wrote last year. “But its imprisonment rate has remained stable.” _Quote ends_ – This is how it happened: In the USA the National Rifle Association strongly lobbied state-by-state for mandatory minimum sentences (also known as “Truth in Sentencing”), and “Two and Three Strikes” laws.

  2. gutrod on

    Justice does not apply to all Canadian citizens, period. We are presently living in a police state under the Harper government. As Marc stated, cannabis prohibition has not worked in the USA and has been a failure here as well. To imprison drug offenders will only create many more gang members who will eventually be set free to unleash their anger and criminal activities on the general public. What will it take for this so called democratic free country to uphold the wishes of the majority of Canadians who want cannabis decriminalized and legal thereby ending prohibition. Would a national referendum even make a difference to these cement heads still living in the previous century. I really look forward to Marc’s eventual release.