Marc Emery, Canada's flamboyant pot legalization advocate, has reportedly negotiated a plea bargain agreement with Canadian and American authorities that could see him spending five years in prison for selling pot seeds over the Internet to the United States.
His pot empire, based on Hastings Street in Vancouver, includes the Cannabis Culture store and magazine, the internationally known Vapour Lounge, and Pot TV, a televised Internet program that he runs from the basement of his shop. Am Johal recently met up with Emery in Vancouver.
Am Johal: What is the background to the charges that were brought against you?
Marc Emery: From 1994 to 2005, I sold cannabis seeds to anybody in the world to grow in their home. We didn't worry about borders because, ultimately, it was a fundraiser. We would give our funding around North America to support marijuana legalization activities. Ultimately, the funding went around the world to places like the Israeli Marijuana Party, the Green Party in London, global marijuana movements, support for drug addiction clinics. I spent $4 million in ten years advocating peaceful democratic change. I paid taxes on the money. That's why I'm not being pursued in Canada. We ran a campaign to 'overgrow the government' to subvert the drug war. We were trying to create a kind of desirable chaos.
In July 2005, after not being charged for six or seven years, the BC Supreme Court was fining me $200, and they stopped charging people for seeds after that because it wasn't worth it for them. There are many stores on my street that are still selling seeds.
The DEA came to investigate me. It was very political. I'm the only person that's been put out of business.
Was the DEA trying to make an example out of you?
The DEA's press release on the day that I was arrested said how contemptuous they were of me and called my magazine a propagandist magazine. They point to the legalization groups as well. These things are very much part of the record. It is a political activity, giving money to charities. There is nobody in the world, literally around the world, doing more to support legalization activities than me. Our movement is known around the world. To me, my arrest, it's very clearly a targeted ideological campaign against marijuana legalization.
This seems to be a very rare, specific situation, where they have targeted you in a very hard-line manner which is out of step with the Canadian approach to drugs.
This is a non-violent crime they are accusing me of committing that has no victim. This is ideologically driven. The idea that they would seek to extradite me on this for a non-violent offense when there's no one claiming harm, this is unheard of. I've run for political office ten times in Canada. It's very unusual.
It's clearly the DEA's insistence on following this up that has driven Canadian authorities to attack me in this unprecedented way.
The issue of national sovereignty, which may or may not have been an issue here, seems to be what Canadians are interested in whether they support marijuana legalization or not. Can you speak to this idea of Canadian compliance with U.S. authorities related to this?
Sovereignty is much more important in this situation. Larry Campbell, the former Mayor of Vancouver, was the keynote speaker at my Beyond Prohibition Conference in 2004. Nobody ever considered me a drug dealer. I have a wide body of acolytes and followers. It wasn't about drugs. We were part of a political movement pushing for regulatory change.
There is clearly a difference between Canadian and American drug policy. What do you think are the implications on sovereignty here?
This has major implications if this goes ahead. This has implications on other national issues such as Quebec. This shows that Canadian citizenship has no worth. It means your country won't stand up for you. Quebecers might choose to have a Quebec citizenship instead when they see what is happening to me. Canadian citizenship is worth a lot less than what it used to mean.
What do you think this means for Canada? Is this a diminished nation where your rights aren't going to be protected if there's American pressure?
No one is standing up for me. This is a really pivotal issue. We've become a puppet nation. The Canadian Justice Minister met with the U.S. drug czar before implementing new drug laws. This is totally bizarre. We have a Bush administration acolyte in our government in Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They are ideologically very much in to that, rather than just trying to appease the [U.S.] government like former Prime Minister Paul Martin.
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