Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How to free Marc Emery, Canada's "Prince of Pot"

Any time someone we know is arrested, we are going to be shocked. I don't
know Marc Emery -- I don't think I've ever met him. Many American drug
policy reformers have worked with him in political and public education
programs, like Pot-TV and Cannabis Culture magazine, and they report they
are in a state of shock.

Nevertheless, stepping back from the personal shock, we should not be
surprised that Marc Emery has been arrested, nor outraged that he was.

Assume for a moment that a man is shipping materials into the United States
that can be used for making illegal drugs. He has a website and has been
quite open about his shipments. We would not be surprised if the
Department of Justice opened an investigation into these activities. We
would not be surprised, if there was evidence that people were
manufacturing drugs in the U.S. with these materials, that a grand jury
indicted this person.

The ordinary procedure -- one that is followed for persons in many other
nations who are accused of committing a crime that violates U.S. laws -- is
to notify the "asylum" nation and request the extradition of the
accused. The asylum nation then asks their local police to arrest the
accused. Typically the accused is offered an opportunity to make bail, and
then can contest the extradition order in court.

Typically there are legal challenges in court to the extradition request
that focus exclusively on the technicalities of the demand for
extradition. Then, as a matter of state, the national executive decides
whether to actually extradite the accused.

Marc Emery's case seems to be following the typical pattern of
international law regarding extradition.

So far, Emery's arrest appears to be a totally ordinary law enforcement
activity by the Canadian government in response to unexceptional law
enforcement activity in the U.S. Pot activists need to recall for a
moment, that marijuana is STILL a schedule I drug, and is seen in the
Justice Department and the White House as dangerous as cocaine or
heroin. They will go after large scale suppliers of cannabis seeds if they
can, just as they would go after large scale suppliers of meth ingredients
or cocaine, if they can.

No one in the U.S. argues that when Colombia arrests an accused cocaine
trafficker, pursuant to a legitimate extradition request, the Colombians
are cravenly buckling to gringo power.

Many marijuana law reformers find Marc Emery's political activities
laudable. But his politics does not create any immunity for him from
investigation or prosecution. Carlos Lehder, the famous cocaine cartel
leader of the 1980s was a deputy legislator in the Colombian parliament for
a while. No one thought his political activity should protect him. The
FARC in Colombia is engaged in a political struggle. No one argues that
their cocaine-related activities are immunized by that fact. No one thinks
that the opium and heroin-related activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan
are immunized by their political activity from being charged with drug
crimes, if the U.S. can present such evidence to a U.S. grand jury.

I don't think that friends of Marc Emery are helping by attacking the U.S.
government simply for indicting him since his shipping cannabis seeds to
the U.S. seems to be common knowledge. The approach needs to be
different. It needs to point out the harshness of the American system, its
fanatical reliance upon incomprehensibly long imprisonment. One needs to
sympathetic to the public's concern about drug abuse, but point out that
the American approach is cannibalizing those with drug problems, not
helping them. There is an anti-drug madness at large in America that, in
this case, could easily result in life imprisonment. It is important to
learn the details of the allegations in the U.S. indictment, and the
specific offenses charged, to show what a likely sentence would be produced
by following the sentencing guidelines.

What is important to remember is that one element of extradition is that
the executive (in Canada, technically, the Minister of Justice, but in
reality the Government, including the Prime Minister) makes a political
decision. Would the demanded extradition lead to a likely sentence that
would shock the conscience of the populace in the asylum nation? If so,
the executive can decline to extradite.

However, does refusing to honor the extradition request of the demanding
nation create a significant domestic political or economic problem, or
diplomatic problem with the demanding nation? If so -- even if the likely
sentence in the demanding nation is shocking -- the government will go
ahead and honor the extradition request.

Or does granting the extradition request create such a domestic political
problem for the government that it rejects the extradition request? Marc
Emery's supporters must create a sufficiently unacceptable domestic
political problem for the government if it were to extradite Emery in order
to overwhelm the pressure from all other sources. However, the Martin
government is very weak. How will its domestic political opponents exploit
this case to use against it? How will the government (Liberal) party
members react to this issue? A lot of political work needs to be done in

Canada and the U.S. have a number of contentious issues between
them. There are significant economic conflicts over cattle, timber and
fishing. Powerful economic interests in the two countries are in conflict.

Would the U.S. use Canadian resistance to the extradition demand for Marc
Emery, as part of its political attack on Canada for being indifferent to
the export of the "dangerous B.C. Bud," and soft on marijuana (and by
extension all drugs)? Almost certainly.

But would the U.S. use this case as a pretext to actually retaliate in
areas very important to Canada involving cattle, timber and fishing? That
is much less likely.

Would the Canadian government fear or buckle to such economic threats?
Perhaps. Would Canadian businesses involved in cattle, timber and fishing
tell the Canadian government that it should not sacrifice any precious
Canadian jobs to a political fight with the U.S. over a "dope dealer?" If
those industries are mobilized to do so, quite probably.

Ultimately Marc's fate lies in Canadian politics. His Canadian supporters
need to convince the Canadian government that his successful prosecution in
the U.S. would result in sentences that would shock the conscience of
civilized people, AND that the Canadian people and Canadian business
support a refusal to extradite Marc to the U.S., notwithstanding the
threats the U.S. may make.

Americans should pressure all U.S. businesses (and labor unions) that have
an interest in smooth trade relations with Canada to lobby U.S. Senators,
Members of Congress, and executive branch officials NOT to retaliate
against Canada if Canada declines to extradite the so-called "Prince of
Pot." Knowledge of any such lobbying activities in the U.S. will strengthen
the resolve of the Canadian government to call any U.S. bluff threatening

It is worth reminding the Canadians that economic threats over this issue
are both hollow and hypocritical. Throughout the time that Mexico was the
major smuggling route to the U.S. of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, AND
marijuana, the U.S. government and the Republican Party fought like heck to
ram NAFTA -- the North American Free Trade Agreement -- through the

Given the rampant, systemic corruption of Mexico's law enforcement
establishment while NAFTA was being pushed through Congress, U.S. threats
to sanction Canada for not extraditing Marc Emery, or Renee Boje for that
matter, are, on the U.S. hypocrisy meter, way over the red line, right up
to the pin.

Business leaders on both sides of the border should be reminded that
disrupting important economic activity because of a frustrated marijuana
prosecution would be an act of stupidity unrivaled by that in any Cheech
and Chong movie.

Given the billions of dollars in trade between the U.S. and Canada, this
threat, while big, is ultimately empty.

Canadian supporters of Marc Emery have a big political struggle ahead to
block this extradition. They need to appeal to Canadian pride and Canadian
honor. They need to nullify any perception of an economic risk to Canada.

They need to hold up America's pot laws and sentences as preposterous and
extreme. But I don't think the Canadian people are going to be shocked that
a U.S. grand jury indicted the "Prince of Pot" for his role in shipping
Cannabis seeds to the U.S. or that Canada complied with a lawful
extradition request at the initial stage.

But now, past the initial stage, the Canadian government needs to engage in
the fact-finding, and the moral calculus, to decide whether to send one of
its sons into the American gulag.

The political message necessary to free Marc Emery needs to be very
carefully crafted. If it is reckless, shrill, illogical, or factually
flawed, it will fail, and Marc Emery will end up rotting away in an
American prison. Emery's supporters need to be very careful, even as they
work very hard.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>So far, Emery's arrest appears to be a totally ordinary law enforcement
>activity by the Canadian government in response to unexceptional law
>enforcement activity in the U.S.

As the Canadian government has never, to my knowledge, enforced viable
seed prohibition since adding viable seeds to our Controlled Drug and
Substances Act in 1968, Canadian law enforcement activity in this
regard is quite extraordinary.

Both our countries have laws on the books that neither country has
bothered to enforce in living memory. See

As the U.S. government has never, to my knowledge, investigated a
Canadian seed merchant, of which there are several, in 50 states for 18
months, and then sought their extradition, U.S. law enforcement
activity in this regard is quite exceptional.

>Many marijuana law reformers find Marc Emery's political activities
>laudable. But his politics does not create any immunity for him from
>investigation or prosecution. Carlos Lehder, the famous cocaine cartel
>leader of the 1980s was a deputy legislator in the Colombian parliament for
>a while. No one thought his political activity should protect him.

The cases of Boje, Chong, Coral, Kubby and Rosenthal, to name a few,
make it *appear* as though U.S. authorities are targeting icons of the
cannabis community for political reasons. I could be wrong.

If it can be shown that the U.S. is targeting Marc for political
reasons (Why now? What did Marc do about 21 months ago? Why only Marc?
What sets Marc apart from other non-U.S. seed merchants? What about
U.S. seed merchants?) then Canada can disregard the extradition
request. I suspect this is why they did not seize Marc's informational
and political materials and the judge granting bail explicitly allowed
Marc to continue to lead the B.C. Marijuana Party, to publish his
magazine and broadcast on the web.

>No one in the U.S. argues that when Colombia arrests an accused cocaine
>trafficker, pursuant to a legitimate extradition request, the Colombians
>are cravenly buckling to gringo power.

No, they make this argument in Colombia.

It is up to us Canadians to criticize our government for buckling to
gringo power. It is up to you to criticize your government for
exerting it.

The differences between Marc and your basic Colombian cocaine kingpin
are two numerous to list, but for example, Marc rents an apartment as
he does not own a fortified villa guarded by a private army. Marc has
been arrested and convicted in Canada because he does not own the
Canadian courts and police.

Suppose, at the request of Chinese authorities, U.S. authorities
extradited a non-violent U.S. citizen and outspoken political activist
to China to get a bullet in the head for what is considered in the U.S.
to be so minor an offense that they have not only overlooked it but
have taxed it for years. Suppose the U.S. rolled over and surrendered
this otherwise outstanding U.S. citizen because they feared economic

MLAT requires that the alleged offence be punishable in both countries
by one year or more in custody. In Canada, Marc's crime falls into
this category in theory but not in practice.

I think that, having learned how seriously you Americans seem to be
taking this, we Canadians should have apologized to you (something we
do well) for allowing Marc to ship seeds to your drug-free country and
then arrested Marc to face our justice system ... in light of the new
evidence you have provided eh.