Libertarian activist Marc Emery, who faces extradition to the United States for selling marijuana seeds to Americans, makes his case to Canadian conservatives in a three-part video posted on the Western Standard's blog. Emery explains how, inspired by Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, he embarked on campaigns of civil disobedience against unjust laws, including bans on Sunday retailing, "obscene" recordings such as 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be, and drug-oriented publications. His most conspicuous effort was his marijuana seed business, aimed at "overgrowing the government" and raising money for the worldwide marijuana legalization movement. It proved a little too conspicuous.
Emery's operation, which shipped seeds to the U.S. and other countries, was one of hundreds such vendors in Canada, and he operated openly for more than a decade with little trouble from the government, which happily accepted the taxes generated by his business. But his financial support for drug policy reform groups, his political activism as founder of the B.C. Marijuana Party, and his advocacy of legalization in forums such as his Pot TV website and his magazine Cannabis Culture irritated both Vancouver police and American drug warriors, who conspired to arrest him and ship him to the U.S. for trial on drug trafficking, conspiracy, and money laundering charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. In Canada, by contrast, the worst penalty he was apt to face for selling marijuana seeds to growers was a fine, and in practice the government not only turned a blind eye but referred medical marijuana patients to him.
By Emery's account, the effort to arrest and extradite him began after he heckled John Walters during the U.S. drug czar's visit to Vancouver in November 2002. "That's really what this is all about," he says. "Three days later, his friends at the Vancouver Police Department opened an investigation of me." This is not as far-fetched as it might sound, since the day of Emery's arrest in July 2005 DEA head Karen Tandy admitted it was politically motivated, implying that Emery was being punished for his activism and philanthropy:
Today's arrest of Mark [sic] 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. 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.
As I noted last month, Emery has tentatively accepted a Justice Department deal under which he would serve five years and his two co-defendants (one of whom uses marijuana to relieve the symptoms of Crohn's disease) would be released. Emery, who wants to serve all or at least most of his sentence in Canada, says he is still negotiating the details of that arrangement. He proposes another way out: If the Canadian authorities charged him with illegally selling marijuana seeds, he says, there would be no reason to extradite him; he could instead be tried in a Canadian court under Canadian laws and face the penalties Canadians consider appropriate.
Part of Emery's pitch to conservatives is that the U.S. government's prosecution of him impinges on Canadian sovereignty. He likens his situation to that of a Canadian charged with sending Falun Gong literature to China, selling alcohol to Saudis, or running a gambling website used by Americans, and asks whether the Canadian government would agree to extradition in those cases. "I've always defended peaceful, honest lifestyle choices," he concludes. "I paid all my taxes, never hurt anybody, only violated unjust laws transparently and openly, and that is something every conservative and libertarian should be able to get behind."
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.