Former U.S. Prosecutor Who Took Down Marc Emery Calls for Legalization, But Doesn't Regret Prosecution of "Prince of Pot"


Much has already been written about John McKay, the man who helped give Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery his five-year prison term for selling marijuana seeds to U.S. citizen, and McKay's recent conversion to advocate for legalization of weed. The strange thing is that the former U.S. attorney still doesn't regret his prosecution of Emery. What's perhaps odder still is that Emery's wife Jodie, who joined McKay at a lecture in British Columbia on Wednesday, doesn't hold the prosecution of her husband against McKay since it "wasn't personal." Or maybe Ms. Emery is just trying to be the bigger man, as it were.

Recently McKay, along with Jodie Emery and former British Columbia Attorney General Geoff Plant (another recently-turned pro-pot guy) came together for an event sponsored by Stop the Violence BC, a group devoted to changing marijuana prohibition. At the event McKay a former Republican who served under Bush between 2001-2006 and was one those eight attorneys whose firing caused a kerfuffle in that year, said:

"I want to say this just as clearly and as forthrightly as I can, marijuana prohibition, criminal prohibition of marijuana is a complete failure."

He noted that cartels' power would be reduced (over-hyped but any excuse to change laws if you're looking for one). Also, McKay said that prohibitions require a majority consensus and marijuana clearly no longer qualifies (polls in the U.S. and Canada say it's around a 50-50 split with it comes to legalization, with younger folks much more keen to legalize).

McKay is currently a law professor in Seattle and he's helping the push for legalization in that state. Under the projected regulation, revenue from the sales of marijuana would go to the state and then, says McKay, "would be earmarked under our initiative that has been submitted to the people for use in public health models, rather than law enforcement models." 

Even though it's fantastic that McKay has come around, it's infuriating that he doesn't regret helping to imprison Emery. McKay simply says that if Emery objected to pot laws, he should have simply advocated for their changes, not shamelessly broken them. (Never mind the evidence that Emery got five years not because of the profits he raked in, but because he was using them to help further his goal of legalization.) For Emery's own sake that may be true, but it doesn't remove the nasty stain from McKay's hands. Nor does trying to present a "reasonable" face of anti-prohibition to those who may be on the fence about the issue mean that taking five years of a man's life isn't wrong, even if Emery should have had the self-preservation to know better and know what might happen to him —the same thing that happens to other people who violate the U.S.'s precious drug laws.

Mike Riggs on Washington state's marijuana legalization controversies. And Reason on Marc Emery, on Canadian drug laws, and on drug policy in general.

Hat tip to commenter rts