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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What a difference one year makes

Is the Post in a marked decline? If you think so, here's one more piece of evidence. Consider the difference in the National Post editorial board's reaction to Emery's arrest this year and last.

The National Post editorial board on the arrest of Marc Emery and his potential extradition to face charges in the U.S. this past Friday:

No sympathy for the Prince of Pot
National Post
August 3, 2005

The last time Marc Emery was put behind bars, we had sympathy for him. The prominent marijuana activist, commonly referred to as Canada's "Prince of Pot," had been sentenced to three months in prison by Saskatchewan provincial court judge Albert Lavoie for passing a single joint to someone else at a Saskatoon rally. Even those who don't share our enthusiasm for legalizing the substance must surely have recognized Mr. Emery's trafficking conviction and sentence were absurd reactions to a very minor offence.

If American allegations against Mr. Emery are accurate, however, we are less sympathetic this time around. Arrested last Friday in Lawrencetown, N.S., on the request of U.S. authorities, and released yesterday on bail, the British Columbia Marijuana Party leader -- along with the party's financial agent, Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek, and Pot-TV employee Greg Williams -- faces U.S. charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, distribute seeds and engage in money laundering. If extradited south of the border, as U.S. officials are hoping, he could face convictions ranging from 10 years to life in prison.

The allegations mostly centre around Mr. Emery's sale of marijuana seeds on the Internet and by mail. Following an 18-month police investigation, the Americans allege he's sold as much as $3-million in seeds.

We have no idea whether that figure is accurate. But there seems little debate that Mr. Emery has been selling and shipping seeds both north and south of the border. And that being the case, the shock and horror of his supporters at the U.S. charges seem a little misplaced.

While selling or even possessing marijuana remains illegal in Canada (pending legislation that stands to decriminalize possession of small amounts for personal use), we treat the substance far less seriously than do our neighbours. So if Mr. Emery had limited his business to Canada, he likely could have escaped prosecution, or at least avoided any serious jail time. (Of his 11 previous convictions for marijauana-related offences, only last year's in Saskatchewan saw him imprisoned.) But by knowingly selling pot seeds in the United States, which everyone knows takes such matters far more seriously, Mr. Emery left himself vulnerable to grave consequences. Despite what his supporters claim, the U.S. is not attempting to punish him for what he does in Canada; it's aiming to crack down on what it considers to be drug dealing on its own turf.

Many Canadians share our view that America's War-on-Drugs approach to marijuana -- a mostly recreational substance that is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco -- is pointless and ill-advised. But that doesn't mean we can violate commonly known, rigidly enforced U.S. laws at will. If that's what Mr. Emery did, he's a poor candidate to play the victim card.

The National Post, with a somewhat different editorial board, one year ago on the arrest of Marc Emery in Saskatchewan, and his 90-day sentence:

A chronic offender
The National Post
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

As befits his status as leader of the British Columbia Marijuana Party, Marc Emery really, really digs his pot. A self-described "devotee," he describes it as "the most beautiful, perfect plant ever put on this Earth."

Saskatchewan provincial court judge Albert Lavoie does not share this groovy enthusiasm. Last week, Judge Lavoie sentenced Mr. Emery to three months in jail for trafficking -- all because he passed one joint to someone else in a downtown Saskatoon park earlier this year.

This editorial board has made no secret of its view that marijuana possession should not just be decriminalized but outright legalized. But even those Canadians who support the law as it currently stands must agree that Mr. Emery's sentence is over the top.

True, the defendant's 10 previous marijuana-related convictions suggest he is something of a chronic offender, and this undoubtedly influenced the judge's decision. But what Mr. Emery did had nothing to do with "trafficking," any more than offering a friend a sip of beer amounts to selling alcohol without a license. For him to spend several months behind bars, tying up space and resources that could be reserved for real criminals, is an affront to Saskatchewan taxpayers.

Of course, Mr. Emery -- one of this country's most outspoken pot crusaders -- may find considerable benefit in being locked up. Having spent much of his time and energy trying to demonstrate the absurdity of our draconian approach to soft drugs, he must be pleased to be serving as living proof.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on August 3, 2005 | Permalink


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I agree that the Post continues slide to the squishy Lib/left - particularly as evidenced in the letters-to-the-editor. However, I generally agree with today's Post editorial on Emery.

Though I take a libertarian view on drugs, especially marijuana, Emery is fully aware of the risks he’s taking as a trafficker and he should be prepared to face the consequences. He’s gambling that he won’t be extradited, that instead he’ll face, at worst, a Canadian penalty (the maximum 7 years is never imposed). Best of luck to him (but no ‘sympathy’ - except perhaps should he wind up as some mean bruiser’s ‘ho’ for life in a U.S. prison).

The way that cannabis trafficking laws are currently enforced in Canada only encourages the practice. It’s small wonder there’s a thriving multi-billion dollar black market. And decriminalization only makes for a bigger black market (I’ll bet the traffickers are really pulling for this one). Either legalize, regulate and tax the stuff (my preference) or seriously enforce the existing laws (including throwing the book at Emery).

Posted by: JR | 2005-08-03 10:02:52 PM

"In the end, Toews came across as too eager to accept American direction, and too unwilling to stand up for the rights of Canadian citizens. If Toews stating the official Conservative position, it won't play well for the CPC in urban Canada. And, perhaps more importantly, it could hurt the CPC's position in rural BC, where pot is just as widely accepted as elsewhere (if not more so, because of the cash it brings in to hurting communities)." (Simon Pole (http://www.simonpole.ca/node/158) who has the audio)

In a desperate bid to lose the votes of the last ten urban voters in Canada who support the CPC after its debacle on SSM, Vic Toews has gone for the gusto.

Is there no end to the depths of stupidity in the CPC front bench. Could the idea that Canada is a soverign nation be made any more clear to Mr. Toews?

It is difficult to imagine the Liberals losing the next election with the CPC fielding front benchers with this sort of talent for losing votes. It is also difficult to imagine very many of the brighter lights in the CPC staying around for the train wreck which this sort of ill considered remark is leading to.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2005-08-04 2:02:21 AM

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