Marc Emery is in the paper again today. For those who’ve been living under a rock for the last week, Marc Emery is the BC marijuana activist recently indicted by Grand Jury in the United States, and then arrested in Canada by our very own RCMP. Emery stands accused of trafficking in marijuana seeds by mail in the United States (and he freely admits mailing seeds to US customers).
Whatever your views on marijuana, this is going to be a watershed case. It will be as important to the legalization movement as the first grants of legal rights to gay people were. Depending on how this case goes, marijuana legalization in Canada may gain steam.
Why do I make this claim? The Canada/US extradition treaty provides for the extradition of criminals and suspected criminals in either country, to the other, when the act committed is a crime in both countries. However, Article IV of the treaty provides for a set of specific circumstances where extradition may be denied:
(1) Extradition shall not be granted in any of the following circumstances:
(i) When the person whose surrender is sought is being proceeded against, or has been tried and discharged or punished in the territory of the requested State for the offense for which his extradition is requested.
(ii) When the prosecution for the offense has become barred by lapse of time according to the laws of the requesting State.
(iii) When the offense in respect of which extradition is requested is of a political character, or the person whose extradition is requested proves that the extradition request has been made for the purpose of trying or punishing him for an offense of the above-mentioned character. If any question arises as to whether a case comes within the provisions of this subparagraph, the authorities of the Government on which the requisition is made shall decide.
You can already see how Emery’s defence is shaping up.
In the August 5th edition of the Vancouver Sun he said that he gives away nearly all of the profits from the business to marijuana legalization campaigns worldwide. Recently, for instance, he donated $50,000 to campaigns in Nevada and Alaska. "That’s why I’m being targeted", says Emery.
He compares himself to Ghandi and King. A little over the top, but clearly he wants to be seen as a political figure, and not a lawbreaker.
He pays income tax on the profits to the Canadian Government — apparently $380,000 over the last four years. He claims that the Canada Revenue Agency is fully aware of the source of this income as well. "The federal government was aware, because I told them," he said. "They said to me, ‘You’re the only guy that’s ever admitted that.’ The federal government is more complicit than I am by far."
His business was raided in 1997, but no charges ever laid.
His defence lawyers will argue that
De facto, trafficking in seeds is not a crime in Canada. Although there is a law on the books, it hasn’t been enforced since 1967, and certainly the Federal Government has been aware of Emery’s activities since the mid-1990’s and chosen not to act.
Emery’s extradition request is a political act, rather than a valid extradition under the treaty. Some American’s, by the way, are already waking up to this possibility — see this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Under the treaty, the person charged to ultimately authorize the decision to extradite is none other than Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler. He has said he will not comment while the matter is before the BC courts. If, however, he accepts the argument that the sale of seeds in Canada is de-facto not a criminal act, then it’s hard to see how the government will stem the inevitable march to full legalization. I don’t think there’s much risk of that, though. Cotler will sign the extradition order, just as he did in the case of Renee Boje, where there was even less evidence.