Of seeds and sovereignty

By ├ćndrew Rininsland

Early this week, British Columbia Marijuana Party leader, Cannabis Culture magazine editor and pot seed salesman Marc Emery accepted a plea bargain with American authorities to serve five years, mostly in Canadian jail, with no hope of early release. Marc Emery will serve a longer sentence than many violent crime offenders, but the alternative would be up to 20 years in American prisons, for not only him but also two of his closest friends (or “lieutenants,” as one paper put it).

You’d imagine Mr. Emery did something atrocious, something utterly inhumane, to arouse the fury of the greatest military power on earth. With so many terrorists still running around over six years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, one would think the United States would be very selective in its requests, given the massive amount of effort required to extradite citizens of other sovereign nations. He must’ve funnelled funds to the Al-Qaida, or dealt arms to Iraqi insurgents, or a host of other terrible things. One would think, anyway.

Mr. Emery has done nothing beyond sell plant seeds, something which he’s done with the tacit approval of the Canadian government for years. Ask the Canadian Internal Revenue Agency. It’s cheerfully processed Emery’s taxes for years, something to the tune of nearly $600,000. Ask Health Canada. The organization directed medical marijuana patients to Emery’s company when they complained of the mediocre herb coming out of Flin-Flon. These seeds, if tended properly, can eventually produce the psychoactive Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but are by themselves nothing beyond organic matter. Even if he was selling straight-up pot, would it even matter that much, with Canada having the most cannabis smokers per capita of all the G8 nations? According to the U.N., one in four Canadians have smoked pot at least once. It’s so socially accepted that we were a hairsbreadth from decriminalizing small amounts a few years ago. The Canadian people clearly do not have a beef with Marc Emery. For all intents and purposes, he is exactly what the average red-blooded Canadian citizen should aspire to be: politically-engaged, socially active and a brilliant and successful entrepreneur.

So why the devil are we giving him over to the States?

According to the U.S., Emery was directly responsible for the cultivation of “thousands” of tonnes of cannabis–a schedule 1 drug, right along with heroin and crack cocaine–within their country. Had the initial sentence gone through, Emery would have been jailed on drug kingpin charges, likely for the rest of his life. This is clearly the result of a failed and out-of-control war on drugs, a war Canadians have indicated their disdain for time and time again. We protect murderers and block their extradition to the U.S. if there’s a chance they’ll be killed via capital punishment, why should we willingly give up one of our own citizens to any country for something socially acceptable here, much less somebody as important as Marc Emery to something as berserk and inept as the Bush administration?

It’s not about cannabis, it’s about Canadian sovereignty and what we are dealing with is a colossal failure of a country to protect one of its own citizens in the face of an ideologically-motived bunch of drug warriors whose relevance is only maintained through fear and political bullying. Maher Arar is another person who has directly experienced the effects of the Canadian government failing to protect one of its constituents against the political wishes of foreign countries. Between their two cases, an enormously bad precedent has been set for Canadian sovereignty and our ability to simply tell our narcissistic and presently insane neighbor to the south “no.”

Just remember: first, they came for the stoners.

For more information on the Marc Emery deportation debacle, visit www.noextradition.net.