Column: Just Another Casualty in the Criminal War on Drugs

Pubdate: Wed, 12 May 2010
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2010 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Dan Gardner, The Ottawa Citizen
Image: DEA administrator Karen Tandy’s statement, July 29, 2005
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


It’s certainly not the worst crime committed in the name of the war on drugs.

That title probably belongs to the countless innocent people killed in botched raids.  Or the police officers who died in pursuit of the impossible.  Or the lives lost to easily preventable overdoses, adulterations, and blood-borne diseases.  Or the funding handed on a silver platter to thugs, terrorists, and guerrillas, like those killing our soldiers in Afghanistan.  Or the civil liberties eroded, the corruption fostered, the chaos spread.  Or maybe it belongs to the hundreds of billions of dollars governments have squandered in a mad, futile, and destructive crusade.

Next to all that, the extradition of Marc Emery to the United States is no great travesty.

Emery is the Vancouver activist who has spent most of his life campaigning for the legalization of marijuana.  To fund his efforts, he ran a little seed company similar to thousands of other little seed companies, except when Emery’s seeds were put in soil, watered, and given sunlight, they grew into cannabis plants.

Showing rare good sense, Canadian officials decided that prosecuting a man for selling the seeds of a common plant is not a public priority.  In effect, they permitted Emery’s business, and others like it, to operate.  Health Canada officials were even known to direct those licensed to possess medical marijuana to Emery, so patients could grow their own medicine in the kitchen window.

But such modesty and pragmatism smacks of heresy to the holy warriors of prohibition.  Verily, the plant is Evil unto the last seed.

In 2005, Emery was arrested by Canadian police acting at the behest of the U.S.  Drug Enforcement Administration.  Innocent Americans had been lured into purchasing Emery’s wicked wares, the DEA alleged.

Emery fought extradition for five years.  On Monday, justice minister Rob Nicholson ordered him handed over.  Thanks to the insanely punitive sentencing laws in the Land of the Incarcerated, Emery faced as much as 20 years.  He accepted a plea bargain for five.

Emery argued all along that he was a political target, that the DEA was out to get him in order to silence a prominent advocate of marijuana legalization.  One might suspect Emery has delusions of grandeur, except the DEA issued a press release in which the agency’s chief is quoted saying pretty much exactly what Emery alleges: “Today’s DEA arrest of Marc 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.”

Incidentally, the DEA posts all its old press releases on its website, but that release has vanished.  There is, however, a different press release, which makes no mention of the legalization movement.