Vancouver - Pot crusader Marc Emery says his appearance on the news program 60 Minutes on Sunday will be an opportunity for Americans to see him as just an ordinary guy who regards himself as the Luke Skywalker against their government's Darth Vader tactics.
Most people would be amused that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to extradite him to face drug charges, Emery said. Americans weren't forced to buy his marijuana seeds, he said.
"I think Americans are going to say that if this is the No. 1 drug trafficking kingpin, then I want to move to Canada," he said, adding he's fighting an evil empire similar to one in the movie Star Wars.
"I enjoy that comic-book premise of my actions, that it's this little tiny person trying to bring justice and dignity to a whole culture in the face of a big, monolithic, Nazified institution like the DEA."
Bob Simon, the reporter who interviewed Emery in Vancouver for the 60 Minutes piece, said the program decided to air the segment on Emery because his case shows the enormous cultural divide between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to smoking pot.
"Vancouver has a very permissive culture as far as smoking of marijuana is concerned," Simon said from New York.
"You do not walk down the street in most American cities smoking a joint, whereas in Vancouver you can do it and you will not be punished for it," he said.
"We're not talking about the difference between the United States and Laos. We're talking about the United States and Canada, our proverbial friendly neighbours to the north and all that.
Simon said Emery has been punished only lightly in Canada, yet if he's extradited to the United States, "he's going to face really hard time."
What shocked Simon the most was the pervasiveness of marijuana grow-ops that offer huge profits for little to no risk. The reporter joined police for two days as they busted several suburban homes in the Vancouver area.
"I'd never seen anything like it," he said. "When you break into it, which the police did, it's just nothing but a marijuana farm. The science that goes into it and the extent of the plantation, that was shocking."
Emery, 48, will be facing an extradition hearing later this year.
Besides being accused of selling pot seeds to Americans through the mail, the longtime pot activist is charged with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
Emery, along with his co-accused Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek and Greg Keith Williams, was arrested last July after police raided Emery's pot paraphernalia store following an 18-month investigation by the DEA.
Emery said he sold $15 million in marijuana seeds around the world between 1994 and 2005.
A chunk of the profits, he said, have gone to help pot activists in other countries and several U.S. states, including Alaska, Arizona, Nevada and Alabama, where the U.S. Marijuana party is based.
He was mostly fined but in 2004 spent 62 days in a Saskatoon jail for trafficking after passing a joint.
Cpl. Scott Rintoul, of the RCMP's drug squad, said he wouldn't want Americans to think Vancouver is some kind of drug haven, although he understands why someone would get that impression.
"I think that we, law enforcement, have been too tolerant of the marijuana industry and perhaps should have acted sooner," Rintoul said.
"When the marijuana thing sort of hit in the '80s and the grows continued, we were a bit naive and perhaps didn't do our job right then to educate the public, educate the courts, educate ourselves to the hazards."
Much of the marijuana flowing out of Canada is traded for cocaine in the U.S., which has also caused massive problems for law enforcement, he said.
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