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August 7, 2005 - Toronto Sun (CN ON)

Choke On This!

Column: US's War On Drugs Invades Canada

By Jim Slotek, Toronto Sun

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

AS I understand the pretzel logic of America's War On Drugs, marijuana breaks up families and destroys lives -- because it's hard to maintain a family and a life when you're in prison.

Of course, a wrongheaded person would say that what breaks up families and destroys lives is tossing people into prison in the first place, with sentences insanely out of proportion to the crime of possessing or selling a plant.

Those people would do well to heed the words of former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, who said "All Americans ... should watch what they say."

Now, normally, what concerns all Americans hasn't concerned me. NCAA March Madness is a minor blip on my radar. NASCAR even less. It has never even occurred to me that I should have a right to bear arms, limited in size and calibre only by my ability to lift and aim. And though a Canadian-born celebrity, Tommy Chong, served nine months for the heinous crime of selling novelty "Chong Bongs" to fans over the Internet, I could shake my head about it and tell myself it couldn't happen here.

Similarly, I haven't paid much attention to the oodles of seed catalogue Web pages on the Net -- other than about a decade ago giving a gentleman-farmer friend his first Internet lessons. In any case, trafficking in seeds is basically legal here.

All that has changed after longtime pot activist Marc Emery and two colleagues -- Gregory Williams and Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek -- were arrested by RCMP in Halifax for possible extradition to the U.S. for Emery's Internet seed service. His shop in Vancouver's "Vansterdam" district was also raided. Mandatory minimum sentencing could be 10 years.

Not content with breaking up the families and destroying the lives of as many people as they could who've bought his seeds, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has turned north to get their man. And in something straight out of a nightmare, they've compelled our police to do their dirty work.

Their instrument: The U.S.-authored Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters treaty (MLAT) -- part of a global net of law-enforcement treaties that allows the U.S. to use foreign authorities to investigate and arrest people for crimes committed in the U.S. The charges don't need to be reflected in the accused's home country's criminal code.

Hey, what a great idea! Why don't we sign a few more of those?

Maybe we can extradite people to Saudi Arabia for adultery trials. For that matter, why were our cops asleep at the switch when Salman Rushdie was in town? Blasphemy may not be a crime here, but it is in plenty of jurisdictions, and if your heresies are disseminated on the World Wide Web, you've obviously committed a crime somewhere.

Littering and gum-chewing are jail offences in Singapore. I say we use MLAT to literally clean our streets and send some of our more unsightly citizens on an expenses-paid Asian vacation.

Canadian recording industry types are still waiting for a big judicial stick to punish downloaders. But why wait? The U.S. has the proper legislation for their own people. They can just apply to extradite you and your Phish MP3s.

And hey, let's not forget that gay marriage business. Maybe American authorities can't force us to draft Leviticus into federal statute, but going around saying your Adam & Steve marriage is just as valid as Nick & Jessica's? Well, we have a treaty to deal with that. Hope you like Salt Lake City as a court venue.

It's possible you know Marc Emery's history and don't much like his personal style. The guy has courted arrest all over the country (he ran an infamous head shop in London, Ont. in the '80s), and once reportedly spat at a cop in the process of being arrested. But irritants help us face up to the idiocies in our laws. It's possible that if people like him were never to force the issue by toking defiantly in front of police, we could just carry on like hypocrites - -- smoking at parties or as a bedtime relaxant, pretending an unjust law doesn't exist and never dirtying our hands.

You might think marijuana is on a par with alcohol. Personally, I think alcohol is more harmful, and apparently in Ontario there's a line of thought that says its commerce should be privatized and overseen by pimply-faced employees of corner stores.

Or you might think Reefer Madness was a documentary, and there's a conspiracy afoot to soft-pedal the Devil's Weed.

Either way, the question must be asked. Do we have a country that can go its own way with its own laws, or not?

AFTERBUZZ: Comedians, including Alan Park (Royal Canadian Air Farce), Boyd Banks (Land Of The Dead), Dave Martin, Paul Irving and Harry Doupe with Puff Mama Productions, are holding a fundraiser for Marc Emery's legal fund next Sunday at The Latvian Club, 491 College. Tix $20 in advance (via and $30 at the door.

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