In their search for proof that Bigfoot exists, researchers ought to take hair samples from the Washington, D.C., offices of Drug Enforcement Administration boss Karen Tandy.
Tandy has left giant footprints on the drug prosecution of Vancouver, B.C., mail-order pot entrepreneur, and B.C. Marijuana Party founder, Marc Emery.
With an ill-advised statement politicizing the case that also misspelled Emery's first name, the DEA boss may help transform a publicity seeker into a Canadian martyr.
Seeking to stop his extradition to the United States -- where he faces charges of trafficking in marijuana seeds -- Emery's legal team could use Tandy's words to telling effect: Their client is being prosecuted for his beliefs.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle brought charges against Emery last week, based on investigative work by the local DEA office.
The feds allege that Emery has peddled his wares south of the border. An acquaintance, in the growing business here, yesterday joked that he received "prompt, efficient, courteous service" recently while buying seeds at Emery's Vancouver store. He politely declined a request to sample the resulting product.
But extraditing Emery, through Canadian courts and eventually the Justice Ministry, will be sensitive.
Nor is conviction in Seattle a given. The city voted in 2003 to put pot possession at the bottom of law enforcement priorities.
Authorities in this Washington astutely adopted a Just-the-Facts approach, turning the Emery case into a bombast-free zone.
"The focus of this case is on the drug trafficking of Marc Emery. It is not about his political activities, nor his campaigns for office. Nor is it focused on his magazine," said assistant U.S. attorney Todd Greenberg.
Consider the contrasting bluster of Tandy's statement from the DEA home office in the other Washington.
"Today's arrest of Mark (sic) 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."
Why? Tandy gives us a handy dose of innuendo.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."
As the old Wendy's TV spot used to ask, Where's the beef?
Tandy cites no supporting evidence. Anyone who has witnessed Seattle Hempfest -- the nation's largest marijuana-related festival -- is likely to scoff.
"Marc Emery has never given a penny to Seattle Hempfest or Sensible Seattle (sponsor of a 2003 initiative)," said Dominic Holden, longtime Hempfest organizer.
"If he did, us American advocates might be driving new cars and live in nice homes like the activists in Canada," he added.
The statement by Tandy will send nationalists-of-the-north up in smoke.
"The big fuss here seems to be the notion that we're knuckling under to American law enforcement," said Rafe Mair, a lawyer and Vancouver's best-known radio talk-show host.
Canada is moving toward decriminalizing marijuana possession. It still has on the books a law against sale of pot seeds, but police have not pursued Emery's seed selling by catalog or out of his Vancouver store.
The heavy hand is nothing new. U.S. drug policy chief John Walters visited Vancouver in 2002. He warned Mayor Philip Owen that crossing the border would get tougher if the city adopted a drug policy based upon tolerance and treatment.
"It was the most unsatisfactory meeting of my life," Owen said. "The pressure was intense."
Owen was succeeded by current Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell. A former coroner and drug squad cop, Campbell wants to legalize -- and tax -- marijuana.
"Drug czars are the most ill-informed people in government ... They are still living in an era of 'Reefer Madness,' " Campbell said in a recent interview, referring to the much-lampooned 1930s movie. He was named this week to the Canadian Senate.
Vancouver has adopted a "Four Pillars" approach to drug use: Treatment, harm reduction, prevention and enforcement.
By contrast, Karen Tandy is a Justice Department hard-liner who, in the words of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, "doesn't seem amenable to listening."
She is a career federal prosecutor who has gone after mail-order bong sellers and been involved in thwarting California's voter-approved medical marijuana program.
The DEA boss's record is marked by accusations of excessive prosecutorial zealotry, according to a 2003 investigation by The Nation magazine.
She once waited until three days before trial to turn over 60,000 pages of documents to defense attorneys.
In the current case, she is giving Emery a larger stage to strut his stuff.
"It would seem, from her statements, this prosecution is about Mr. Emery's political efforts to legalize marijuana as much as it is about his business," said Murray Mollard, director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Union.
And that is exactly what U.S. prosecutors must avoid if they want Emery, rather than their case, to go south.
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