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June 11, 2009 -- Georgia Straight (CN BC)

Marc Emery: Why I Will Plead Guilty In A US Court To Distributing Marijuana

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In the end, my lawyer, a wily and shrewd man named Ian Donaldson, said he just wouldn't do it. He wouldn't be the lawyer of record at any extradition hearing for Marc Emery. It wasn't about money, though Ian has charged me next to nothing over four years-less than $20,000-and it wasn't for lack of caring either.

He said there just isn't any way to beat the extradition. As he told the CBC, "I am unaware of any situation since the 1990s when the Canadian government has refused an extradition request of the United States."

What Ian had always hoped would happen is that the assistant U.S. district attorney of western Washington state, a young, handsome, and politically ambitious man named Todd Greenburg, would offer a plea deal that would be the best outcome under the circumstances. Earlier this year, my two co-accused, Greg Williams and Michelle Rainey, agreed to plead guilty to a charge of distributing marijuana, and are expecting to receive a sentence of two years' probation, considerably less than what had been anticipated earlier, when jail terms of five, 10 years or longer were threatened. Only as late as last April, I was agreeing to be sentenced to five years, at first in a U.S. jail, and then with most time to be served in Canada. The U.S. district attorney and I had a deal, but the Canadian prosecutorial service, at the request of Rob Nicholson, the Canadian justice minister, nixed this last May. The explanation was that the Conservative government wanted to do me no favours.

I have always thought the Conservative government, since taking power in January 2006, has been politicizing the judiciary, policing, and law enforcement to take a more severe and punitive approach to the marijuana culture. Its all a culture war to them, and Bill C-15 passing the House of Commons is the most blatant salvo in the Conservative war on the cities and the Sixties at the same time. The cities are where the gang violence that stems from drug prohibition happens.

The cities are where policing budgets are escalating and unsustainable. It's where the addicts go to get their prohibited drugs from gangs, and it's where they steal and beg to finance their addiction.

It's where the women prostitute themselves for drugs.

It's where the social disorder of the prohibition drug market is. And Bill C-15 is going to make every person, every teenager, every young adult, who sells some pot or MDMA to a few friends in the school yard, or at a rave ("any place frequented by young people"), or near a playground, subject to mandatory jail times of six months, a year, two years, or longer.

Repeat offenses are more harshly dealt with.

Middle-level and high-level drug dealers will already get six months or more when convicted these days, so these minimums do not affect the bigger bosses who make the money and large-scale decisions.

This is all about punishing kids and junkies and weed dealers and small-time growers with shell-shocking punishment, on a scale never seen before.

It costs about $50,000 to $90,000 a year to house an inmate in Canada, depending on whether it's a provincial jail or federal prison.

What will we get from this?

All jails and prisons in Canada and the U.S. are in no small way run by organized gangs with a full gang apparatus inside the jail and outside in the community.

In order to use phones, get jobs, privileges, avoid trouble, not get beat up or raped, new, young ("virgin") inmates convicted of a drug charge and now serving six months jail on their first time in jail will be pressured to join a gang in jail. Jails are the number-one recruitment place for all gangs in Canada; in fact, the deadly and volatile Red Scorpions gang that is responsible for considerable gang mayhem in Metro Vancouver, formed in the jails of the Lower Mainland of B.C.

The more we enforce the drug war with jail time for young dealers, the more violence we manufacture. The more we enforce the drug war and send kids to jail, the more we enrich gangs and gang activity.

When that young person who gets out of prison after six months, a year, or two years, he will then be expected to continue gang activities on the outside. The more we enforce the drug war with jail, the more gangsters and dangerous criminals we manufacture. Or rather, the politicians and police manufacture, as they are virtually the exclusive beneficiaries of the drug war. No one else benefits except the top-level gangsters, policemen (over 350 Vancouver police earned over $100,000 in 2008 due to overtime spent enforcing the drug war), politicians, judges, and jailers.

So while I contemplate spending time in a U.S. federal prison for spreading cannabis culture to the masses of the United States, I now know that my own country is about to descend upon the same painful and wrong-headed policy that is drawing me to a U.S. prison, a rapacious incarceration policy that makes the U.S. the most jailed place on Earth. Now Canada is prepared to make every single marijuana grower in Canada subject to a minimum six months jail, eviction, and forfeiture, loss of children and employment. All cocaine users, heroin users, and others who sell illicit drugs to pay for their own use, those who carry and transport, can go to jail. Under pressure, they will implicate others.

This will fill prisons and also insure long expensive court trials as the accused will no longer plead guilty if jail is mandatory. The price of marijuana and other illicit substances will go up sharply due to the tremendous rise in risk, and there will be violent turf wars over replacing those who are arrested and jailed, as the money involved becomes even more lucrative.

The problems will all worsen, and then next year the police, and the politicians of the Liberal and Conservative parties, will demand more prisoners, more punishments, more laws, more police, and more taxpayer largesse to pay for what is clearly cruel, unsustainable, and morally unjustifiable. The problem is not drug users; the problem is prohibition.

As for me, I'm going to plead guilty in a Seattle courtroom sometime in August. I will be sentenced in September or October. I'm pleading guilty to one count of distributing marijuana.

I am doing this because my lawyer framed my options thusly: To challenge the extradition will result in a lost cause, and result in my extradition to Seattle to stand trial on three counts-conspiracy to manufacture, conspiracy to distribute, and conspiracy to money launder.

Even waiting for my trial in Sea-Tac jail would take approximately six months to a year. Sentencing on the money laundering involves a mandatory minimum 10 years in federal prison. It also comes with the possibility of a substantial financial penalty, perhaps as high as $250,000 or up to $1 million in fines.

If there is a financial penalty attached to my conviction, I cannot be transferred to a Canadian prison while any amount owing is outstanding. To challenge all three charges involves a potential jail time of 10 years plus five years plus five years plus $250,000 or more in fines.

On the one charge of marijuana distribution that I will plead to, the assistant DA, Mr. Greenburg, is going to be asking for five to eight years, and my lawyers will ask for less, much less, in punishment, but its likely to be a stint in a U.S. federal prison.

I have some very good arguments in my favour at a sentencing hearing; I did all my activities openly, transparently, paid taxes on earnings, in full view of all Canadians for 10 years.

I had clearly political motives, gave away over $4 million to the movement in that 10 years, and there is no victim here.

Upon my conviction, my wife Jodie will organize a campaign to have me transferred back to a Canadian jail; upon my arrival in the Canadian system, my sentence reflects Canadian rules of release so a five-year sentence may see me released after a few years to day parole.

During my incarceration, I expect all my friends and supporters across Canada and the U.S. and around the world to assist Jodie in the difficult task of running and the Cannabis Culture Headquarters. The store, Web site, the BCMP offices, will all continue in my absence. Your financial support of our enterprises that have had such a huge impact on the cannabis culture around the world for the last 20 years will be required.

Updates and further developments will be found on,, and on

In anticipation of these changes, Jodie and I are embarking upon a tour of Canada beginning in Calgary on July 5 that will cover all major cities in Canada. If you want me to visit your hometown to speak, what is required is $500 collected and remitted to Jodie or I so we can book airfare and a hotel room. Once that is done, we will indicate that city and venue are confirmed. I would prefer to speak outdoors in a park or pavilion during the day, in the library or hall in the evenings.

Once the $500 is remitted, my host would need to find a venue for us to speak.

Here is my proposed itinerary for the Farewell to the Prince/Farewell to Canada Tour:

  • Calgary: July 5
  • Banff: July 6
  • Edmonton: July 8
  • Saskatoon: July 9
  • Winnipeg: July 10
  • Northern Ontario, TBA: July 12
  • Sudbury: July 13
  • Windsor: July 14
  • London: July 15
  • Toronto: July 17
  • Orono, Ontario: July 24, 25
  • Ottawa: July 19
  • Montreal: July 20
  • Quebec: July 22
  • St. John's: July 29
  • Halifax: July 27
  • Kamloops: August 3
  • Whitehorse: August 7
  • Yellowknife: August 9
  • Iqaluit: August 11

Other cities I can add if a sponsor/host is found include St. John, New Brunswick; Sarnia, Ontario; Fort St. John; Prince George; Regina. I will consider any community I can get to where there is a host/sponsor willing to put up the $500. The $500 doesn't cover the full expense, but Dana Larsen of has agreed to cover any costs of Jodie and I visiting each venue if it goes over $500.

After the $500 has been remitted to Jodie and I, you just need to get a venue for me to speak, outdoor in a park or pavilion with microphone or indoor which could be the public library, a coffee shop after hours, the Ukrainian hall, et cetera, but not any licensed pub or bar. I need a microphone for more than 50 people.

My speech is typically two to three hours plus questions.

If your hometown is not on my list, contact me. All dates and locations are tentative until we get the money to book the airfare and hotel.

So far the following places are paid for and confirmed: none.

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