SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — Sentenced to five years behind bars, Canada’s Prince of Pot Marc Emery was led off to an American penitentiary Friday repenting his seed-selling sins and professing love for his wife.
“I love you Jodie!” he mouthed silently to her as he was led away.
There may be a place for and time for a debate over the legalization of marijuana the judge told him, but this is not the time or the place — marijuana is illegal.
In a beige prisoner’s jumpsuit, Emery sat throughout the 15-minute hearing with his hands folded under his chin.
His wife Jodie Emery sat stoically the public gallery with about 40 supporters, press and undercover law-enforcement officers.
Seeds traced to grow houses in every region of the U.S. were linked to Emery according to the prosecution, and the original DEA press release called Emery one of the “most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets — one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada.”
Judge Ricardo Martinez, of the western Washington district court, told the 52-year-old Vancouver businessman that he had grown up along the Canadian border and was saddened by what illegal drugs have done to both countries.
“I regret the example we set,” Emery told him, “and I won’t be doing that again.
“I’d like to point out though that it made it sound like I’m a bad guy . . . but I had very good intentions and wanted to be considered a proper participant in our society. I do believe that these prohibition laws create a lot of problems and create organized crime.”
It was a sad emotional end to a 30-year public career by the staunch libertarian most Canadians considered a benign and charismatic political prankster.
The U.S. prosecutors said he was the “largest [pot seed] distributor in North America and at least the largest into the United States . . . .no doubt he sold millions of marijuana seeds that produced millions of marijuana plants in the U.S.”
Outside the federal courthouse, a small group protested his sentence.
Emery said he now realizes that some of the methods he chose to fund his efforts to repeal the marijuana prohibition were “ill-conceived and ultimately destructive.”
In a letter given to the judge prior to sentencing, Emery said he was “over-zealous and reckless” and “acted arrogantly in violation of U.S. federal law.
“I regret not choosing other methods — legal ones — to achieve my goals of peaceful political reform.”
It sounded as sincere as Galileo’s confession.
Emery has been a political activist for three decades — fighting Sunday business-closing laws in Ontario, Canada’s national ban on drug literature and, of course, the marijuana prohibition.
A Canadian citizen and president of the B.C. Marijuana Party, Emery has run for office several times.
In furtherance of his goal of legalizing cannabis, for many years he sold marijuana seeds around the world through catalogue sales.
“This was not a business that operated underground, or even in the shadows,” Richard Troberman, Emery’s lawyer told the court.
“On the contrary, Marc openly operated his seed distribution business (“Marc Emery Direct”) from a storefront in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as well as over the internet; through telephone sales; direct mail sales; and though other media outlets. Revenue Canada gladly accepted taxes on all of his sales, which were duly reported to the appropriate taxing authorities. Virtually all of the profits from the business went to funding lawful efforts to legalize marijuana in Canada and the United States through the political process.”
Crown counsel in Canada refused to prosecute Emery but under the former Republican presidency the U.S. ramped up its war on drugs and targeted Emery because of his political profile.
“The Attorney General’s true motive — which was to silence Mr. Emery’s political activity — could not be more clear,” Troberman said.
Emery was indicted in Seattle on May 26, 2005 for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and arrested in Halifax on an extradition warrant a few days later.
He was held in custody from Aug. 2 through Aug. 5, 2005. Emery remained free until Sept. 2009 when a tentative plea bargain was reached and he surrendered himself into custody Sept. 28.
He remained imprisoned in Canada until Nov. 18, when he was released to await the Justice Minister’s final determination of his extradition.
On May 10, Emery was told the minister had refused his last-ditch appeal and went back into jail.
He was transported to the U.S. May 20 and has remained imprisoned since.
Emery admitted selling more then 4 million seeds, 75 per cent to U.S. customers.
He asked to be housed in the federal correctional institution at Lompoc, Calif., so he can continue to be visited by his wife. The judge recommended that.
After his sentencing, Emery’s lawyers delivered a request to the Canadian consul for a prison transfer to Canada.
His B.C. lawyer Kirk Tousaw said that if all went well, Emery could be serving his time in a Canadian institution within a year.
“I received hundreds of letters and emails, most of them favourable to you,” Judge Martinez said.
“One in crayon,” he quipped, “others quite well written, very thoughtful, making some very interesting points. I know five years is a long time. I wish you the best.”