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Hardly a prince

Marc Emery peddles a dangerous drug and flouts American laws. Why should Ottawa protect him?

Two recent National Post columns have called for Canadians to support a drug dealer named Marc Emery. Widely known as Canada’s “Prince of Pot,” he has openly sold marijuana seeds over the Internet for years. The act is illegal in Canada, the United States and most other nations, but a decade of laissez-faire drug enforcement and enlightened chatter about legalization have kept muddled Canadian authorities from taking any meaningful action against him.

In 2005, U.S. prosecutors charged Emery with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, and conspiring to launder money. The only thing currently standing between Emery and his date with the American judicial system is an extradition hearing, set to begin on Jan. 21.

In “An open letter to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson,” published in [National Post] pages on Jan. 2, lawyer Karen Selick asked Nicholson to refuse to surrender Emery. Why? Because he is a “Canadian hero” who acted openly, paid income tax and sold medical marijuana to the sick. (Can you imagine if we applied similar principles to all criminal acts?)

Two days later, National Post columnist Colby Cosh argued that surrendering Emery would be a blow to Canada’s national sovereignty. Why? Because Canadian authorities have never charged Emery and, if the positions were reversed, the Americans would “raise hell about foreigners telling them how to run their country.”

Frankly, this case isn’t that important — or that complicated. Emery’s activities violate U.S. law, Canada has an extradition treaty with the United States, and our government has an obligation to honour its terms. There is no political issue; no issue of national sovereignty. The only fact that counts is that Emery repeatedly violated American law, and did so deliberately.

In a Jan. 30, 2006, message, Emery outlined his calculated plan of “purposeful lawbreaking.” On March 3, 2006, he wrote of his initial post-arrest thought that every seed sold and every arrest was “all for this moment in time.” He bragged to The New York Times that he’s sold more marijuana seeds than anyone outside of the Netherlands, claiming his “master plan” is to produce so much marijuana that no government could eradicate or control it.

If his entire career as a marijuana vendor has been geared for this moment, then I say we let him have it.

Emery’s success in Canada stems first from a decade of going soft on drugs. Wander through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to see where those policies have gotten us, and it’s clear the approach has been dead-wrong. Free drugs, free drug paraphernalia and a safe place to inject have only kept addicts addicted.

Talk of legalizing marijuana has sold Canadians the mistaken notion that marijuana is “a relatively harmless substance” only used by responsible adults to relax on the weekend. But a September, 2007, report revealed that pot smoking now exceeds cigarette smoking among Canada’s youth. Further, 10% of young people have a marijuana addiction.

In 2007, Canada was reported to have the highest rate of marijuana usage (four times the world average) of any industrialized country. When the “industrialized nation” caveat is removed, we rank fifth in the world.

These statistics suggest Canada is on a dangerous path, as research increasingly shows that marijuana isn’t harmless. It’s addictive (in the Netherlands, 27% of those seeking treatment for drug abuse are marijuana users); adolescents are three times more likely than adults to develop dependency and are at increased risk for depression and suicide; and it’s a gateway drug (users are 26 times more likely to use other drugs).

A recent article in the British medical journal The Lancet suggests marijuana increases the likelihood of psychosis by as much as 40%. In Britain, 80% of those admitted to a London hospital with a first episode of psychosis were marijuana users. Another study showed that 75%-80% of individuals with schizophrenia were habitual cannabis users during their teens.

Marc Emery isn’t a hero, he’s a drug dealer. There isn’t much of a case to support government intervention in his extradition hearings, but there’s plenty of evidence to show why his activities are far from harmless.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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