By Chris Bennett
After witnessing the slow-moving tentacles of the Federal courts wrap around and consume my friend and fellow Canadian pot activist Marc Emery after a 4-year extradition process for US-based charges regarding the sale of marijuana seeds into the USA, I can’t help seeing Marc as a sacrificial offering that was given by Canada to the White House officials who set Canadian drug policy at the end of the Chretien era.
I have known Emery for over 15 years, writing for his magazine Cannabis Culture, and managing his popular video streaming website Pot-TV from 2000-2005, until a US DEA raid in Vancouver forever altered our lives, and our feelings of sovereignty.
The time of Emery’s bust in July 2005, had been preceded by considerable talk in Canada about liberalizing cannabis restrictions on the Federal level, including a Senate committee report in 2002 that recommended the legalization and regulation of cannabis, and a House of Commons report in 2004 that called for decriminalization.
Such talk caused considerable concern south of the border, where George W. Bush’s White House was determined to continue with America’s military-style drug war that was championed by both his father, and his father's predecessor Ronald Reagan. A 2004 Parliament report recorded the White House’s feelings about the Canadian discussion on loosening the restrictions of cannabis:
The reports of the House of Commons and Senate Special Committees in relation to cannabis in 2002 caused some immediate concern in the United States. The Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, warned that relaxed marijuana laws would lead to an increase in drug abuse in Canada, stating, "When you weaken the societal sanctions against drug use, you get more drug use. Why? Because drugs are a dangerous addictive substance." The United States also expressed concern that liberalized marijuana laws in Canada would lead to more drugs crossing into the United States. For example, Colonel Robert Maginnis, a drug policy adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush, asserted that the United States would not look kindly on changes to Canadian marijuana laws and warned that it would be forced to take action. He stated, "It creates some law enforcement problems and I think it creates some trade problems and some perception problems, especially in the U.S., with regard to whether Canada is engaged in fighting drug use rather than contributing to drug use" and "We’re going to have to clamp down even stronger on our border if you liberalize and contribute to what we consider a drug tourism problem."
After Canada introduced its initial marijuana bill in May 2003, John Walters, the U.S. Drug Control Policy Director, warned that if the bill passed, the result would be increased security and lengthy delays at the border. He was quoted as saying, "We don’t want the border with Canada looking like the U.S.-Mexico border," "You expect your friends to stop the movement of poison toward your neighbourhood" and "We have to be concerned about American citizens … When you make the penalties minimal, you get more drug production, you get more drug crime." David Murray, special assistant to Mr. Walters, stated that the proposed decriminalization initiative was "a matter we look upon with some concern and some regret" and "We would have no choice but to respond." Mr. Murray was also quoted as saying, "We have a working partnership that has been mutually beneficial with enormous amounts of trade. Eighty-five percent of Canada’s exports go into the United States. ... That trade is mutually beneficial, but we might have to make sacrifices for the integrity of the border on both sides if we recognize that drug trade is hurting us."
Also in 2003, Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was quoted as saying, "We don’t want the northern border to be a trafficking route for drugs" and "If countries have divergent policies on drugs, then that increases the potential of the borders becoming a trafficking route." Will Glaspy, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was quoted as saying, "Liberalizing drug laws will lead to an increase in drug use … and drug supplies. They will lead to increased security at the border." - (Canada's Proposed Decriminalization of Marijuana: International Implications and Views, 2004)
The US pressures were so extreme that in 2003, the then Canadian Justice Minister, Liberal MP Martin Cauchon, who largely championed Canada’s proposed decriminalization legislation, took the Canadian bill to the White House , where after a discussion with then US Drug Czar John Ashcroft, he returned with a vastly changed proposal. Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, who was somewhat more outspoken on the issue at the time, responded to this visit, saying, "There goes Canadian sovereignty up in smoke. [...] Here's the American government advising on what Canadian policy will be before the House of Commons even has a look at it. It's quite astounding."
In 2005, deeply concerned by threats of a Canadian shift in pot policy, the US Drug Czar John Walters, who called BC Bud the "crack of marijuana" decided to find the source of Canada’s movement towards legalization, and visited the liberal city of Vancouver to attack this 'problem' head-on. It was there, while giving a presentation hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade, that Walters met his match in the persona of Vancouver resident and pot maverick, Marc Scott Emery, who had made millions selling cannabis seeds internationally via his website emeryseeds.com, and spent equal millions in efforts directed at promoting the legalization of the said herb.
Emery, and a crew of hand-picked pot activists, which included this author, attended the $750-a-table gala event, where they heckled an astounded John Walters, who was further insulted for his Republican views on drug policy in media coverage of the event by then outgoing Vancouver Mayor Phillip Owen, and then incumbent Larry Campbell.
After the event, Vancouver Police chaperoned John Walters on a guided tour of Vancouver’s lower east Side, known for its hard drug problem and legal injection site, and Pot cafes, where the disgruntled Walters literally had marijuana blown in his face by cocky local pot smokers. The VPD, who were in obvious awe of Walters, were miffed that their honored guest had been insulted by Vansterdam’s Prince of Pot and tried to encourage Canadian Crown prosecutors to issue a search warrant on Emery’s cannabis seed shop, one of a number of such businesses that had operated unmolested for some years in Vancouver (many remain), but the Crown refused.
Unhappy with the decision of their own Federal Prosecutor, the Vancouver Police took it upon themselves to report back to US Drug Czar, John Walters. Walters, angered at Canada’s lack of motivation on the issue, took the unprecedented action of overriding the Canadian decision and approaching the Canadian Government with a US-based arrest warrant against Emery for the sale of seeds in the US over the Internet and through the mail.
By this time the Canadian federal Government was already feeling the shock and awe of US threats over Canadian plans to decriminalize cannabis, and Cauchon’s replacement, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who had suffered personal insults from Emery in the press after the activists 3-month jail term for passing a joint in Saskatoon, was only eager to sign off on both the US request for a search warrant and the later extradition of Emery. Indeed, it can be seen that in a sense, Emery himself became a sacrificial offering from the Canadian federal government to their American masters, in appeasement for their earlier attempts to decriminalize the plant, as all further talk of decimalization faded into the mists of Ottawa’s disjointed politics.
Clearly, the US DEA considered Emery’s arrest a victory in smashing the marijuana legalization movement in Canada, but also internationally. As the DEA press release regarding the case stated:
Today’s DEA arrest of Marc 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.
His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today.
Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General’s most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets – one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channelled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.
The DEA's own press release makes it infinitely clear that Emery’s case was politically motivated from the get-go. Canada’s own shift away from the popular discussions on the decriminalization of cannabis after this time period, along with the Canadian Government’s eagerness to ship Emery off, and recent embracing of American-style penalties for cannabis make it equally clear who is in control of Canadian policy. In their compliance with their apparent American masters, the Canadian Government, has in a very real sense offered up one of its own citizens to the behemoth of America. In so doing, they have turned Emery into a marijuana martyr, or at the very least, a sacrificial scapegoat for Canada’s failed attempt at loosening the noose of its own outdated and unjust cannabis laws.
The laws against cannabis have turned the image of a prohibited leaf into a world symbol of natural liberty that people proudly display despite the harshest prohibitions of the plant itself. Likewise, the American Government’s persecution of Marc Scott Emery, and the Canadian Government’s abandonment of him (even refusing to allow Emery to serve his prison time in Canada), have turned Emery into a powerful human symbol of the plant liberation movement he has so selflessly stood behind.
This scapegoating of Emery is rife with symbolism. The term scapegoat comes from the ancient Greek word Pharmakos. In the Ancient Greek religion the Pharmakos was a human scapegoat chosen and expelled from the community when purification was needed at times of disaster or upheaval. In some cases these victims were sacrificed; in others beaten and expelled from the community to carry off their collective sin.
The word 'pharmakos' later became the term 'pharmakeus', which refers to "a drug, spell-giving potion, druggist, poisoner, by extension a magician or a sorcerer," a description that in many ways fits our Prince of Pot. A variation of this term is "pharmakon" either a herbal remedy, poison, or drug and from this, the modern term "pharmacology" emerged.
In Christianity, this symbolism of the Pharmakos scapegoat filtered into the concept of the sacrificial lamb. Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, carrier of the sins of the community - but in Emery’s case as a scapegoat, they may find that their sacrifice turns around to buck them in the ass. In the imprisonment of Emery, the system has in a sense ingested the drug man. At the moment, they savor his sweet taste in their victory, but as Emery descends into the great belly of the American prison system, they will truly begin to feel his effects.
They will feel these effects as countless activists stand up to carry the torch of freedom in his honor, as the debate rages on regarding the most asked question of the Obama administration, as more States try to override Federal laws regarding medical marijuana, and as California opens the debate for full legalization and taxation, potentially giving birth to a billion dollar industry that may be indebted to genetics Emery provided through his seed business.
By burying Emery in prison they have turned him into one of his own seeds, and if there is one thing that can break through the concrete Hell he has been placed in, it's a weed. Ironically, it may be from a prison cell that Emery witnesses the realization of his own long-time battle cry of "Overgrow the Government"!