An open letter to Rob Nicholson, Canada's Minister of Justice
Dear Mr. Nicholson,
On January 21, 2008, an extradition hearing will begin in Vancouver for Marc Emery, Canada’s pre-eminent activist for the legalization of marijuana. Marc has been charged in the U.S. with conspiring to manufacture and distribute marijuana, and conspiring to launder money. If convicted under U.S. law, he faces possible life imprisonment without parole.
Should Marc be extradited to the U.S.? The Canadian court will almost certainly say yes. It has little choice under the Extradition Act. Marc
openly admits selling marijuana seeds over the Internet to customers around the world, including the United States, for years. His conduct would have been grounds for criminal charges here, although Canadian authorities never chose to charge him. But that’s enough under the Act to make it mandatory for the judge to commit him for surrender to U.S. authorities.
That’s where you come in, Mr. Justice Minister. Once the court has ruled, the Extradition Act gives you discretion to refuse to surrender Marc if it “would be unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.”
Here are some of the circumstances you might consider relevant.
From 1999 until he was arrested in 2005, Marc declared on his income tax return that his occupation was “marijuana seed vendor.” He paid $578,000 in income taxes into federal and B.C. government coffers. He gave Canada Revenue Agency access to his bank statements and explained all his cash flows to them. The CRA graciously accepted his money without ever taking any action to put a stop to all this criminal activity.
If you believe that all Canadians benefit from taxes being collected and governments spending that tax money (I don’t, but most Canadians do), then logically you will have to concede that Marc has been a huge benefactor to the Canadian people.
As for the money laundering charge, maybe all Canadians should face U.S. indictments for having conspired with Marc to transform Americans’ outlays on recreational drugs into Canadian outlays on health care, roads, schools, etc.
Marc has helped Canadians in other ways, too. When Canada was compelled in 2000 to legalize medical marijuana by the R. v. Parker decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, confusion reigned. Although the court had said that individuals suffering the daily pain of illnesses such as epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS could use marijuana with their doctors’ approval, there was nowhere they could legally acquire it.
Authorized users who asked Health Canada how to get their marijuana were given the suggestion that they purchase it online from Marc Emery.
For eight years, Marc sent every federal Member of Parliament a free subscription to his magazine Cannabis Culture. Every issue included a copy
of his seed catalogue. Every single MP and all of their office staff turned a blind eye to his activities, just as Canada Revenue Agency and Health Canada had done.
The prohibition against selling marijuana seeds in Canada went unenforced for years, but the benefits of those seed sales were accepted unhesitatingly by Canadian authorities. It would be the height of hypocrisy and injustice for this country to now hand over its benefactor to a foreign government for a prosecution it declined to pursue itself.
But there’s more. Go to any internet search engine and enter “marijuana seeds.” You’ll find many seed vendors still operating without prosecution in
British Columbia and other Canadian provinces. Why is the U.S. government not seeking the extradition of these vendors? Why just Marc and his two employees Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams?
I think the answer is obvious. The so-called “BC3” have taken a principled, public stand against the U.S. government’s war on drugs. Marc in particular is a highly effective spokesman for his cause. He was never in this business primarily for financial gain, and generally kept only enough of his marijuana seed profits to live on. Instead, he has donated over $4-million and countless hours to fund court challenges, establish compassion clubs for medical marijuana users, pay medical bills for activists, sponsor conferences and protests, fund ballot initiatives, fund political campaigns and so on. For over a decade, he has been a huge thorn in the side of politicians and bureaucrats who disagree with him on the political issue of legalizing marijuana.
The Extradition Act requires you, Mr. Justice Minister, to refuse to surrender a person if the request for extradition is “made for the purpose
of prosecuting or punishing the person by reason of their…political opinion….” Please consider Marc’s long history of idealistic activism and
tell the U.S. government that you won’t let them haul this politically motivated Canadian hero off to one of their jails.
Karen Selick is a lawyer in Belleville, Ontario. firstname.lastname@example.org
The year starts off with a bang and a puff of smoke.