Marc Emery

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Marc Scott Emery (born February 13, 1958) is a Canadian cannabis activist, entrepreneur, and politician. Often described as 'the Prince of Pot', Emery has been a notable advocate of international cannabis policy reform. He has been active in the New Democratic Party, the Freedom Party of Canada, the Unparty, and the Marijuana Party of Canada, as well as the British Columbia Marijuana Party, and the Green Party of British Columbia.

As a political libertarian, Emery has also protested against Sunday shopping laws, obscenity laws, political endorsement of sporting events, Canadian censorship, and several taxes.

Emery has been jailed several times, most notably in 2009 when he served a five-year sentence in a United States federal prison for selling mail-order cannabis seeds into the US.

Emery lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife Jodie Emery.

Early career

At the age of 9 he started a business from his parents' home called Stamp Treasure, buying and selling stamps by mail order. Two years later he started another mail-order business called Marc's Comic Room.

City Lights Bookshop

He dropped out of high school in 1975 at age 17 to purchase a used book store on Richmond Street in downtown London, Ontario which he renamed City Lights Bookshop.Emery operated the store for 17 years, selling it in 1992.

Shortly after opening the store, Emery began a three-year fight against the London Downtown Business Association for extracting mandatory fees from all core area shops for beautification and other programs.

Emery also ran an emergency garbage service in London for three weeks during a municipal garbage strike in 1986.

Political campaigns

He worked on the New Democratic Party's campaign in London East in the 1979 federal election. Then he ran for the Libertarian Party of Canada in the 1980 federal election. He received 197 votes in London East, finishing fourth.

Emery later left the Libertarians and became a London-area organiser for the Unparty. In 1983 Robert Metz, who had worked with Emery since 1980, was made president of the Unparty and later that year announced the Unparty would change its name to the Freedom Party of Ontario, which continues to be a registered political party in the Province of Ontario. Emery served as the Freedom Party's Action Director from 1984 to 1990.

In 1984, Emery, the Freedom Party, and the No Tax for Pan-Am Games Committee (founded by Emery and Metz) successfully campaigned against London's bid for the 1991 Pan American Games, saying the city would lose millions.

Emery ran as a candidate of the Freedom Party in the rural constituency of Middlesex, near London, in the 1987 provincial election. He received 499 votes for a distant fifth-place finish.

In 1986 and 1987, Emery defied Ontario's Sunday shopping laws, finally facing eight charges after opening for eight Sundays in a row. In June 1988, he spent four days in jail after being convicted on the first of the charges and then refusing to pay the fine.

He also campaigned against London's by-law prohibiting sidewalk signs.

After resigning from the Freedom Party in 1990, Emery rented the London Regional Art & Historical Museum (now called Museum London) for his first pro-pot rally.[citation needed]

Media censorship activism

In 1983, Emery was vocal about a London Ontario crackdown on the sale of pornography.

In 1991, Emery was convicted for selling copies of 2 Live Crew's rap CD As Nasty As They Wanna Be which had been deemed obscene and banned in Ontario. He was given one year probation, but immediately after sentencing he began selling marijuana-related literature and High Times Magazine, all in violation of Canadian law.

Emery invited local police to his store to arrest him, and even sold copies of the banned marijuana grow books right outside the London Ontario police station, but the police refused to charge him or interfere. He also sponsored visits from marijuana luminaries such as Ed Rosenthal, Steven Hager, Jack Herer and Paul Mavrides.

Much of this early period of Emery's life is featured in the 1992 documentary film Marc Emery: Messing Up the System scripted by London writer Chris Doty, and a play called Citizen Marc: The Adventures of Marc Emery. The play was directed by John Gerry which opened in London on January 27, 2006. Emery was in attendance for the premiere. Doty committed suicide in the days that followed. The play won the Brickenden Awards for Best Ballyhoo, Best Actor and Best Director.

Marijuana advocacy

Hemp BC

Emery moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in March 1994, and founded a store called Hemp BC on July 7. His store played a major part in expanding Canada's then very small and underground industry in cannabis-related paraphernalia. Bongs and pipes are illegal to sell or promote in Canada under section 462.2 of the Criminal Code, and were not readily available in Canada at the time. Emery imported and wholesaled a variety of bongs, pipes and other cannabis-related items, and encouraged other people to open their own "Hemp Stores" across Canada.

In late 1994, a court challenge sponsored by Emery convinced an Ontario judge to overturn the Canadian prohibition on marijuana and drug-related literature, making it legal for High Times Magazine and marijuana grow books to be sold in Canada once more.

Emery began selling marijuana seeds in late 1994, after attending the High Times Cannabis Cup and being inspired by a Dutch seed store named Sensi Seeds. In early 1995 he launched Cannabis Canada Magazine, which was renamed Cannabis Culture Magazine in 1998.

In December 1995, Emery and his seed business were featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, leading to a deluge of media attention. One month later, in January 1996, Hemp BC was raided by Vancouver police who seized Emery's bongs and seeds and charged him with selling marijuana seeds and "promoting vaporizers." He was later convicted and given a $2200 fine, $500 for each of four counts of selling marijuana seeds and $200 for vaporizer promotion.

Emery re-opened his store the next day, and continued to sell paraphernalia and marijuana seeds. By 1997 he had expanded his store to include a Grow Shop, a Legal Assistance Centre, and the Cannabis Cafe, which featured a custom-built vaporizer built into every table.

On October 12, 1997, Marc Emery was featured on CNN Impact in an episode called "Canada Cannabis." The announcer referred to Emery as the "Prince of Rainbows" and the label stuck. This drew major international media attention to Emery and his Hemp BC store once more.

The Vancouver police returned on December 16, 1997, once again emptying his store of seeds and paraphernalia, as well as taking the vaporizers out of the Cannabis Cafe. Police claimed to have seized about $1.6 million worth of marijuana-related merchandise, plus tens of thousands of marijuana seeds.

Emery was jailed but not charged with any seed or paraphernalia offences but he was charged and convicted of "assaulting a police officer" because he spat on a police officer while they were forcibly removing protestors from in front of the store. In a later interview, Emery stated "I was found guilty and fined two hundred dollars. My defence was that it was justifiable as they were assaulting my employees. We have video tape of them kicking, shoving objects at, using a truncheon, and pulling on the hair of David Malmo-Levine and Ian Roberts. I wanted to show my disgust in a non-violent way, and to draw the police toward me and away from my employees."

Emery was also banned from returning to the 300 block of West Hastings, where his businesses were located.

Emery re-opened Hemp BC the next day but then sold the store to his manager shortly thereafter, who suffered repeated raids during 1998 and then had her business license revoked by the city.

Emery's seed business was raided again at its office location on April 30, 1998, and Emery was charged with selling marijuana seeds. Another raid on September 2, 1998, saw Emery jailed overnight again and his seeds confiscated, but no charges were laid. He was convicted from the April raid in 1999, and given a $2000 fine.

In August 1998, Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen had told the New York Times that Hemp BC was "going to be toast by September."

Court documents showed that four American navy undercover agents attempted to buy marijuana and smoke it at the Cannabis Cafe. The documents showed the Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents worked in a joint operation with Vancouver police in April 1998.

Emery was convicted on charges of selling marijuana seeds in 1998, and received a $2000 fine. He switched his walk-in marijuana seed business to mail-order only, and continued to publish Cannabis Culture magazine. In early 2000 he was expanding again, with the establishment of Pot-TV, a marijuana-related video channel.

In 2001, Emery was a featured presenter at Idea City, an annual gathering of notable Canadians organized by Moses Znaimer.

In November 2002, then US Drug Czar John Walters visited Vancouver to give a speech at a luncheon sponsored by the Vancouver Board of Trade. Emery bought a table for himself and other local cannabis activists, and heckled Walters as he spoke about the need for Canada to embrace the "War on Drugs."

From 1998 until his arrest in 2005, Emery paid provincial and federal taxes as a "marijuana seed vendor" totalling nearly $600,000.

Emery has described himself as a "major financial backer of almost every pro-pot effort in North America and many more around the world." He claims that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in election campaigning for the Canadian Marijuana Party, BC Marijuana Party and the Vancouver Marijuana Party. He also claims to have funded numerous marijuana activist groups, paid for several major legal challenges to aspects of Canada's cannabis laws, and made large donations to various pro-pot ballot initiatives in US states such as California, Nevada, Alaska and Arizona, plus financially backed pro-cannabis activities in New Zealand, Australia, Russia and elsewhere around the world.

Media and Pot TV

Main article: Pot TV

Over his career, Emery has been covered in many newspaper articles and media appearances, including features in the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, CNN TV, and CNN Radio News, ABC News, the USA Today, the Hindustan Times of India the National Enquirer, Rolling Stone Magazine, CBC Newsworld, Forbes Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, 60 Minutes, the New York Times and more.

Emery is featured in the 2007 CBC documentary film "Prince of Pot: The US vs. Marc Emery", and CBC Doc Zone episode "Cannabiz." He also appears in the 2007 documentary "Living Luminaries: The Serious Business of Happiness", a 2007 documentary called The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, a 2005 documentary called "Escape to Canada" and the 2007 documentary "The Naked Queen". Emery also appeared in the 2007 comedy documentary "Super High Me" and was featured in a December 2008 episode of National Geographic Explorer called Marijuana Nation, and two National Geographic specials in 2009, one called "Inside Marijuana", the other called "Super Weed".

Emery's earlier career is featured in the 1992 documentary "Marc Emery: Messing up the System"., produced by Londoner Christopher Doty

Emery's history of political activism, both before and since his involvement in the cannabis prohibition issue, was the subject of the in-depth documentary "The Principle of Pot", which was released in 2010.

Political endorsements

In 2000 he was a founding member of the Marijuana Party of Canada, a political party running to fully legalize (not just decriminalize) cannabis. In 2001 he helped found the British Columbia Marijuana Party (BCMP), which he currently leads.

Emery ran for the Canadian House of Commons as a Marijuana Party Candidate in the 2000 federal election, and finished sixth out of ten candidates in Vancouver Centre with 1,116 votes. Liberal Hedy Fry won the riding.

The BCMP placed fifth in the 2001 provincial election and was only a few hundred votes short of fourth place. Emery himself received 905 votes in Vancouver-Burrard, finishing fourth against BC Liberal Lorne Mayencourt.

Emery has been the BC Marijuana Party's president since its founding, and also became party leader in 2003, when Leader Dana Larsen resigned to join the NDP.

In the 2005 British Columbia election, Emery ran for the BC Marijuana in Fort Langley-Aldergrove against provincial Solicitor General Rich Coleman, but was defeated.

On July 30, 2008, Emery announced he was running for mayor of Vancouver in the November election, and MLA in the upcoming by-election for the constituency of Vancouver-Fairview which remains vacant after Gregor Robertson won the Vision Vancouver nomination to run for mayor.

In federal politics, Emery has been a public supporter of the New Democratic Party since in 2003 Jack Layton supported the legalization of marijuana. In November 2003, Layton was a guest on Emery's Pot TV program. During the 20-minute interview, Emery urged marijuana activists to support the NDP in the 2004 federal election.

He endorsed Svend Robinson's candidacy in Vancouver Centre during the 2006 federal election campaign, and obtained permission from a judge to have his bail conditions varied so that he could campaign for the NDP candidate.

In the 2009 BC provincial election, Emery supported the Green Party of British Columbia. His wife, Jodie Emery, was the BC Green candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview.

Tokers Bowl

For four years, from 2002 to 2005, Emery sponsored the Vancouver Tokers Bowl, a four-day marijuana-judging event and cannabis party with 200 guests.

Summer of Legalization Tour

In 2003, when the prohibition of cannabis in Canada was in limbo due to court decisions that struck down the marijuana laws because of flaws in the government's medicinal marijuana program, Emery launched "the Summer of Legalization" tour, travelling to 18 cities across Canada to openly smoke marijuana in front of police stations and demonstrate that marijuana was currently legal in Canada, as featured in the documentary Escape to Canada.

2004 trafficking conviction

On August 19, 2004, Emery was sentenced to 92 days in jail in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Emery had been convicted of trafficking because a witness saw him pass a joint in March 2004.[103] Emery's supporters held an ongoing daily vigil outside the courthouse until he was released. On October 18 he was released from the Saskatoon correctional centre after serving 61 days of his sentence.

Non-marijuana activism

Iboga Therapy House

In 2002, Emery founded the Iboga Therapy House, an ibogaine-assisted detoxification therapy program located on BC's Sunshine Coast.Emery and his staff offered free ibogaine therapy to volunteer heroin and cocaine addicts with a plant-based alkaloid called ibogaine, which eliminates withdrawal symptoms and helps produce the mental change needed to quit using.

Emery's Iboga Therapy House treated almost 60 people before he stopped funding in 2004, at a cost Emery states of over $2000 per person. The Iboga Therapy House became a non-profit society in 2005 and continues to offer ibogaine therapy as an independent organization.

2005 arrest and extradition

On July 29, 2005, Canadian police, acting on a request from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), simultaneously raided the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore and Headquarters in Vancouver and arrested Emery for extradition to the United States outside a local storefront in the community of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia where he was attending a HempFest.

American authorities charged Emery and co-defendants Gregory Keith Williams, 50, of Vancouver, BC and Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek, 34, of Vancouver, BC with "'Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana", "Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds" and "Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering". Even though all the alleged offenses occurred in Canada, Canadian police did not lay any charges.

The day of Emery's arrest, American DEA Administrator Karen Tandy released the following statement:

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 channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.

Emery was freed on a $50,000 bail and prepared to fight extradition in the courts.

International protests and rallies

On September 10, 2005, about seven weeks after Emery's arrest, over 40 demonstrations were held around the world to protest his impending extradition to the United States. Locations included Moscow, Prague, Wellington, Sydney, Mexico City, Paris, and London.

On September 19, 2009, rallies were held in over 100 cities around the world in support of Marc Emery and opposition to his extradition to the USA. Locations included New York, London, Paris, Edmonton, Oslo, Lima, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Houston and many more.

On May 22, 2010, rallies and protests in support of Marc Emery were held in over 80 cities representing a dozen countries. Nations with rallies included Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, the Philippines, Denmark and Ireland. There were 40 participating cities across Canada and another two dozen across the USA. Worldwide "Support Marc Emery" rallies are planned for September 18, 2012. So far over 80 cities have confirmed their participation.

Proceedings and guilty plea

Emery and his two associates, all charged in the United States with drug and money laundering offences, each faced a minimum 10-year sentence and the possibility of life imprisonment if convicted there.

On January 14, 2008, Emery had agreed to a tentative plea-bargain with U.S. authorities. The terms of the agreement were a 5-year prison term to be served in both Canadian and U.S. prisons. In return, he demanded the charges against his friends Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams be dropped.

(An appeal court judge ruled on March 7, 2008 in a similar case that a one-month jail sentence and probation constituted an adequate sentence for the crime of marijuana seed selling in Canada. This could possibly have been used to Emery's advantage in his fight against extradition.)

On March 27, 2008 the plea-bargain deal collapsed because of the refusal of the Canadian Conservative government to approve its side of the arrangement.

In late 2008, an extradition hearing was scheduled for June, 2009. However, before those hearings Emery agreed to plead guilty to one charge of drug distribution and accept a five-year sentence in the USA.

On September 21, 2009, Emery entered his guilty plea, and on September 28, he was incarcerated in a British Columbia prison awaiting extradition to a US federal prison to serve the five-year sentence. There is a 30 day appeal period before extradition.

Emery was granted bail on November 18, after seven weeks in the pre-trial centre, to await the Justice Minister's decision on the extradition order.

While Emery was imprisoned, his supporters held a continuous vigil outside the prison with tents and banners for 45 days, ending when Emery was released on bail.

On September 10, 2010, Emery was sentenced to 5 years in prison minus time served.

Until April 2011 Emery was held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the D. Ray James Correctional Institution in Folkston, Georgia.

On April 20, 2011, Emery was transferred to Yazoo City Prison in Mississippi.

On June 30, 2014, Emery announced his pending release in a blog post on the Cannabis Culture website. His sentence was originally for five years and he earned 235 days of credit for good conduct while incarcerated, his criminal sentence officially ended July 9. "On Thursday, July 10th, US Immigration picks [him] up and takes [him] to the private, for-profit GEO Group LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana, where [he] will be processed for deportation back to Canada." Then he will be flown to Detroit, MI and transported across the border into Windsor, Ontario. Windsor, Ontario is a great distance from his home in Vancouver.

Recent judicial history

Emery is a former retailer of cannabis seeds for cultivation, having started Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds in 1995, which he ran until it was closed by a raid by the Vancouver Police Department acting on the request of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 29, 2005.

US Government officials have described Emery as a drug dealer[150] for his efforts to sell marijuana seeds in Canada and abroad. He was the publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine, a founding member of the Freedom Party of Ontario, the Marijuana Party of Canada and the BC Marijuana Party, founder of the Iboga Therapy House and founder of Pot TV. He ran for mayor of the city of Vancouver in 1996, 2002 and 2008.

Emery was taken into custody on September 28, 2009, and held at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam, BC, to await extradition to the USA. On November 18, 2009, Emery was released on bail, pending the Canadian Minister of Justice signing the extradition order; and on May 10, 2010, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson signed the order and ordered Emery to surrender to authorities, which he did that same day.

On May 10, 2010, Justice Minister Nicholson ruled Emery be extradited to the United States. He faces 5 years in the US penal system. The possibility exists Emery may be allowed to serve all or part of his sentence in Canada. US authorities had not rejected this option, should Canada make such a formal request. Emery did however serve his entire 5 year sentence in the United States.

On May 20, 2010, Emery was extradited to the United States. On May 24, he appeared in a Seattle courtroom and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.

On June 3, officials at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Washington gave Emery an official citation for allowing his wife, BC Green Party Director-at-Large Jodie Emery, to record a message from him over the phone, claiming it broke the prison's rule forbidding third-party calls. Emery was locked in a Segregated Housing Unit (SHU) for three weeks.

On September 10, 2010 in a Seattle court room, Marc Emery was sentenced to 5 years in prison. US district court judge Ricardo Martinez sentenced Emery, stating there was no question his actions were criminal and that Emery ensured others broke the law by selling them the seeds. The court noted Emery claimed on his website to have made some $3 million a year from selling seeds from his Vancouver headquarters.[160] Emery donated almost all of the money generated from his seed sales to marijuana policy reform efforts. Emery's claims that his arrest was political were disputed by the prosecution. On November 19, 2010 Marc Emery was transferred to the D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, GA. He was later transferred to Federal Correctional Institution, Yazoo City Low to serve the rest of his sentence.

On July 9, 2014, Marc Emery was released from Yazoo City having completed his sentence. He was then transferred to LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, La., an immigration facility where he was issued temporary passport and on Aug. 12 he was flown to Detroit where he crossed the border into Windsor, Canada. Emery served just over four years of his five year sentence having earned 235 days of good conduct credit.

See also