Since the War on Terror, the equally hopeless War on Drugs has faded into the background. But, don’t be fooled. The Drug Enforcement Administration is still on the prowl and hungry for victims. Apparently not having enough to do in America, the DEA has taken the war to Vancouver, British Columbia, to the front doors of three Canadians known as the BC3 or the Vancouver 3.
Marc Emery and co-defendants Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams face the British Columbia Supreme Court May 28, which will begin a five-day extradition hearing. The United States will attempt to extradite the cannabis activists under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on conspiracy charges including conspiracy to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
The group could face 10 years to life in prison if extradited to the states. Shockingly, under the U.S. “King-Pin” legislation passed under a Newt Gingrich-led Congress, the manufacture or distribution of 60,000 kilograms of marijuana, 60,000 plants or 60,000 seeds warrants the death penalty. If the United States seeks the death penalty, the B.C. Supreme Court will, more than likely, deny the extradition. However, the fact that this law is even in place is something to worry about.
If you’re like me, you may be questioning America’s right to thrust our War on Drugs onto a country that’s working towards the legalization of marijuana. How can our government arrest Canadians for selling seeds, something that the Canadian government and people openly tolerate?
Furthermore, how can the United States dictate such harsh penalties as 10 to life with the possibility of the death penalty, when we have consistently arrested more people for marijuana offenses than violent crimes since 1998? What exactly is our government trying to protect us from – three seed-dealing, pot-smoking Canadians?
How dangerous are the BC3 anyway?
Marc Emery, the main target of the DEA, is the leader and president of the British Columbia Marijuana Party, the publisher and editor of Cannabis Culture magazine and a strong political activist for the legalization of marijuana. He is also the director of PotTV, and he ran Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds from 1995 until 2005, when the Vancouver police raided the store on the request of the U.S. DEA.
Over a 10-year period, Emery gave approximately $4 million to North American and international activist organizations, activist politicians, drug war refugees and defendants, medical bills for activists, anti-prohibition advertisements, ballot initiatives throughout the United States, HEMP BC Legal Assistance Center … the list goes on and on. In short, all of the proceeds from Emery’s seed business go towards political and activist programs to legalize marijuana and to help marijuana people.
Yet, Emery does not stop with just activism. He has used the funds from his seed business to actively help medical marijuana patients who struggle to get their medication. He’s even assisted hard-drug addicts with rehabilitation programs, all funded by his marijuana seed business.
B.C. Marijuana Party Vice President Michelle Rainey, 35, suffers from Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes swelling in the intestines. Crohn’s Disease is incurable and causes severe pain, other health complications and possibly death. Rainey began smoking pot and quickly found that the medicinal properties of the herbal plant did far more for her symptoms than her prescribed medications.
Rainey began a fight to have Crohn’s Disease put on the list for medical-marijuana use. Crohn’s Disease was put on the list in July 2005, and she finally received her medical marijuana license in October 2005 after a long and arduous struggle. She can now legally possess and grow her own medicine. However, if extradited to the United States, Rainey will no longer be able to use medicinal marijuana and will continue to suffer from her disease from the inside of a U.S. federal penitentiary.
Greg Williams, 51, works with Emery and Rainey at Cannabis Culture and also has a segment on PotTV, “The Grow Show with Marijuana Man.” Williams, an avid cannabis activist, views the War on Drugs as “the worst thing that has ever happened to the people of the world in our lifetimes.”
These are the three people our government is fighting to extradite – political activists. According to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy (nominated by George W. Bush), Emery is “designated as one of the (U.S.) Attorney-General’s most-wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets – one of only 46 in the world and the only one in Canada.”
Emery was arrested on July 29, 2005, for extradition to the United States for trafficking in marijuana seeds, for the production of marijuana and money laundering (i.e. all the causes he donates his proceeds to). While Emery sat in a prison cell, the police raided his home, offices and the B.C. Marijuana Party Bookstore.
The police only found approximately 5,000 seeds at the BCMP Bookstore’s Seed Desk. They couldn’t find any marijuana or any other substances or materials considered illegal. Even when an undercover agent tried to have Emery sell her pot over the phone from the United States, he declined and also warned her about the risk involved with bringing illegal substances into the United States.
Emery, along with Rainey and Williams, may be undertaking an agenda that the United States does not agree with or support (i.e. the legalization of marijuana), but this does not give our government the right to imprison them for life. While selling seeds in America is illegal, the charges and the punishments do not fit the crime, even in the home of the War on Drugs. Emery has used his marijuana business to fund not only political activism, but also to help medical marijuana patients struggling to receive their medicine and even U.S. defendants tried and sentenced unfairly. For example …
In 2003, 18-year-old Webster Alexander of Alabama was sentenced to an unbelievable 36 years in prison for selling just two ounces of pot. After hearing about the case, Emery undertook an active role to help spare the teenager life in prison. With the help of Emery, Alexander’s sentence was reduced to one year served on weekends. As with all of his other pot endeavors, Emery was able to help save Alexander’s life through the proceeds from his seed business.
Emery has described his career methods as “revolutionary retail” and “capitalist activism.” He created a “movement that used a retail model to generate money that would feed a vast network of activism.” Beginning in 1994, Emery began working to change the marijuana laws in Canada through peaceful lawbreaking. Though Canada has yet to legalize the plant, marijuana related activities are tolerated.
The Canadian government knew of Emery’s business, and not once in 10 years did they try to shut down his operation. According to Emery, it even says “Marijuana Tax Vendor” on his tax returns. Furthermore, they have letters from Health Canada in 2003 stating that medical marijuana users should purchase their seeds online.
As a matter of fact, marijuana is a $7-to-$15-billion-a-year industry in Canada, with hundreds of thousands of people growing and selling pot. After 10 years of activism from Emery and his group, more Canadians are rejecting fines, jail time or any punishment for marijuana possession, according to NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in a 2004 nation-wide poll. Even more, a majority of Canadians favor a taxed and regulated system of marijuana distribution.
No one in Canada has ever been sentenced to jail for selling seeds, and only two people have ever been fined – Emery in 1996 and 1998 and Ian Hunter in 2000. The last fine Emery received in 1998 was $700 per count.
From a small fine to life in prison – how did this happen in a land working so hard to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use?
Coincidentally, the DEA’s attack on the BC3 occurs right around the time Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez kicked the DEA out of his country on claims of blackmail and espionage. Another coincidence placed Director of National Drug Control Policy for the White House John Walters in Vancouver in December 2002, less than a year before Emery’s arrest.
At the Vancouver Board of Trade, Walters, known as the Drug Czar, gave a speech to discourage the pursuit of the legalization of marijuana. The Vancouver City Council reported that Walters guaranteed that if Vancouver pursued legal marijuana policies, the United States would shut down the border to Canadian commerce.
A month after Walter’s visit, the Vancouver police department launched an investigation of Emery's seed business. Former B.C. Solicitor-General Richard Coleman handed over the investigation file to the DEA in October 2003. Just under two years later, Emery was arrested.
On the day of Emery’s arrest (July 29, 2005), DEA Administrator Tandy released the following statement:
North American Marijuana Trafficker and Self-Proclaimed "Prince of Pot"
aka Marc Scott Emery Arrested Today.
(Read the official document here.)
If you still cannot believe that the DEA is targeting the BC3 based on their political agendas after seeing this statement from the head of the DEA herself, then you are blind, my friend.
The First Amendment, the founding principle behind our country, states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Isn’t that all the BC3 are doing – exercising their rights to free speech and the freedom to assemble? To go into another country and violate the very principle we founded our country on is rather hypocritical. The fight is not over yet, however.
We cannot stand by and let our government destroy the lives of people from any country based on their political views. It is wholly immoral and unethical, and for American citizens to stand by and let this happen would be a travesty. We must join the ranks and let our government know that we will not stand for such mistreatment of any human, American or not.
“I need an army of activists,” Emery said, “writing letters, petitioning, wearing ‘No Extradition’ T-shirts, demonstrating, voting in elections, joining a political party in Canada or the U.S. to make your views on prohibition heard. We need your support.”
There are several ways you can help the BC3 fight the DEA:
I will leave you with the words of the Prince of Pot:
"I am not afraid of the task ahead of me. I am not afraid of jail for the rest of my life, undoubtedly painful as that would be. I don’t fear prison rape or abuse or suffering or loneliness, though those miseries would no doubt be present in a U.S. federal prison.
"My fear is that the marijuana people will continue to be taken away to lives of ruin and despair by a murderous police state. My fear is that Canada will be absorbed as a compliant puppet state of the U.S. War on Drugs. My fear is that the DEA, with offices in 65 nations around the world, will have more and more citizens from other countries extradited to the USA to face draconian punishments for the rest of their lives.
"I fear for Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, facing extradition for simply being in my activist organization."
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ŠThe Voice 2007
Revised 03/26/2007 09:15:54 AM — http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/4_20/bc3.htm