A week ago, I posted about the case of Marc Emery, the Vancouver-based marijuana seed entrepreneur who was facing an extradition hearing on the 21st of this month. I planned to follow the hearings pretty closely, but it looks like there might not be much to follow. Emery appears to be taking a plea bargain:
Marc Emery, Vancouver’s self-styled Prince of Pot, has tentatively agreed to a five-year prison term in a plea bargain over U.S. money laundering and marijuana seed-selling charges.
Facing an extradition hearing Jan. 21 and the all-but-certain prospect of delivery to American authorities, Emery has cut a deal with U.S. prosecutors to serve his sentence in Canada.
I was a little surprised to see Emery do this, as he seemed to be really looking forward to the publicity that would’ve surrounded his trial in a U.S. court. But the deal was apparently done in the interest of sparing his two co-defendants, one of whom is a medical marijuana patient who fears she will die in an American prison. Still, Emery is clearly ticked off by what happened:
“I’m going to do more time than many violent, repeat offenders,” he complained. “There isn’t a single victim in my case, no one who can stand up and say, ‘I was hurt by Marc Emery.’ No one.”
Of course, there are some out there who would argue that this isn’t true. A number of people think that flouting our drug laws to the extent that Emery has hurts everyone, and “sends the wrong message to children.” And many of these people, unfortunately, still have prominent jobs in our government. Only recently have we started to see them as the radical extremists that they really are.
In Canada, Emery’s business was technically illegal, but ultimately tolerated. He paid his taxes and forged good relations with the Canadian government. But in the end, America’s zealousness in fighting the drug war has always been able to trump such trivialities. Marc Emery, a man who hasn’t even visited in the United States in many years, will be sent to a Canadian prison for 5 years solely for being the supply that matched up to the American demand for the seeds of a plant that humans have used recreationally for thousands of years.
In other news out of Canada, Glenn Greenwald posts about another set of unjust laws, hate speech laws. Unlike the laws that are sending Emery away to jail, these laws don’t come out of pressure from the American government. Instead, they come from those who take an extreme view of multiculturalism and protecting minorities. Greenwald writes:
Ezra Levant is a right-wing Canadian neoconservative who publishes Western Standard, a typical warmongering, pro-Likud journal — a poor man’s Weekly Standard for Canadian neocons. In February, 2006, he published the Danish Mohammed cartoons, which prompted an Islamic group’s imam to file a complaint (.pdf) against Levant with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, charging Levant with “advocating hatemongering cartoons in the media,” and the imam specifically accused Levant of “defaming me and my family because we follow and are related to Prophet Mohammed.”
Rather than dismiss the complaint as a blatant attempt to punish free thought and free speech, the Alberta Human Rights Commission announced that it would investigate. To do so, they compelled Levant to appear before a government agent and be interrogated about the cartoons he published, his thoughts and intent in publishing them, and the other circumstances surrounding his “behavior.” Under the law, the Commission has the power to impose substantial fines and other penalties on Levant.
As much as I would probably find Levant’s politics to be a mixture of hysterical and terrifying, his actions should never, ever be considered a crime for any reason. This is one thing that nearly all of us in this country tend to get right. We understand the value of free speech and that restricting it will always unleash unintended consequences. However, as Greenwald points out, these laws are more common in both Canada and Europe.
Whether we’re talking about U.S. drug laws or the hate speech laws in Canada, any time you make laws which aim to protect the public’s peace of mind by restricting the liberty of others, you start down the path of totalitarianism. You chase an unattainable utopia that eventually alienates the public it aims to protect. Both the United States and Canada can look across our common border to take the first steps towards backing away from our extremist tendencies.