One of the news stories I expect to be following closely in 2008 is the case of Marc Emery, the Canadian marijuana seed seller who faces an upcoming extradition hearing to decide whether he should be sent to the United States to face trial. The effort to extradite him has been led out of the US Attorney’s office right here in Seattle (originally by John McKay, and then by his replacement Jeff Sullivan) and will re-commence in a courtroom in Vancouver, BC on January 21.
As we’ve seen with the Ed Rosenthal case in the Bay Area, prosecuting outspoken drug law reform advocates has been a very high priority for the Bush Administration’s Justice Department. In that particular case, even after the presiding judge urged US Attorney Scott Schools to drop the case, they continued with their futile prosecution attempt, even as it was clear that Rosenthal would never be punished and the number of white-collar crimes being investigated around the country plummeted.
The fact that Emery is Canadian (and that the DEA has openly admitted that he’s being targeted for his political views as well as his business) makes this case extremely important up north. What he does is technically not legal in Canada, but the Canadian government has long felt that it has more important things to do than to try to break up a multi-million dollar industry that isn’t hurting anyone.
Writing in the National Post, Ontario attorney Karen Selick expresses her opposition to the extradition attempt in an open letter to Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson:
Dear Mr. Nicholson: On Jan. 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.”
I’m obviously no expert on Canadian law, but if Selick is correct, there seems like a valid rationale for the Justice Minister to intervene. This could be one of the reasons why there was some discontent in the Western Washington US Attorney’s office over former DEA head Karen Tandy’s politicization of the case. Either way, Emery seems eager for a confrontation and feels destined to become a martyr.
I won’t copy and paste the remainder of Selick’s letter, but she makes one very important point. Emery has dutifully paid over half a million dollars in taxes from his business. He assisted the Canadian government when they needed to implement a medical marijuana program. But now they appear ready to turn their back on him solely because the United States can’t come to terms with the failure of our own marijuana prohibition (which we continue to try to impose on the rest of the world). How can the Canadian government profit and benefit from a man and his business for years, then allow for the United States to put him in jail for life without even a fight?