Aug. 03, 2005 - Issue #511: John Prine
Gone to pot
Well-known Canadian pot activist Marc Emery was arrested this week in Halifax at the behest of the American Drug Enforcement Agency. Should Emery be successfully extradited, he will face a paranoid U.S. justice system that, if he is convicted, will sentence him to 10 years to life imprisonment—an unjust, unfair, extreme punishment for what Emery has been engaged in. With this, I agree unquestioningly. The reaction by some of Emery’s supporters, however, has included various claims that indicate that they need to lay off the smoke for a minute.
Take pot activist David Malmo-Levine, quoted in the Globe and Mail: “It’s appalling for the US to come in here and try to police our country. To arrest Canadians to face their penalties and their laws is completely wrong.” Or Kayle Hett, quoted in the Toronto Sun: “Basically, it’s the Americans telling Canadians how to run our lives. It’s one more indication that Americans don’t respect Canadian sovereignty.”
Now, we can have problems with the ruthless persecution of a pot activist under the auspices of draconian U.S. laws. What we can’t have problems with, however, is some breach of Canadian sovereignty. Because there isn’t one. This is a case of somebody breaking American laws selling a substance that is illegal in America to American people who live in America.
Consider a parallel case—an American drives to Winnipeg, shoots and kills 10 people, then drives back across the border. Would we not want to have this person extradited to Canada in order to face our penalties and laws? Of course we would.
The arguments made by these pot-activists seem particularly backwards since it seems that Emery used his Canadian citizenship and locality to engage in a bustling trade with U.S. customers without getting ensnared in U.S. laws. Really, one could argue that the U.S. is merely protecting itself from Canadian internet drug dealers who insist on undermining its sovereign laws.
I know I sound unsympathetic to Emery’s plight—I swear, I’m not. But I would be more sympathetic if I thought his internet activities were undertaken on pure “freedom to smoke pot” principle, if this was a statement against bad U.S. laws, just as his repeated run-ins with Canadian law-enforcement have been about bad Canadian laws. I suspect, however, that it was as much about getting access to big American drug markets as anything else.
Regardless of his intentions, if he receives a U.S. sentence, it will in any case be extreme and unfair. But it has little to do with Canadian sovereignty. V
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