When it comes to marijuana laws, “Americans are dopes,” said Paul Berton in The Calgary Sun. Because the U.S. is so paranoid about pot, a prominent Canadian activist is about to go to jail for five years, “longer than some violent offenders.” The American justice system has targeted Marc Emery, a 49-year-old Vancouver businessman and founder of the British Columbia Marijuana Party, for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet. Some of Emery’s clients were Americans, so the U.S. insisted that Emery be extradited to American soil and tried. Fortunately, Emery’s Canadian lawyers worked out a plea bargain under which he can serve his time in a Canadian prison. Had Emery actually been extradited to the U.S., he would have faced a minimum of 10 years in a U.S. jail. But given that pot is such a non-issue here, many Canadians “wonder why the justice system is spending so much energy and money” to incarcerate this man at all.
That’s the key question, said the Toronto Star in an editorial. Emery is a victim of Canada’s failure to enforce its own laws. Under extradition law, a Canadian can be sent to the U.S. for trial only if the offense he is charged with there is also a crime in Canada and if he has not been charged in Canada. Selling marijuana seeds is, technically, illegal here. But Emery had been doing it openly—even brazenly—for years, secure in the knowledge that the Canadian police wouldn’t touch him. The Canadian government didn’t care about his offense: In fact, up until just a few years ago, “the feds were directing medical marijuana users to Emery’s Web site.” So we shouldn’t blame the Americans for Emery’s plight. “The reason Emery is facing a five-year prison sentence is not because the U.S. is enforcing the law, but because Canada refuses to.” Since most Canadians do not consider selling or growing marijuana to be a prison-worthy offense, Canada should strike down that law.
That’ll be the day, said Mindelle Jacobs in The Edmonton Sun. “What a bunch of hypocrites our politicians are.” Emery went out of his way to provoke them for years, sending a copy of his seed catalogue to every member of Parliament and filing careful, thorough tax returns detailing his income from marijuana sales. He knew the politicians were “not ballsy enough to uphold the law.” Instead, Ottawa chose simply to ignore Emery’s antics until the U.S. felt compelled to act. Every day that Emery spends in prison can be laid to the account of wimpy Canadian politicians.
At least Emery’s martyrdom has gotten Ottawa’s attention, said Ian Mulgrew in The Vancouver Sun. Canadians are universally outraged that their countryman will go to prison for a “victimless, nonviolent crime.” As voters, they may now demand that Canada finally legalize pot. Emery himself, though angry, is unrepentant. “I’m really pleased and proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “I wish I could have done more to piss the U.S. government off.”