'Let me be the light that shines on the American gulag,' [Marc Emery] said, stern-eyed, pointing into the camera. Without notes, Mr. Emery sermonized for a half-hour about everything from the marvelous medicinal and spiritual qualities of pot to the greatness of Thomas Jefferson, 'who gave America on hemp paper the Declaration of Independence.'Marc Emery, of Pot-TV and Cannabis Culture magazine, was recently busted by authorities in British Columbia, where he lives, at the behest of the American Drug Enforcement Administration.
His crime? Well, for the last ten years or so, he's been running--quite openly--one of the largest marijuana seed banks in existence, selling high-quality seeds all over the world, including to eager recreational and commercial growers in the United States.
In Vancouver, what he does is widely tolerated, though still technically illegal. He estimates that he's paid at least CDN$600,000 in taxes over the last several years, listing his occupation as "marijuana seed salesman" on his tax forms. You can't say he's been sly or underhanded about it... in fact, he's made a crusade out of it, travelling around the world and smoking pot in front of police stations in less tolerant countries.
How did this über-libertarian scofflaw form his philosophy of life?
Hold on to your hats--I'm not making this up. In his teenage years, his then-girlfriend gave him a joint not long after he discovered Ayn Rand:
[H]e said his life changed in 1979 when he began reading the works of Ayn Rand, who championed individual freedom and capitalism.
"The right to be free, the right to own the fruits of your mind and effort now all made sense," he recalled. Only a few months after discovering Rand, his girlfriend at the time offered him a joint and he smoked marijuana for the first time.
It was an epiphany," he said. "I had a sixth sense added to my five senses. The silence sounded different, smells were more nuanced and the brightness of the moon made it look bigger and more substantial in the sky."
To which I might add, Pink Floyd records instantly became more interesting, as did Doritos.
At any rate, this case raises a very interesting question, one that Canadians are going to be talking about for quite some time: should Canada extradite Mr. Emery to the United States, to stand trial for doing something that is de facto legal where he lives?
To put it very mildly, the drug laws in the United States have been something less than an unqualified success. Our failed effort at marijuana prohibition has resulted in the expenditure of a ton of money for no positive (and many negative) social results:
Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year, finds a June 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.And we now have half a million people in the United States behind bars for drug offenses... more than the entire prison population (for all offenses) of Western Europe, which in the aggregate has a larger population.
Look... I think Marc Emery is kind of goofy, okay? And the last time I had any pot in my house was when my wife was going through chemotherapy (she's all better now, thanks.)
But the idea that my government is trying to put a seed salesman into the clink for life is absolutely ludicrous and laughable.
Does anyone in their right mind think that pot is as much of a danger to society as, say, terrorism? We're spending more on marijuana control every year than we are on port security.
Is it as dangerous as obesity, tobacco smoking, alcohol abuse, Michael Moore, Howard Dean, James Dobson or Tom DeLay?
The question answers itself.