Marc Emery -- "Prince of Pot," purported political prisoner and shameless self-promoter -- will soon become Marc Emery, prison inmate.
When he faces a federal judge Friday in a Seattle courtroom, the Canadian marijuana seed dealer will almost certainly be sentenced to a five-year term in federal prison.
A plea agreement inked earlier this year to end the five-year-old prosecution guarantees as much. Should U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez impose another sentence, either Emery or the prosecution could pull out of the deal.
That practical certainty hasn't stopped Emery from using Friday's hearing to draw attention to two of his favorite causes -- marijuana legalization, and himself.
Emery, a 12-time candidate for elected office in Canada and magazine publisher, spent millions of dollars gained through a mail-order seed business to advocate for marijuana law reform in Canada and the United States. After a lengthy extradition fight, Emery pleaded guilty earlier this year to drug crimes, which he described as "civil disobedience."
Writing the court in preparation for Friday's hearing, Emery cast his multi-million-dollar marijuana seed business as having been a tool in his fight against marijuana prohibition. He and his attorneys again reiterate bellicose statements made by then-Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen Tandy in which she described Emery's 2005 arrest as a blow against the marijuana legalization movement.
In a letter to the court, Emery was contrite. He'd previously fought extradition and, through his supporters, continues to conduct small rallies demanding his release.
"It has always been my sincere belief that the prohibitions on cannabis are hurtful to U.S. and Canadian citizens and are contrary to the constitutions of both countries," the 52-year-old wrote in the Sept. 1 letter.
"I regret not choosing other methods -- legal ones -- to achieve my goals of peaceful political reform," the former candidate for Vancouver, B.C., mayor continued. "I have no one to blame but myself. … In fact, one of my heroes, Mahannes Gandhi (sic), often said that an important principle of civil disobedience is acceptance of punishment by the state without complaint.
"I, too, accept my punishment without complaint."
When he and two coworkers were arrested following a lengthy DEA investigation, Emery's was one of dozens of businesses selling marijuana seeds. Emery's attorneys point out that a simple Internet search shows those businesses continue to operate without drawing the ire of the U.S. government.
For reasons never explained by the Justice Department, Emery was the sole Canadian on the Attorney General's most wanted list of drug traffickers. At the time, violence was on the rise among British Columbia-based gangs largely funded by the province's illicit marijuana crop.
In contrast to the gangs often targeted by federal law enforcement in partnership with Canadian authorities, Emery ran his operation out of a Vancouver storefront. Sales of his seeds -- roughly 3 million of which were sent to customers in the United States -- were taxed by the Canadian government.
Asking that Martinez impose the agreed term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg disputed claims by Emery that he was targeted because of his political activities. Emery, the federal prosecutor contended, poses "serious dangers … to the community through his distribution of large volumes of a harmful controlled substance which, in turn, fueled the potential for marijuana grow-related violent crime."
"From the Department of Justice's perspective, the focus of this case always has been, and should remain, on Emery's long term and repeated violations of the U.S. drug laws," Greenberg told the court.
"The government's case," he continued, "was investigated and prosecuted without regard for Emery's personal politics, his political agenda, or the ways in which he chose to spend the proceeds of his drug crimes."
That claim -- that the Department of Justice was disinterested in Emery's activism -- runs counter to Tandy's statement issued the day the "major North American marijuana trafficker" was arrested in Nova Scotia.
In full, Tandy stated the following:
"Today's DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement.
"His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today.
"Emery and his organization have been designated as one of the Attorney General's most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets -- one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."
Emery attorney Richard Troberman cited Tandy's statement as evidence that his client was targeted for fighting against the drug war.
Noting that Greenberg handled the case with "professionalism and integrity," Troberman described the federal prosecutor's claim of disinterest in Emery's political activities as "absurdly naive."
Troberman argued his client was targeted by the DEA because he, unlike his competitors in the marijuana seed business, used his profits to fund pro-pot initiatives, including medical marijuana reforms in several U.S. states.
"The only thing that makes Mr. Emery unique or different from most of these other seed sellers is that Marc donated his proceeds to help fund lawful marijuana legalization efforts throughout the United States and Canada," Troberman told the court. "On this record, no one can or should take the government seriously when it claims that this case was not politically motivated."
Emery's supporters are expected to gather outside the Stewart Street courthouse Friday afternoon in preparation for his sentencing. Through his Cannabis Culture magazine, Emery's supporters also contend rallies will be held in 57 cities around the world to ask that he be allowed to serve his time in a Canadian prison.
Speaking to her husband's magazine, Jodie Emery reiterated that the seed business was run "with the explicit goal of funding the marijuana legalization movement."
"He paid his income tax on seed sales, and operated openly and transparently," Jodie Emery said, according to Cannabis Culture. "Marc and I have no savings, bonds, stocks, property, cars, homes, or anything of value. On the day of his arrest, he had $11 in his bank account.
"Marc Emery sold seeds not for personal profit, but for drug policy reform and progress that has, since he started in 1994, been very successful."
Currently housed at the SeaTac Federal Detention facility, Emery is expected in court at 1:30 p.m. Friday. He pleaded guilty to drug charges in May.
- Article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.