A Montreal court handed down its sentence to longtime cannabis activist Marc Emery on Wednesday, issuing him a $5,000 fine for drug trafficking. Considering both of the other more-serious charges against Emery, drug possession and conspiracy, were both dropped, the fine amounts to a slap on the wrist for the oft-jailed activist. Canada’s imminent legalization of adult-use cannabis played a role in Emery’s light sentencing, according to prosecutors.
Cannabis Activist Marc Emery Calls Canada’s Legalization Plans “A Disaster”
“Cannabis will be legalized eventually, so [that] has an impact on the sentence,” Crown prosecutor Philippe Vallières-Roland told reporters. And indeed, for Emery — the cannabis crusader who has spent much of the last decade in and out of prison in the US and Canada — $5,000 is easily the smallest penalty the activist has had to pay for his freedom.
Still, on his way out of a Montreal courthouse on Wednesday, Emery hardly had a kind word for the provincial government.
“[Montreal] is a corrupt province, and the people are an afterthought,” Emery told reporters. “There is no freedom in Quebec.”
Emery’s remarks stem from the activist’s strongly libertarian ideology: he feels the Canadian government should have as little say as possible over the country’s changing cannabis laws. After more than ten years campaigning for legalization, Emery now says the government’s current framework “will be a disaster” when it takes effect late this summer.
Emery takes issue with the way Canada’s new marijuana laws will give individual provinces almost complete control over the sale and consumption of cannabis. In Quebec, for example, government-run dispensaries will be the only game in town.
“There is not good access to cannabis at a reasonable price. So the new government program here will be a disaster,” Emery said.
Canada’s “Prince of Pot” Has A Long History With The Law
Marc Emery’s high profile cannabis activism has earned him a reputation as Canada’s “Prince of Pot”. Together with his wife Jodie Emery, Marc established Cannabis Culture, a business which set up marijuana dispensaries across Canada.
The sale of cannabis is still illegal in Canada. And Cannabis Culture dispensaries were frequently swept up in police raids aimed at shuttering illicit storefronts.
But if police shut down one dispensary, Emery would just open another. For the activist, opening an illegal dispensary was an act of “peaceful civil disobedience,” the most effective way to change cannabis laws in Canada. At their peak, 19 Cannabis Culture dispensaries were in operation across three provinces.
The $5,000 fine Montreal courts issued Emery on Wednesday settles a charge dating back to 2016. On December 16 of that year, police arrested Emery along with his wife at a Cannabis Culture location in Montreal.
Emery’s December 2016 arrest was hardly the activist’s first dalliance with the law, however. In 2005, ten years after starting Marc Emery Direct Marijuana Seeds, Canadian police arrested Emery for extradition to the United States at the behest of the DEA.
For U.S. DEA, Emery Was Most Wanted Drug Trafficker
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration viewed Emery as something of a drug kingpin. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft identified Emery and Cannabis Culture as “one of the most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets,” according to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy.
In a statement issued at the time of Emery’s 2005 arrest, Tandy released a statement which read, “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 US and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement.”
Emery, who managed a plea bargain over the DEA’s charges, would spend five years between 2009 and 2014 incarcerated in Canadian and U.S. prisons.
Two years after his release, however, Emery and his wife were back to opening Cannabis Culture dispensaries. In 2016, the couple opened six new locations in Montreal alone.
Emery and Cannabis Culture only added to their rap sheet from there. In March 2017, police arrested Marc and Jodie at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Marc faced 15 charges stemming from that arrest, including trafficking, possession, and possession of proceeds of crime.
The next day, Toronto police targeted Cannabis Culture dispensaries, shutting them down and seizing their cash assets to the tune of $250,000 in mixed currencies. Given the amount of cannabis at the dispensaries, police said that only illegitimate sources could have supplied the stores.
Marc and Jodie are currently out on bail. But a court order forbids them from possessing or consuming marijuana without a prescription. And the couple cannot visit any Cannabis Culture locations or facilitate any of their operations. A December 2017 guilty plea to the March charges placed Marc and Jodie on two years probation.