B.C. Marijuana Party leader Marc Emery speaks with members of the media in Vancouver on Friday. Emery was released from jail, one week after he was arrested on US based drug charges. Photo: CP
I'm like Gandhi, Mandela and King, says pot crusader facing U.S. jail threat
VANCOUVER (CP) - A Canadian pot activist facing extradition to the United States says he's prepared to suffer in prison if it leads to the legalization of marijuana as he compared himself with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela after his release from jail on Friday.
"If I thought my death or my lifetime imprisonment even at great suffering would bring about the liberation of hundreds, thousands and millions of people around the world who are oppressed, I am looking forward to that," Marc Emery said in an interview.
Emery, released on $50,000 bail, is fighting extradition to the United States on charges that could send him to prison for at least 10 years and possibly life.
He said the people he admires most - Gandhi, father of India's independence, anti-apartheid leader Mandela and King, the revered U.S. civil rights leader - spent time in prison for their beliefs.
"Their lives were still only one life compared to the millions that received hope and relief of suffering," he said.
Emery, leader of the B.C. Marijuana party, had been in custody since being arrested a week ago on U.S. charges of conspiracy and money-laundering related to selling marijuana seeds over the Internet.
Although sentenced to three months on a pot charge in Saskatchewan last year, Emery could face between 10 years and life in a U.S. federal prison if extradited and convicted in the United States.
U.S. authorities, who refer to Emery by his nickname the Prince of Pot, said they mounted an elaborate investigation and sting operation against him, including using undercover officers to purchase seeds that were then used to grow pot plants. They allege he advised agents how to smuggle the seeds across the border.
Even before Emery, 47,and two other pot activists were arrested on U.S. extradition warrants, he said he had become suspicious about his nosy American clients.
"Eventually I had an understanding that they were (undercover agents) because they started asking me about buying marijuana and I thought that was very odd because I never have sold marijuana," he said.
"Eventually I realized perhaps they are finalizing an investigation but that cannot change anything."
Emery spent a week in custody because it took time to raise the necessary security to post bonds.
His supporters are demanding federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler block the U.S. extradition request.
Although selling viable marijuana seeds is also a crime in Canada, no one has been charged in years. Critics also contend the U.S. sentence would be unduly harsh for a non-violent offence.
Cotler would not comment on the case but a spokesman said this week the extradition request would be allowed to take its course through the court system, which could take years if all appeals are pursued.
Emery said Friday he speaks for millions who believe in the cannabis plant, worship it and believe "it is a testament from God."
U.S. officials claim Emery has made millions of dollars from his seed business but Emery said Friday he's paid out more than he ever made.
He promised to release details of his finances in the coming days and said all of the money that has been earned from the seed business has been used in the campaign to legalize marijuana or fight charges against other activists.
"I gave away every dime I ever earned," he said. "It comes to millions and millions of dollars that I gave to every major organization in the world and in North American to legalize marijuana. I helped hundreds of people who were in jail with lawyers, with bail."
Emery said he paid about $380,000 in federal and B.C. income taxes between 2000 and 2005 and never hid the source of his income from the government.
The governments knew the taxes "were specifically from the proceeds of marijuana-seed sales and they were grateful to get that money," he said. "They were happy to have me as a payer."