Monday, May 17, 2010

Emery latest victim of a stupid war on drugs

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It's certainly not the worst crime committed in the name of the war on drugs.

That title probably belongs to the countless innocent people killed in botched raids. Or the police officers who died in pursuit of the impossible. Or the lives lost to easily preventable overdoses and blood-borne diseases. Or the funding handed to thugs, terrorists and guerrillas. Or the civil liberties eroded, the corruption fostered, the chaos spread. Or maybe it belongs to the hundreds of billions of dollars governments have squandered in a mad, futile and destructive crusade.

Next to all that, the extradition of Marc Emery to the United States is no great travesty.

Emery is the Vancouver activist who has long campaigned for the legalization of marijuana. To fund his efforts, he ran a little seed company similar to thousands of other little seed companies, except when Emery's seeds were put in soil, watered and given sunlight, they grew into cannabis plants.

Showing rare good sense, Canadian officials decided that prosecuting a man for selling the seeds of a common plant is not a public priority. In effect, they permitted Emery's business, and others like it, to operate. Health Canada officials were even known to direct those licensed to possess medical marijuana to Emery.

But such pragmatism smacks of heresy to the holy warriors of prohibition. In 2005, Emery was arrested by Canadian police acting at the behest of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Innocent Americans had been lured into purchasing Emery's wicked wares, the DEA alleged.

Emery fought extradition for five years. On Monday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson ordered him handed over. Thanks to the insanely punitive sentencing laws in the Land of the Incarcerated, Emery faced as much as 20 years. He accepted a plea bargain for five.

Emery argued that he was a political target, that the DEA was out to get him in order to silence a prominent advocate of marijuana legalization. One might suspect delusions of grandeur, except the DEA issued a press release in which the agency's chief says pretty much exactly what Emery alleges: "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."

But let's not get distracted by the mendacity of the DEA or the embarrassing servility of a Canadian government willing to go along with this farce. Let's stand back and ask the only question worth asking.

What the hell is the point of all this?

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