OTTAWA — Jodie Emery is feeling pretty positive these days. Her husband Marc, Canada’s so-called Prince of Pot, will be home Tuesday after a five-year jail stint in the United States.
The Liberal Party of Canada, which is leading in public opinion polls, wants to legalize marijuana – something she and Marc have advocated for more than a decade. And two members of the Vancouver East Liberal riding association recently asked her to run for the party.
Emery jumped in. She received her nomination papers over the weekend and is filling them out. Her website jodieemery.ca is up and already encouraging folks to join the Liberal Party of Canada. She is working on a Wikipedia page. And, as she told The Huffington Post Canada in a wide-ranging interview, she really hopes Liberal members will pick her as their candidate and voters will send her to Ottawa.
While Liberal insiders suggested that Emery is unlikely to pass screening in the party’s green-light process and so gain approval as a potential candidate, she believes the Grits need her. She has a celebrity status that Liberals could benefit from, she argued.
“They are the third party. They did get decimated in the last election, they do need support and help, and Marc and I are people who can offer that support,” she said in a phone interview from Vancouver.
Her potential candidacy is already garnering local and national headlines.
“When Trudeau came out here [to Vancouver], every interview on radio from CBC to CKVU to the Province newspaper, Sun News television and CBC television, all asked him about me,” she told HuffPost. “There is a whole lot of attention being built. ...That is an enormous benefit to them; they really need it.”
Whether the Liberals like it or not, Emery and her husband plan to use his welcome-home tour to drum up support for the Grits – much as they used to do when they supported the NDP, she said. Marc Emery is scheduled to cross into Canada late Tuesday from a Louisiana detention centre where he has been held pending his deportation. He was jailed in 2009 after reaching a plea agreement over selling marijuana seeds to American consumers.
Young people, who were teenagers smoking pot when her husband was imprisoned, are distrustful of politicians and government, Emery said.
“They write us and tell us: ‘I’m so excited to see you guys on the road ‘cause I want to help get Harper out,’ That’s what we are going to do,” she said. “If we can get people to listen to us and join the Liberals and unseat Harper, that is our goal.”
“That’s why I joined and why I put my name in.”
The news that Jodie Emery might run in Vancouver East didn’t sit well with local NDP MP Libby Davies. Davies, who had been an ally of the couple and wrote Marc personal letters while he was in prison, called Jodie the day the news broke in June in the Georgia Straight newspaper.
Emery said Davies asked her to run in Vancouver Granville instead. “She said: ‘Why don’t you just run in that riding?’” Emery felt, however, that as a new Liberal with no support in the mainstream party, she would have no chance of winning another seat.
“We talked for a while and I cried afterwards because I was so sad, because she’s amazing, she’s incredible. … We love Libby. We really do.”
Emery said she thought long and hard about running for the Liberals. She relished her non-partisan status and her ability to speak with groups across the political spectrum. But she decided that the importance of the issue – not just from “personal reasons, for I don’t want other people getting arrested and put in prison,” but from a civil rights perspective – loomed so large that she had to take the plunge.
“I thought this would be an incredible opportunity to support the party that can make policy that we want. … It’s not happening with the NDP; the Greens are not going to win, and the Conservatives are just going to make things even worse, I have to support the Liberals, I have to.”
The couple, she suggested, soured on the NDP after former leader Jack Layton failed to push the party’s decriminalization stand on the policy agenda.
The Emerys were also, initially, quite critical of Trudeau. They slammed him for voting in favour of a Conservative government bill that would impose mandatory minimums on pot possession. They also criticized him for not backing the Liberal party’s policy change favouring legalization in 2012.
Marc Emery falsely alleged Trudeau had smoked pot with him “five or six times” and was therefore a hypocrite. He later recanted, saying he had smoked only once with Trudeau – but the Liberal leader denies this too.
“I really got in favour of the Liberals when Justin Trudeau finally started changing his language from being, ‘Oh, I think that decrim[inalization] we could look at,’ he changed it to saying straight out that legalization is something that Canadians support, the science and the evidence-based information about it says that we should legalize it,” Emery said.
While she champions legalization, her number one goal is really Stephen Harper’s defeat.
“I read the newspapers every day … [and] I cry about the things that the government is doing with respect to the environment, the scientists. I mean Elections Canada being prohibited from telling people to vote and not being allowed to investigate election fraud? And scientists hiding reports in their basements so they don’t get shredded while the libraries are locked up. I mean it is insane what is happening across this country.”
“We have to get rid of this Harper Conservative government, and the Liberals can do that. The NDP cannot. But Justin Trudeau has the star power and the magnetism that is required to inspire people to vote, and that’s where we need to put our support.”
Emery describes herself as a libertarian. She said she does not know much about political philosophy but believes in smaller responsible government, more social liberties, civil liberties and freedom.
“Taxation reforms, reprioritizing our spending, reducing wasteful government spending, improving our basic services, those things are important to me,” she said. “Marijuana legalization represents savings of millions of dollars immediately, just by not arresting people.”
Last year, Statistics Canada reported that 25,786 Canadians were charged with cannabis possession.
Emery said prohibition gave violent people a billion-dollar criminal market rather than creating jobs for upstanding tax-paying Canadians. Colorado and Washington state, where marijuana is now legal, are now building hospitals and schools with marijuana money, she said.
“Some people think that ‘Oh, you guys are just pot activists, you just think marijuana is a wonderful substance, you just want everyone to get high, that’s your goal.’ But for me, it’s more about the civil liberties with respect to the human costs, the imprisonment, the families destroyed, the criminal records, the enormous suffering of communities, the gangs, the teenagers recruited into gangs – that is all prohibition related,” she said.
“If we want to talk about the jobs and the economy, we need to legalize it and save millions and make millions, it’s a win-win-win situation.”
Emery has a sweet voice. She encapsulates at once strength and innocence. She readily admits that she likes to talk, a lot, and she loves giving interviews.
She speaks candidly about everything: her birth father’s suicide, falling in love with Marc in her early twenties (she’s 29, he is 56, and they have been married for eight years), her troubled teens and the discovery that weed wasn’t the terrible substance that her parents and teachers told her it was.
“I tried it [in Grade 10] and I started thinking differently. I became a bit more casual, my teachers were all worried about me, and then I started drifting away from my star-student role, and my parents decided I should probably go to a different school and move away for Grade 12,” she recounted.
Mostly she talked about pot and taxes. Her conversation is peppered equally with comments about the benefits of legalization than complaints about how much taxes she pays. “Where is 44 per cent of our income going if it goes to tax? … I mean I can’t even get a proper doctor.”
If Emery can get into Parliament through “an incredible red sweep of the country where there are huge numbers of Liberals surprisingly elected, similarly to last election’s NDP wave, well that would be phenomenal,” she said.
The Liberals have held the staunch-NDP riding only twice, in 1974 and 1993, when the New Democrats’ urban vote evaporated. That is something that could happen again if NDP voters view the Liberal campaign in a positive light and believe that the party can unseat the Tories.
Emery describes the possibility of sitting in the Commons as an honour and an amazing learning opportunity. She would like to be involved with the drafting of the Liberals’ legalization plan and to share her ideas about taxation reform.
“I could help the Liberals by being the minister of marijuana maybe,” she said, with a laugh.
She is already pitching the Grits plans to unimpressed voters in B.C., such as the Chinese community, she said.
But if doesn’t happen, and all her efforts don’t muster up what is required to unseat Davies, Emery said, she would still be happy because the riding would have a great representative.
What she doesn’t really bank on is the Liberals vetoing her chances before she gets started.
She understands that the party might be hesitant to embrace her because of her husband. But she is not Marc, she insists. She is her own woman, and she has managed their businesses – the Cannabis Culture website, Pot TV and their Cannabis Culture store, where they sell marijuana paraphernalia, vaporizers, hemp clothing, grinders, rolling papers, as well as the B.C. Marijuana Party lounge where people pay $5 to enjoy the space. Emery is especially proud that while Marc has been gone, she has grown the enterprise to 28 employees from 19.
“We don’t sell seeds, we don’t sell weed, we are not a dispensary. Everything I do, is above board. We pay taxes, a lot of taxes, payroll taxes,” she said. (The Emerys stopped selling seeds in 2005 when Marc was arrested).
Emery is pretty confident there is nothing in her past that would disqualify her from seeking the Liberal nod.
“I feel I have a good chance. I have a good record, I have years of experience being on news and media across the country, particularly in B.C., so I do have a national profile, that I know the party knows they could benefit from. Most of the nervousness is just because Marc Emery is a known controversial person. He is a figure that carries a lot of baggage, [but] I have earned my own place and public profile.”
Her past is already well-known she says. The photo of her in a bikini supporting Ron Paul is widely available on the Internet. She said she hasn’t changed much and describes herself as a pretty principled and consistent person.
She also has campaign experience, having run, unsuccessfully, for the Green Party twice provincially and twice for the Marijuana Party. She is an in-demand public speaker and does at least one media interview a day, she told HuffPost.
But Emery’s candidacy is not without risks. She told HuffPost she still smokes pot.
“I guess you could say, I’ve managed to keep my stress level down during Marc’s absence,” she answered with a giggle when asked. “I still haven’t answered that one straight out yet, for a couple of years, because of all my trips across the border. …There is certainly no video or photos using it in the past few years.”
Trudeau, of course, also admitted to the Huffington Post Canada last year that while he hasn’t smoked in years, the last time he tried it, he was a sitting MP.
The Liberals have not rejected Emery, yet. This weekend she received her nomination form, a month after she requested it.
The party has told her, however, not to campaign. Just before Trudeau’s BBQ in Vancouver, Emery received an email saying: “Dear nominee-seeker, please don’t campaign during the event,” she said.
The party wanted the focus to be on nominated candidates and the leader, so they asked her not to campaign or have any literature on site.
One source close to Trudeau told HuffPost several people have raised red-flags about Emery’s possible candidacy. They know she would be a lot to handle as an MP.
But there is little chance of that happening. One source close to the vetting process said he would be “exceptionally surprised” if she were able to get through the party’s green-light process.
“She has a colourful body of work, and I would think that all of it would be examined in detail by the green-light committee,” said the source, who insisted on anonymity.
“She has said and done things that are problematic,” he added, pointing to a rock and roll video with Emery and a gang member who spent time in jail. “Things like that don’t put the party that you are running for in the best positive light.”
The Liberals’ green-light committee, the vetting process for potential candidates, is essentially there to ensure that any candidate is bulletproof.
Bruce Young, Trudeau’s B.C. campaign co-chair, said the green-light process is there to ensure that whoever becomes a nominated candidate “is someone who is going to mount a vigorous campaign and weather the attacks that will inevitably come the Conservatives party war-room.”
Speaking about Emery’s potential run, Young would only say: “Anybody can apply.”
Emery acknowledges that she could be thwarted. “The green-light committee could find something that I have said before that doesn’t align with their values and stop me on that. I mean I’ve been active for a decade, I’ve said a lot of things,” she said.
“I know they are between a rock and a hard place just because they support legalization, they are trying to court support on that policy… [and] if they are seen to shun someone like me. …”
If the party thought she was going to hurt them, they would have asked her to step aside, she said.
Most likely, that is what the party will tell her.
“If there is a problem with a candidate, there is a possibility that the green-light committee would flag problems with a candidate’s information and allow them to stand aside and withdraw their application and treat them with kindness and not put them in a place where they are embarrassed,” HuffPost was told.
If the party does reject her, Emery said she would understand that it is just politics.
“If the Liberal Party really does find something about me that could harm the party – and I am trying hard to find anything that could – ... I would understand it, and I would even support that decision because again, the number one priority for me is to get the Harper government replaced with the Liberals,” she said. “My only goal right now, is to help the Liberals win.”
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