One of the most annoying statements I read in connection with the recent arrests of the so-called Prince and Princess of Pot, Marc and Jodie Emery, was an allegation in the Toronto Star by Acting Inspector Steve Watts, of the Toronto Drug Squad, that the Cannabis Culture franchises must be getting their marijuana inventory from "illegitimate sources" -- "often tied to organized crime," the Star added -- due to the high volume of marijuana they sell.
Few people are more open about their illegal activities than Marc Emery. He always paid income taxes on his seed sales, showing "marijuana seed vendor" as his occupation on tax returns.
He sent his Cannabis Culture magazine to every member of parliament for over 12 years.
He made no secret of his vision that one day, marijuana would be sold legally and openly in a free market by myriad competing sellers, large and small.
He was already positioning Cannabis Culture as a seller of consistently high-quality products with exceptional customer service. The notion of Marc skulking around with nefarious, violent criminals is completely inconsistent with all of his past conduct.
So I asked him where Cannabis Culture gets its inventory. It turns out that among the bewildering and ever-changing regulations governing pot these past two decades, there was one that granted permits (called Designated Person Production Licences) for people to grow medicinal marijuana for authorized, medically needy pot users.
Although these licences are no longer given out, existing licences were grandfathered by the Federal Court in 2014. Such licences often allow producers to grow surpluses well beyond the needs of their authorized users. That's where Cannabis Culture gets its inventory. Marc says he has known his suppliers for years and has personally inspected their growing premises.
While this sounds well "organized" to me, that's not what members of the public were supposed to envision when the Acting Inspector Watts and the Star smeared Marc with the "organized crime" slur.
No, there seems to be an effort underway to get Marc and Jodie into jail and out of the marketplace before legalization occurs. Opportunists have been swarming out of the woodwork, hoping to monopolize or at least cartelize Canada's marijuana industry and earn huge profits from Marc Emery's decades-long efforts to legalize the stuff.
Meanwhile, Marc -- who has already been arrested 30 times and spent five years in the U.S. prison system -- faces possible life imprisonment for his current charges, not to mention the possible forfeiture of all his assets. He may well be in jail, destitute, on the date when his "crimes" cease to be crimes.
What better way to get a highly effective competitor out of the marketplace?
The hypocrisy surrounding marijuana legalization sickens me. Legalization could actually be accomplished by a very short bill simply repealing about a dozen lines in the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.
Instead, a complex regulatory and tax environment is planned -- rewarding many "respectable" prominent citizens who have traded in their jobs in the prohibition-prosecution-enforcement industry for shiny new positions as purveyors of the product they formerly sent people to jail for.
Let's hope the jury recognizes the injustice of being asked to impose life imprisonment on a man whose only "crime" has been to openly do something the government has agreed should be legalized.
According to the Task Force on Cannabis Legislation, "A commitment was also made [by the Trudeau government] to punish more severely...those who sell [marijuana] outside of the new regulatory framework."
Marc sent me a list of 23 pillars of the community now chafing at the bit to provide recreational marijuana to the Canadian public. It includes numerous former politicians and civil servants, most of them Liberals, and even some cabinet ministers. It also includes three former high-ranking RCMP officers and three former municipal police chiefs or deputy chiefs. Google corroborated the information.
The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization issued its final report in November, 2016, repeatedly stressing the need to keep marijuana profits "out of the hands of organized crime."
There's irony in their complex proposed regulations: The more narrowly you restrict legal sales of marijuana, the more opportunities you leave open for "criminals" to pursue the market niches you've outlawed.
Marc Emery, Canada's self-proclaimed 'Prince of Pot,' and founder of the Cannabis Culture dispensary chain,is seen in his illegal recreational cannabis storefront in Montreal, Quebec on Dec. 15, 2016. (Photo: Julien Besset/AFP)
There's another irony too: one hallmark of organized crime is its use of physical force to deter competition. Compete with the Mafia and you'll end up with your kneecaps broken, or worse.
But that's no different in principle from the government's plan. Compete in a way they don't like and they'll deploy physical force to seize your person, put you in jail, and take your property. That threat of violence, used to proscribe the peaceful, voluntary exchange of goods between consenting adults, makes government itself a kingpin of organized crime.
Incidentally, I've known Marc personally for about 38 years. I don't share his taste for marijuana; in fact, I've never tried it in my life. And I don't intend to start using it even if the government ever gets around to legalizing it. But I have long admired Marc for his principles and his persistence.
This time around, the penalties he faces are so high that he will finally get the jury trial he has long desired. Let's hope the jury recognizes the injustice of being asked to impose life imprisonment on a man whose only "crime" has been to openly do something the government has agreed should be legalized.
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