VANCOUVER- A five-year battle by Canada’s self-styled “Prince of Pot” to avoid extradition to the United States on drug charges appeared to be over Monday.
The federal justice minister has ordered Marc Emery surrendered to American authorities, the final step in the legal process.
Emery, who was charged in the U.S. in 2005 in connection with his Vancouver-based seed-selling business, had turned himself in to sheriffs earlier in the morning to await the federal justice minister’s decision.
Within an hour, his lawyer received an answer.
“The justice minister has surrendered Mr. Emery for extradition,” lawyer Kirk Tousaw said in an interview.
“I imagine there’s some paperwork that needs to be shuffled and arrangements that need to be made. My anticipation would be (Emery would be sent to the U.S.) relatively soon, within the week possibly.”
A spokesperson for the minister’s office said he does not comment on extradition decisions. Emery has been out on bail since last fall, when he was released from custody while the federal justice minister made his decision.
He made a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors last year, agreeing to plead guilty in return for a five-year prison sentence. Earlier in the day, Emery called himself a “great Canadian” and told reporters he’s spent his life advocating for the legalization of marijuana. Then he walked into the B.C. Supreme Court building and presented himself to sheriffs.
“I think of myself as a great Canadian — I’ve worked my whole life for individual freedom in this country, I’ve never asked for anything in return,” Emery told reporters outside B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver, with his wife by his side and a throng of supporters carrying “Free Marc” signs.
“And now I will be possibly handed over to the United States for a five-year sentence for the so-called crime of selling seeds from my desk. I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I have no regrets.” American prosecutors allege he has sold about four million marijuana seeds through his magazine and website, and that 75 per cent of those went to customers in the U.S.
Documents obtained by Emery’s lawyer reveal that a U.S. undercover agent posing as a marijuana seed buyer worked in Canada to secure the criminal charges filed against Emery in Washington state. The undercover operation is described in a briefing memo to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson dated Feb. 10, 2010, outlining the case against Emery.
The memo said numerous mail order purchases were made by U.S. undercover agents between March 2004 and March 2005 and an undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement agent was then sent to Vancouver. The memo said the agent was under the supervision of and working with the approval of Vancouver’s police department. Allegations against Emery include that staff at his Cannabis Culture store in Vancouver counselled the agent on how to smuggle seeds across the border and how to grow the marijuana.
“It is alleged that (the store employee) told (the agent) that border inspectors do not conduct strip searches of females, so she should hide the seeds somewhere on her body,” the memo stated. The documents say the DEA agent made several deals to purchase marijuana seeds in exchange for cash and that Emery knew she was going to smuggle the seeds over the border.
The information was obtained under the federal Access to Information Act by Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer and former Marijuana Party campaign manager. In addition to his seed-selling business and marijuana paraphernalia store, Emery is the president of the B.C. Marijuana Party. He was originally charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and money laundering. Two of his Cannabis Culture employees were also accused, but charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.
The minister’s memo states the federal government has received more than 2,700 letters about Emery and virtually all of them ask that Nicholson refuse to extradite him. Emery said he has public support on his side. “I feel it will be very politically unpopular if (the minister) proceeds with the extradition because, let’s say five to seven million Canadian’s use marijuana … I have the support of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of Canadians.”
If he is extradited to the United States, Emery hopes he’ll be allowed to return to Canada to serve out his jail sentence.