Pro-pot activist speaks on campus

Marc Emery describes himself as Canada’s ‘Prince of Pot’

Emery says the NDP has the best approach to drug policy.
Emery says the NDP has the best approach to drug policy.

Marc Emery, president of the British Columbia Marijuana Party, is probably not exaggerating when he calls himself Canada’s “Prince of Pot.”

“I’ve probably smoked more pot than any other Canadian, save for Tommy Chong,” he said.

Emery spoke on campus earlier this month at a talk organized by the Queen’s NDP Association. In addition to founding and leading the B.C. Marijuana Party, Emery is also the publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine, the producer of Pot-TV and a distributor of marijuana seeds through his company, Marc Emery Direct.

Emery argued that Canada’s prohibition of marijuana should be repealed immediately and that smoking, possessing and growing pot should be entirely legal.

“Pot is not bad for you in any way,” he said. “I’ve smoked pot for 24 years. I myself feel I am in great health.”

Emery said that legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco are far more harmful to one’s health.

“Pot pacifies people, but alcohol adds to their aggression,” he said. “Nobody ever gets cancer from just smoking pot. Marijuana will not hurt you. It will not kill you.

“Guns kill people and you can legally buy a gun,” he said.

Emery said that marijuana prohibition is counter-productive because it creates opportunities for organized crime to thrive in Canada. He compared modern-day marijuana prohibition to alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and said that prohibition creates attractive incentives for black market trafficking.

When alcohol prohibition finally ended, alcohol-related organized crime ceased because the dealers had lost their market, Emery said. He said that ending marijuana prohibition would have the same result.

“The economic engine of those gangs dried up,” he said, referring to bootleggers in the 1920s. “We should have learned something from prohibition.”

He also said that marijuana prohibition is counter-productive because it gives ordinary Canadians a criminal record. He said he once met a young man in jail who had been given a criminal record because the police found him in possession of less than one gram of marijuana. Emery said he personally has been arrested 19 times for marijuana related offences and charged 13 times.

“I went to jail lots, for small amounts of pot,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of jails. I’m used to it.”

On Mar. 22, four days after Emery spoke on campus, he was arrested in Saskatchewan forsmoking pot. He has since been released on bail.

“Bad things happen for tiny amounts of weed,” he said. Emery said that the young man he spoke to who was arrested for simple possession was strip-searched and humiliated by the police.

“We are creating a terrible thing in Canada,” he said. “What [does] the nation benefit from all this?”

He also said that the maximum penalties for marijuana-related offences, including up to 14 years in prison for growing marijuana, is out of proportion to the actual offences.

“Conspiracy to commit terrorism is only 10 years,” he said.

Emery said arresting drug users is not the answer and that the government should instead devote resources to treating drug abuse as a health problem instead of a criminal one. He said he has personally helped treat numerous drug addicts through various cannabis compassion centres.

“I actually treat hardcore drug addicts,” he said. “I’ve treated 40 people in the last year. People have a terrible view of addicts.” He said that most addicts tend to come from poor families that struggle to make ends meet. “They start spiralling downward,” he said.

“My belief is that addiction goes with the person, not the substance,” he said. He also said that addicts would feel more comfortable seeking the help they need and less likely to commit crime and live on the streets if society ceased to criminalize marijuana and label drug users as criminals.

Emery added that smoking pot is not restricted only to those who live at society’s margins. He cited several successful and prominent people who have smoked pot at least once in their lives, such as computer icons Bill Gates and Paul Allen, co-founder of City TV and Much Music Moses Zniamer, former Prime Ministers Kim Campbell and Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Prime Minister Paul Martin.

“Carl Sagan developed all of his major theories—and his wife has told me this—while high,” Emery said.

Emery concluded his talk by encouraging people to get involved in politics and to vote for the NDP in the upcoming federal election.

“I urge you to get involved with the NDP for this election,” he said. “Please get out and vote NDP. Mr. Layton is a good man and a sincere man.

“This issue [legalization of marijuana] is so important you don’t need to consider any other issues,” he said.

Despite his support for the NDP, Emery described himself as a libertarian at heart. “I’m actually an Ayn Rand accolade,” he said. “The answer is never more statism.”

He said he supports the NDP because they recognize the infringement upon liberty caused by marijuana prohibition. He said he disagreed with the Conservative Party’s attitude toward marijuana and the law.

Emery openly recognized that many people disagree with his opinions. He said he always enjoys and encourages free and open debate about the politics of marijuana.

“I like people who disagree with me,” he said.

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