Vancouver-based marijuana advocate Marc Emery made an urgent appeal for an end to “pot prohibition” at Concordia University’s Hingston Hall auditorium on Friday. Recently released on bail, the leader of the B.C. Marijuana Party and editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine spoke to a receptive crowd of 150 people about his marijuana message calling the war on cannabis “evil” and the jailing of pot smokers “barbaric.”
The lecture, organized by the Concordia branch of the New Democratic Party as part of a Canada-wide university tour, aimed to draw support for Emery who is facing extradition to the United States. If Canada rules to give him up, the “Prince of Pot” risks 35 years in a federal penitentiary for selling millions of marijuana seeds across the border.
During the speech, Emery, 48, spoke philosophically about the benefits of smoking the “wonderful substance” and advocated its use for various ailments. But he came down hard on America’s drug-intolerant policies. He likened Conservatives to an “Evil Empire” and attempted to stir up motivation among the crowd by calling Canadians “cowards” and “scared to get involved.”
Emery turned cool in addressing his frustration over the hypocrisy surrounding marijuana.
“How can you sit there, and by your silence and your implicit consent let your neighbours be taken to jail because of a peaceful, honest lifestyle choice of consuming cannabis?” he ranted.
Emery, who was recently profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes, also mused on being called a “drug kingpin” by U.S. attorney John McKay.
Emery called the insinuations “ridiculous,” adding that Americans bought his seeds out of their own free will.
“When the Wall Street Journal put me on their front page 10 years ago, they had six editors comb my background to find any trace of drug deals,” the pot crusader told the room. “They said ‘we talked to everybody.your neighbours, your parents, your business associates.every single person said you were bonified legit.'”
He urged attendees to appeal to newspapers and MPs for reform to marijuana laws. Emery, who has donated thousands of dollars to pro-pot organizations worldwide, also promoted political involvement with the NDP party, providing pamphlets and sign-up forms at the door.
Throughout the discussion, Emery’s boisterous sound bites and feisty activism provoked uproars of clapping in the crowd. However, he was heckled during the question period by a dissident who expressed disagreement with his “scare tactic arguments” and statement that people were “commanded by God” to end prohibition.
Still, the vast majority of attendees appeared support his cause. Axel, a 23-year-old Concordia student who refused to have his name released, said he is an avid pot smoker. Axel said he originally came to the lecture to gain insight on the topic but he found himself sympathetic to Emery’s cause.
“It seems it’s taboo,” he said. “Even though it’s everywhere around us and everybody does it. They just don’t talk about it and that’s hypocritical.”
After the lecture, attendees crowded Emery who gave out autographs and invited everyone to his private “freedom party” in the Plateau area.
Steve Gawthorpe, 23, a U.S. citizen studying political science at Concordia said he thinks the U.S. government has singled out Emery unfairly.
“I would say the United States see him as a threat,” he said, clutching his signed copy of Emery’s Cannabis Culture Magazine. “And from an American perspective, it would be sad to see Canada reform their laws to coincide with the states because a lot of Americans see Canada as a sanctuary for marijuana.”
Though marijuana seeds don’t contain THC, the drug’s active compound, possessing seeds or pot, remains illegal in Canada. However, the country’s permissive attitudes have resulted in some disregard of this law.
Opinion polls indicate that two thirds of Canadians agree with decriminalization or legalization of Marijuana, yet the feeling is that Canada’s Conservative government is unlikely to relax drug laws anytime soon. NDP Concordia’s Lauren Skelly says this is doing an injustice to Canadians.
“Pot is a peaceful substance,” she said. “It seems very unfair that we’re jailing a person for the distribution of a plant. Canadians are becoming more and more tolerant about it. If we are criminalizing these people for something that’s socially accepted, isn’t that kinda two-faced?”
Marc Emery’s extradition hearing is scheduled for April 6.