Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Vancouver Province week of Aug. 8, 2005)

Just Say No to Extradition

  By John Martin

Modesty has never been a problem for Marc Emery.  But considering himself a martyr, along the lines of Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, is quite a stretch, even for the so-called Prince of Pot.

Still, support for Emery in his legal battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. keeps rolling in Ė and not just from stoners, green-haired skateboarders and COPE.  

Emery certainly appears to have violated U.S. Law.  His website took orders and shipped a prohibited substance across U.S. borders.  And Americans are fully within their right to seek his extradition.

The rules of extradition are quite clear that in order to send a Canadian to the U.S., the alleged offence must also be a criminal act in this country.  And technically speaking, the selling of seeds is clearly illegal.

So far, it looks like an open-and-shut case.  Cries that the DEA requested raid is a violation of Canadian sovereignty are a crock.  There is no sovereignty issue at stake here.  And anti-U.S. sentiments are hardly grounds to refuse extradition.

So, should Emery be shipped south to face the music?

Absolutely not.

True, the selling of seeds in Canada is a criminal act in the legal sense.  But there is much more to defining what should be considered a crime than the mere legal aspect.  And if extraditing Emery rests on the basis that his actions also broke Canadian law, the process should not be allowed to happen.

The conferring of illegality on an act is a legislative process, and is only one dimension of taking the extreme measure of prohibiting certain behaviors.  To be classified as a crime, the act must also, to some degree, offend societyís morals and values.  The considerable debate on the marijuana issue suggests there is no consensus in this area.  

There is even less support for using the criminal law to sanction those selling seeds.

Marcís business was known to police and every level of government.  For any number of reasons, they left him alone and gave him room to operate.  This is tantamount to condoning his actions.  To come to him now and argue that he also broke Canadian law and should be extradited is petty and dishonest.  The law prohibiting the selling of seeds may still be on the books Ė but it lacks moral authority. 

Personally, I oppose the legislation seeking to decriminalize marijuana.  And Iím no fan or friend of Marc Emery.  In fact, ten days prior to his arrest, Marc sent me a colorful e-mail, full of nasty superlatives, taking issue with a previous column on an unrelated matter.

But this isnít about being soft or getting tough on drugs.  This is about using an antiquated piece of legislation that is ignored by every law enforcement agency in the country to take down one particular high profile blowhard.

And that is unacceptable.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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