Marc Emery has built a multimillion-dollar business selling marijuana seeds and paraphernalia while thumbing his nose at authorities in...
Marc Emery has built a multimillion-dollar business selling marijuana seeds and paraphernalia while thumbing his nose at authorities in his native Canada, even challenging them to arrest him.
Yesterday, the man known as Canada’s “Prince of Pot” was arrested in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on a U.S. indictment charging him with selling millions of dollars worth of marijuana seeds to customers throughout the United States.
Emery, the 47-year-old leader of British Columbia’s Marijuana Party, has earned about $3 million a year selling the seeds through his Internet Web site and by mail, federal officials said. Emery and two accomplices, Gregory Williams, 50, and Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek, 34, were arrested by Canadian authorities on a warrant issued by federal officials in Washington state.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said Emery will be tried in the U.S. because he committed most of his alleged crimes in this country. The Seattle-based office of the Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation.
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Sullivan said Emery will be extradited from Canada to the U.S. for trial, but the process could take anywhere from six months to two years.
While Emery owns a Vancouver, B.C., store that sells marijuana paraphernalia and seeds, police say at least 75 percent of his illegal transactions involved U.S. customers.
Vancouver Police Department spokesman Howard Chow said U.S. authorities are hoping to prosecute Emery in Seattle under an agreement called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which allows the prosecuting agency to determine where to try defendants. Authorities likely thought there was a better chance of conviction and harsher punishment in the U.S., Chow said.
Emery, a self-styled activist who once called himself a “libertarian capitalist,” has become a spokesman for British Columbia’s movement to legalize marijuana and is publisher of the Canadian magazine Cannabis Culture.
During a 1996 interview with The Seattle Times, Emery discussed an arrest by Canadian authorities for selling seeds at his Vancouver store. He said he wanted to be arrested to “challenge this stupid law and overturn it.”
Neil Boyd, professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., said Emery’s arrest may not have occurred if U.S. authorities had not been involved.
“It’s not unusual for Canadian police to arrest a person who has committed a serious crime in another country. What’s unusual about this case is that they are arresting a person for conduct that attracts very serious penalties in one country and potentially no penalties in Canada,” Boyd said.
While selling marijuana seeds in Canada is illegal, Boyd says the laws in Canada are not as tough as in the U.S.
Emery opened his store in 1994 and operates Marc Emery Direct, the Web site through which he sells more than 500 types of marijuana seeds with names such as Wonderberry, White Widow and Island Orange. He claims to own the world’s largest selection of marijuana seeds with prices for 10 seeds ranging up to several hundred dollars.
All three defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. The distribution charges alone carry potential punishments of 10 years to life imprisonment.
John Conroy, Emery’s attorney in several previous cases, said Rainey-Fenkarek already had appeared in court and was ordered held on $25,000 bail. He said Emery and Williams may appear in court on Tuesday.
“He’s [Emery] been arrested for a number of things over the years,” Conroy said, but never before on a U.S. charge. The Canadian arrests include marijuana possession — particularly the seeds — for purposes of trafficking. He has been convicted of some charges, and according to his Web site, he was most recently sentenced to 92 days in jail for trafficking and possession.
Officials say Emery sold marijuana to undercover agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration both by mail and in person.
Emery has been active in pushing for marijuana legalization. He has run for mayor of Vancouver and his marijuana party’s slogan is “overgrowing the government.”
Because of treaties between the U.S. and Canada, U.S. attorney Sullivan said, if Emery is convicted in the United States he could request to serve his time in Canada, where he might be eligible for release sooner. Sullivan said U.S. authorities will have a chance to weigh in on his release to Canadian custody but that his transfer would still be possible.
“That’s one of the frustrations with prisoners who are sent to Canada,” Sullivan said.
Ari Bloomekatz: 206-464-2540 or firstname.lastname@example.org