Crossing the line

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 12:00am

Canadians pride themselves on their belief in justice, fair play and tolerance, but every once in a while, somebody comes along and puts these liberal instincts under severe strain. I'm talking here about Marc Emery, the so-called 'Prince of Pot' who was arrested by police last week for shipping marijuana seeds to the US.

What really burned Mr Emery's supporters was that he was detained in Canada, at the instigation of US anti-drug enforcers, and the courts here will be asked to extradite him to the US for trial. Now, why would Canada, which sees marijuana as a harmless recreational drug, co-operate with agents of a foreign government, which sees marijuana as inherently evil? Isn't that an attack on Canadian 'sovereignty' by conservative forces in the US?

Well, yes, I suppose it is. And I guess I should donate money to Mr Emery's legal defence fund, buy a membership to the British Columbia Marijuana Party, and maybe march in protest around the nearest US consulate. But before I opened up that pandora's box of liberal outrage, I picked up the morning newspaper and took another look at the photographs of the martyr-in-the-making.

In one photo, he is defiantly smoking a joint as thick as a baby's arm, and the look on his face says: 'Try and stop me if you dare.' In another photo, he is inhaling in his Vancouver apartment, up to his waist in bags of high-quality British Columbia marijuana. The 'principle' he's defending seems highly lucrative.

Until his arrest, Mr Emery had a website which offered marijuana seeds for sale - more than 500 different strains that you can germinate, and then plant, in the comfort of your home. If you need a high-powered lamp to help them grow, he would sell you that, too. The trouble is, 75 per cent of those seeds went to the US, and Americans have a far less sanguine view about pot than Canadians.

A US official said there were more children being treated for marijuana addiction today than all other illegal drugs combined. You can dispute that if you like, but if nothing else, it helps explain why the Bush administration is so vehemently anti-pot. And Mr Emery, an astute businessman, surely must have known that by shipping his seeds south of the border, he was twisting the tiger's tail.

Truth be told, Canadian authorities are not very keen about the business either. Last week, police in Ontario shut down a farm where they found 21,000 neatly planted marijuana stalks. The growers, said by neighbours to be Chinese, were pretending to harvest potatoes. The locals were suspicious because they never saw a tractor, and none of the planters spoke English.

It seems this was someone else trying to profit from Canada's laissez-faire attitude to drugs, and learning it's not quite so 'laissez-faire' after all.



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