Royal times are over for the dethroned Prince of Pot
He is known as the 'Prince of Pot', but millionaire Vancouver businessman Marc Emery will soon have a new moniker - prisoner.
Emery, who gained his notoriety and his money selling hemp seeds and used the proceeds to fund magazines and a political party encouraging the legalisation of marijuana, is heading to a US jail.
In exchange for a guilty plea, Emery, 49, will serve five years in prison, mostly in Canada. If he had been convicted without a guilty plea, he would have been forced to serve a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison.
He cut the deal, he said, because his lawyers told him he had no hope of winning his case and he sensed that the 'compliant puppet government in Canada' would not back him in avoiding extradition to the United States.
To Vancouverites, Emery, with his intense stare and articulate libertarian views, was the natural leader for potheads, conspiracy theorists and freethinkers.
'I'm being outsourced to the American justice system,' said Emery, who claims that part of the reason why he's agreeing to the plea bargain, which hasn't been formalised yet, is to quell social unrest. 'Millions of people around the world support me. Many have threatened civil disobedience.'
Emery contends the hemp seeds he sold over the Web were for beginners or people who needed marijuana for medical reasons. For seven years, until his arrest in 2005, Emery made enough as a 'seed vendor' to pay nearly C$616,000 (US$600,000) in taxes.
American authorities had a different view. They considered Emery a major drug trafficker who pocketed millions and helped organised crime groups make money from the sale of marijuana.
The more Emery became the focus of US attention, the more attention he got from supporters. His website has posted a statement from former Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Karen Tandy touting the 'Prince of Pot's' arrest.
'Today's DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine and the founder of a legalisation group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the US and Canada but also to the marijuana legalisation movement,' it said.
Emery and his organisation were one of the US attorney general's most wanted international drug-trafficking targets and the only one from Canada.
It's this type of high-profile status that has given Emery a loyal following, although it's unclear how many supporters he really has. Emery said he took the deal with the US, even though it carries a prison sentence, to spare his two co-accused associates, Greg Williams and Michelle Rainey, who is suffering from Crohn's disease, from having to go to jail. The three marijuana advocates were arrested at the request of US authorities. Emery was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, which stem from the sale of seeds over the internet to US customers.
With no princeling in the wings to replace him, Emery's jail term could spell the end of Canada's legalisation movement. The pot torch looks ready to be extinguished.
Tomorrow: New York