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IF YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY ... Not all that long ago now President Barack Obama "announced that ... grants will be available for those wishing to do research in renewable energy ... such as wind [and] solar." The next day "German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG said ... it will acquire a 28 per cent stake in Archimede Solar Energy S.p.A. to expand its expertise in solar thermal power plants." Meanwhile, for mere mortals who just want to know more the OpenSolar blog in the San Francisco Bay Area has been expanding its resources for letting you "ask questions about solar technology and get personal answers from experienced solar professionals and installation owners." All this remains one big piece in the big new clean-energy future that lies ahead. You can check it out in depth at ABOUT OPEN SOLAR!

Written by the counterweights editors  
Monday, 14 January 2008  

UPDATED JANUARY 21. TORONTO. Just as we are trying to figure out what the Liberals and New Democrats may or may not be doing to prepare for a possible Canadian federal election soon enough, more exotic news arrives from the Wet Coast.

The lead item is a January 14 article by Ian Mulgrew in the Vancouver Sun, called "Emery agrees to 5 years in Canadian prison." The piece reports that "Marc Emery, Vancouver's self-styled Prince of Pot, has tentatively agreed to a five-year prison term in a plea bargain over US money laundering and marijuana seed-selling charges." Facing an "all-but-certain prospect of delivery to American authorities, Emery has cut a deal with US prosecutors to serve his sentence in Canada."

Ian Mulgrew then opines that: "Whatever else you may think of Emery ... what is happening here is a travesty of justice. Emery's case mocks our independence as a country ... It's time for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to step in and say, sorry, Uncle Sam, not today — not ever." And then we wonder: could this become a Canadian federal election issue too? We certainly think it should ...

1. The news breaks on January 14 ...

There appear to be three different versions of Ian Mulgrew’s Vancouver Sun article (or column), one of which has also appeared in the Calgary Herald (a little) back east, over the mountains. A second version seems somewhat longer than the first. An apparent third version seems identical to the first, but appears on the Vancouver Sun site as a column rather than a news article.

We can do no better than present the main thrusts of Mr. Mulgrew’s piece(s) in a shorter space:

" ... Facing an extradition hearing Jan. 21 and the all-but-certain prospect of delivery to American authorities, Emery has cut a deal with US prosecutors to serve his sentence in Canada. [A Canadian Press report suggests that some minimal US jail time could be involved as well?] He also hopes it will save his two co-accused — Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, who were his lieutenants for so much of the past decade.

"The three were arrested in August 2005 at the request of the United States and charged even though none had ventured south of the border. Since then, they have been awaiting the extradition hearing. With the proceedings about to begin, Emery says his lawyer brokered the best deal possible.".

Assuming the deal is "accepted by the courts in both countries, Emery said he will serve the full term and not be eligible for Canada's lenient get-out-of-jail-early rules. ‘I'm going to do more time than many violent, repeat offenders,’ he complained ... He's right. Whatever else you may think of Emery — and he grates on many people, what is happening here is a travesty of justice. Emery's case mocks our independence as a country. Prosecutors in Canada have not enforced the law against selling pot seeds and all you need do is walk along Hastings Street between Homer and Cambie [in Vancouver ... and there are similar places ‘in Toronto and in other major Canadian cities’] for proof."

Mr. Mulgrew goes on to point out that although the written law on marijuana usage in Canada and the United States is similar enough, the enforcement regime in Canada has been much milder for decades now — in no small measure as the result of the somewhat different political climate. (Note the recent news report, e.g. "Poll suggests Canadians would back any candidate Democrats run in US election." Or even another January 14 Vancouver Sun piece: "Medical marijuana grower ready to expand after ruling." Though here as well we’d equally want to note that some parts of the US can be just as liberal in such matters as Canada. Even in Southern California you can buy marijuana at a store in Santa Monica quite openly with a medical permit, to take just one example.)

The ultimate point is that if we in Canada let Marc Emery (as much of an annoying jerk as he so often is) be manipulated by dysfunctional US law enforcement in this way, we are effectively saying that the highly irrational and counter-productive current US federal government’s "War on Drugs" applies north of the border in Canada too. And since when did any democratic Canadian legislature vote on that? (And note as well that Mr. Emery has not been doing business in the United States in the same way as Conrad Black, with branch plants and offices and so forth. He has just filled orders for US customers who send orders to his offices in Canada, much like other US citizens who buy cheaper drugs in Canada.)

The upshot is, as Ian Mulgrew goes on to explain, that "Emery is being handed over to a foreign government for an activity we are loath to prosecute because we don't think it's a major problem. His two associates were charged only as a way of blackmailing him into copping a plea ... It's a scandal ... Emery is being made a scapegoat for an anti-cannabis criminal law that is a monumental failure ... There is a better way and every study from the 1970s Le Dain Commission onward has urged change and legalization ...

"Regardless of what you think of Emery, he should not be facing an unconscionably long jail term for a victimless, non-violent crime that generates a shrug in his own country. Emery is facing more jail time than corporate criminals who defrauded widows and orphans and longer incarceration than violent offenders who have left their victims dead or in wheelchairs ... .

"‘It's an ugly situation but Marc expects miracles,’ Kirk Tousaw, one of the lawyers involved, told me. ‘There aren't any here’ ... He's right. Our extradition law puts Canadian citizens at the mercy of foreign governments and judges can't do much about it. Emery is being forced to accept a deal because not only are two of his friends in jeopardy if he doesn't, but also to go south for an unfair trial would mean serving as much as 20 years in prison, perhaps more ...

"If Emery has been breaking the law and must be jailed, our justice department should charge him and prosecute him in Canada. It's time for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to step in and say, sorry, Uncle Sam, not today — not ever."

We can only add our own hearty endorsement to Mr. Mulgrew’s eminently sensible arguments here. We agree Marc Emery is a jerk, in many different ways (albeit one with a cute young wife and a long track record of supporting various libertarian causes — and with some right as well as left-wing supporters). But we also think that, as a matter of simple justice in an independent sovereign Canada, what does seem about to happen to Marc Emery now is an unqualified outrage — a scandal indeed, as Mr. Mulgrew says! And thank god there are at least people and newspapers on Canada’s Pacific coast who are prepared to say this out loud and in public.

2. Some deeper background on "His Highness of Dopedom" ... and BC as a lead province in the new Canada ...

So can Ian Mulgrew’s point that it’s "time for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to step in and say, sorry, Uncle Sam, not today — not ever" become an issue in a fresh federal election that may or may not be happening soon enough? I.e., if Minister Nicholson does not wisely follow this good advice, will the opposition parties in Ottawa have the conviction and cohones to take him to task and hold him and the Stephen Harper minority government at large to account?

There are of course some obvious problems. In a January 9 article in the Victoria Times-Colonist, called "The Prince of Pot deserves BC support," Les Leyne observed that even in his own region "BC Liberals and New Democrats are much too careful to say publicly what they really think about Marc Emery ... He might soon be a hot political issue, but provincial politicians want little to do with him. To ask an MLA about Emery is to discover how many incredibly important other things they have to do right now — goodbye."

If anything the situation is worse in Ottawa — where regions less populistically lively (and tolerant?) than Canada’s Pacific coast must also be taken into account. Many years ago now, e.g., Marc Emery began his long career as a maverick libertarian agitator in London, Ontario. But like others he moved west (and in his case as far as Vancouver), perhaps partly because the broad regional political climate there seemed somehow more hospitable to his aspirations.

For better or worse, the melody lingers on. Last October Emery was trying to drum up support for his current cause in Toronto (where, believe it or not, certain stodgy parts of the old colonial past still sometimes throw surprising weight). Sarah Hampson at the Globe and Mail bumped into him and came away with this impression: "The Prince of Pot should be called His Highness of Dopedom. He babbled on about his sex life; offered a lurid description of a former girlfriend's genitalia; and an explanation on why even crystal meth should be legalized. If pot activists knew what was good for their cause, they would encourage Mr. Emery's extradition and find some spokesperson who doesn't come across like a man who has smoked too much weed in his lifetime to know how to be serious when it's required."

And yet in what Canada’s Constitution Act 1982 calls "a free and democratic society" you are not denied justice just because you are a jerk.

Moreover, as Les Leyne also argued in his January 9 article, in Marc Emery’s case: "Delivering him to the front lines of the ‘war on drugs’ would be an embarrassment to Canadians and a terrible example of caving in to the biggest public policy failure since Prohibition ... The federal justice minister can intervene," and the case may "continue for years ... But eventually BC politicians should ... stand up and oppose this extradition ... They've contributed to the difference in the cultures of the two countries and that difference is the central reason sending Emery to the US is wrong ... Selling marijuana seeds might be a crime in both countries. But in Canada, and particularly in BC, it's considered a trivial offence, on a par with jaywalking..."

In fact this argument makes sense in all parts of Canada and both official languages. As BC Premier Gordon Campbell recently urged, when talking about all the intriguing relations between and among Canada and its provinces (and territories too): ""We have to commit to one another to being one country, where people in one part can easily move to another."

Logically enough, there is support for Marc Emery in all regions of Canada too. So, eg: "On Dec. 31, the [Toronto-headquartered] National Post comment pages published an open letter by columnist Karen Selick that asked Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to intervene in the extradition process against ‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 21."

On January 4 another item in the Full Comment section of the National Post, called "Colby Cosh: A matter of national sovereignty," went on: It was no surprise to Mr. Emery "that the Americans want to clap him in irons. What might have been a surprise was the election of a Conservative government in Canada, one which has made tougher laws against marijuana growers and users a cornerstore of its political agenda ... Still, that should not deter us from a fair assessment ... Many of those who consider Mr. Emery's plight get distracted ...

"The plain fact is that Canadian law never practically considered" Marc Emery’s marijuana "seed business a major peril to public order or morals, or it would have done something about it .... Marijuana is recognized as having medical benefits by our government, as it is in the law of nearly a dozen US states. The US is using the technical presence of an unenforced law on our books to carry its drug war onto our soil. If the Honourable Mr. Nicholson allows this to reach its logical conclusion, and Mr. Emery is sent south for notional crimes committed entirely on Canadian soil, it will constitute a blow to our national sovereignty."

This, it seems to us particular current Toronto residents as well, is no more or less than the simple truth, regardless of your particular partisan or other political convictions. And if there is some real danger that Marc Emery actually will be extradited — or start to be extradited — to the United States as early as this coming Monday, January 21, 2008, the Honourable Mr. Nicholson and all the rest of his fellow politicians in Ottawa ought to very quickly find some discreet way of doing something to stop it.

We are all well enough advised, no doubt, to take some heed of Ms. Sarah Hampson at the Globe and Mail — and be quite careful about what we finally say in public on this kind of issue. Marc Emery is a jerk and his thinking on marijuana and other currently illegal drugs is no model for any kind of effective public policy on any subject.

Yet, as also pointed out in the National Post, if the shoes were on the other feet in Mr. Emery’s case, our excellent friends and neighbours in the USA today certainly would not put up with the RCMP, say, demanding the kind of infringement of their popular democratic sovereignty that the DEA down south is demanding of ours — in the interest of their not our dysfunctional drug-law enforcement policy.

If the politicians we elect, to represent us in Ottawa, seriously do believe that there is any point in carrying on with Canada, and continuing to pay their salaries (as there certainly is in our book, for endless numbers of very good reasons), then when the chips on Marc Emery’s case are finally down Mr. Nicholson and all his colleagues will have no other choice but to do as the pages of both the Vancouver Sun and the National Post have lately recommended. Otherwise, how can we finally have any personal self-respect as Canadian citizens?

In the very end this may very well not be the kind of federal election issue that everyone talks about openly on radio and TV. But we the Canadian people can be a shrewd and cunning and even vaguely united lot, in the midst of all our diversity and regional nationhoods — linguistic, cultural, etc, etc. Even if you abstain from all forms of substance abuse yourself, for whatever reasons, the justice and the sovereignty interest of Marc Emery’s case are clear enough. It could become the kind of sleeper election issue that quietly cuts deep.

Who knows? It may even be the fuzzy symbolic thing that finally gives large enough numbers of strategic voters good solid reasons for at last choosing Liberals, New Democrats, or even Greens — and certainly members of the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois. Is the minority Conservative government in Ottawa right now so blindly ideological on this issue that it is prepared to risk that? (And besides, again, and as even the youthful Mrs. Jodie Emery knows, there is a right-wing as well as a left-wing libertarianism, alive in all of North America today.)

UPDATE JANUARY 21: The Vancouver Sun has reported   that "extradition proceedings against Marc Emery, Vancouver's self-styled Prince of Pot, set for Monday [January 21]" have been postponed ...

"The BC Supreme Court put over until tomorrow the hearing at which time the proceedings are expected to be adjourned until Feb. 6 while negotiations and details of a plea bargain are worked out.

"US federal prosecutors have charged Emery and two associates — Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams — with drug offences and money laundering for operating a global marijuana seed business ... All face a minimum 10-year sentence and the possibility of life if convicted in the US ... But under the proposed deal, Emery would plead guilty and apparently serve a minimum of five years behind bars, mostly in Canada.

"In return, he is demanding the charges against his friends be dropped ... Assistant US Attorney Todd Greenberg in Seattle, where Emery was indicted in 2005, has so far declined to comment ... He was unavailable Monday because of the public holiday in the US [Martin Luther King Day]." 


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