Cabinet of ministers meets 'The Prince of Pot'
Popularly known by his moniker ‘The Prince of Pot', Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery's career of advocacy has spanned more than thirty years and has resulted in his spending time in over thirty jails. Emery, 60, defiantly opposed Canada's cannabis laws and opened stores which supplied marijuana seeds. In 2005 Vancouver police raided his store with help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. He was arrested and faced extradition to the United States. In May 2010, after years of legal battles, he was extradited from Canada to the U.S. where he was sentenced to five years in prison for drug distribution charges.
More recently, in December 2017 he pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and was fined $150,000 and placed on two years' probation.
Emery travelled this week to Saint Lucia and was alongside the Cannabis Movement as it made a presentation to the Cabinet of ministers. His visit was part of a worldwide campaign on which he has embarked. Afterward, Emery talked with the STAR. “In the last two years,” he told me, “I've been travelling the world, kind of non-stop. I go wherever one grower, one activist invites me; he doesn't have to pay me or anything, I'll just put his location on my schedule."
The presentation to Cabinet centred on calling for an end to the arresting of individuals so that legalization can follow. Said Emery: “Basically it was a blueprint for an improved regulatory framework; so instead of the regulatory framework being prohibition, meaning it's just banned, this proposal was, first and foremost, 'Let's have a moratorium on the arrests.' If we can stop the arrests, that eliminates the major civil rights problem there.”
“From there,” he continued, “we can establish an economic framework by which to enrich the community through jobs, reduce police interdiction, and more promotion of the health benefits of cannabis. You can't negotiate with the government if they're still arresting you because it's an unequal power situation. But if the government says, 'Okay, we'll stop arresting people,' then we can come to the table and work out some good rules that we're all supportive of, and begin to move forward.”
By his measure, time is short and unless Saint Lucia makes significant strides it will be left behind. “I think within the next six months they've got to announce the moratorium on arrests, and at that point they've got to come up with a policy about decriminalizing. In six months to a year they should come up with some way to sell it on the island. But to me it's all got to happen in the next two years—or Saint Lucia will be left behind.”
Emery said that Cabinet members asked informed questions. Some seemed sympathetic, especially to expunging criminal records of past convicts, but there was one component lacking: a final decision. “All of the Cabinet sounded good, said nice things, seemed sympathetic, but I didn't hear anybody say, ‘Okay, well, we'll try and get that done by mid next year,' or anything like that. But these talks are all useful and the direction is the right direction.”
Emery says that ideal legalization should not dictate how many plants an individual is allowed to grow on his or her property, since there is “nothing wrong with cannabis. If one plant is okay then a thousand plants are okay. It's funny how immorality or criminality is suggested by quantity. When you go buy a beer you can buy a thousand cans; you could stack your house filled with it. You could do this with tobacco, you could do this with prescription drugs. We have to stop letting the state determine limits on something that's safe and good for you. The state needs to acknowledge that they are the ones that have been wrong. By telling us you can only grow twenty plants they're really saying, ‘We're still right, we are your fathers, we are your patriarchy, we are still making the rules,' and ultimately it's unacceptable.”
Emery is strongly against allowing foreign companies to set up shop in Saint Lucia if, or when, marijuana becomes legal. He says that when they come flashing millions, their proposals will sound good at first, but they would ultimately take over.
"I would ban all those corporations from coming, simply because you've got everything you need right here; you've got growers, you've got great land, great soil. Everything that's needed for a sophisticated and modern cannabis industry is already here. You don't need foreign money. The reason politicians and governments love these big corporations," he added, "is because they control each other in a mutually beneficial way. The government sets up regulations which only the big corporations can afford to meet; and because the governments guarantee them this big monopoly or exclusivity, they're willing to invest."
He advised that a cooperative be set up so that, after farmers harvest their produce, they can bring it to sell. The cooperative, he says, will also be responsible for selling the marijuana to tourists, foreign companies and the general public. “Every store in Castries sells something more dangerous than cannabis, whether it's sugar, salt, fats, tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs or cars that go twice the speed limit."
Emery plans a return visit to celebrate “as soon as an announcement of no more arrests is made”.
Canadian activist Marc Emery (left) and chairman of the Cannabis Movement Andre DeCaires following their meeting this week with Cabinet.