Cabi­net of min­is­ters meets 'The Prince of Pot'

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Joshua St. Aimee

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.

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