The Interview: Marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery

Marc and Jodie Emery on life in jail, their role in the legalization movement and the plan to seek ‘political revenge’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Marc Emery’s two decades of marijuana activism and entrepreneurship have earned him the nickname “The Prince of Pot” and 23 trips to jail. The most recent, a 4½-year stint in U.S. federal custody for his mail-order pot seed business, is now at an end. Awaiting deportation back to Canada, he spoke to Maclean’s about his plans for the future from inside a Louisiana detention centre. His wife and fellow activist, Jodie Emery, joined in from their Vancouver home.

Q: Marc, you were released on July 9. What’s the holdup in getting you back to Canada?

ME: It’s just bureaucracy. It’s all about my passport. And of course, the reason I don’t have one is the Canadian government took it away from me when I was arrested in 2005. I was brought here by Canadian officials and delivered to American officials. They know who I am. They know I’m here.

Q: How will you get home?

ME: The Department of Homeland Security will pick me up, take me to the New Orleans airport and deliver me to Detroit. Then U.S. marshals will pick me up and drive me through the tunnel and drop me off at the border. It’s like Checkpoint Charlie.

JE: I’m hoping Mark can phone me the day before—that’s the soonest we’ll get notice—and then I’ll run to the airport and fly to Toronto and get to Windsor. This happens to a lot of Canadians who are incarcerated abroad. The government moves very slowly.

Q: Marc, you made a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors in 2010 that would have seen you serve part of your sentence in a Canadian jail. What happened to that agreement?

ME: I’ve had three Conservative MPs get up in the House and denounce me in the past year and point out that there was no way they were bringing me back on the treaty exchange. The government was actually legally obligated to take me back on a transfer that the U.S. had approved.

JE: But they just delayed on the paperwork and never answered. Finally, the U.S. government wrote to Marc and said they were closing the file.

Q: The Americans went to some extraordinary lengths to have you charged.

ME: They spent a huge amount of money. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in 48 states bought seeds from me. And they had an agent come to Vancouver and buy seeds from me in person over a period of a year and a half. They had confidential informants and people who had grown pot who were going to testify against me. They did so much work that they knew, right down to the dollar, how much money I had donated to U.S. pot activists over the past five years. When we did a Freedom of Information request, the DEA said they had 6,000 pages on me. And all along, the Canadian government was declining to prosecute me at home. But they were actively working with the DEA to have me extradited.

JE: The Vancouver PD were getting money from the DEA. They were billing the DEA for rental vehicles and parking tickets. They tried to get [Marc] to sell them some pot, but he wouldn’t. They wanted it to be less politically obvious.

Q: You were convicted twice for selling seeds in Canada and received small fines. But the Canada Revenue Agency was treating your business like it was at least quasi-legal. You were paying taxes, weren’t you?

ME: Absolutely. I paid $588,000 in personal income tax from 1999 to 2005, strictly on my seed business alone. In fact, when I got busted in 2005, I owed them $125,000 more from when I sponsored the entire B.C. Marijuana Party campaign in 2001 and paid for all 79 candidates. I took money from the company and gave it to myself to give to the party, and incurred a tax debt. I was giving the CRA $15,000 a month. After I got busted, we had a meeting and they asked, “Marc, how soon can you start selling seeds again so we can get your tax payments back on schedule?” The CRA were so upset when I told them the judge wouldn’t let me. Now, with all the penalties and interest, I owe about $300,000 to the federal government.

Q: You gave $5 million to legalization efforts in the States and Canada. Seeing what’s happened in places like Colorado and Washington state since you’ve been imprisoned, do you feel like it was well-spent?

ME: In Colorado especially, because in 2000 I paid for the collection of a large number of the signatures that got their medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, and that really jump-started their movement. I gave money for ballot campaigns in Washington, D.C., Arizona and Alaska. We gave money to all sorts of groups for state and national initiatives.

Q: In 2012, John McKay, the U.S. attorney who drew up the indictment against you, came out in favour of legalization and even made an appearance with Jodie. Was that ironic, or satisfying, or both?

ME: It’s satisfying now, but it was upsetting at the time.

JE: Right after Marc got extradited, [McKay] wrote an editorial for a Seattle paper where he called for the legalization of marijuana. Then we both testified before the state legislature. Afterward, I thanked him for taking a stand. Later, he agreed to come up to Vancouver and hold a press conference. He ended up being one of the main sponsors of Washington’s bill. I understand why Marc was upset. It was annoying at first. But it’s nice to have your enemy admit that they did wrong.

Q: Has prison changed you?

ME: I had a special experience in my 4½ years in prison. I never heard an unkind word. Inmates were exceptionally nice to me; kind and thoughtful. I never encountered any violence or threats. I was never dealt with in an unkind manner by prison guards. I had 81 visits from Jodie. I was taught how to play the bass guitar and ended up in a band with these really good musicians, and now I have a repertoire of about 120 songs. I have a lot of strangely fond memories of prison and my experience there.

Q: Is it true that you stopped smoking pot while in jail?

ME: Yup. You can get whatever kind of drugs you want, but I stayed well away from that. I was always convinced I would be tested the day after, and a whole world of hurt comes down on you if you fail. You go to solitary for three to six months. You lose three months of good behaviour time and phone privileges. You lose visits for a year and get a disciplinary transfer. And you get charged, which can add years to your sentence.

Q: Are you going to start smoking again?

ME: Oh, as soon as I get home. But I only want to smoke the worst, weakest marijuana, and not much of it at all, because I need to be able to do interviews, stay upright for speaking and meet all my well-wishers. I’ll have to ease in gently. There will be no bong hits at all for several days.

Q: Jodie, since Marc has been in jail, you’ve been running the business and become the face of the legalization movement in Canada. Has his time away changed you?

JE: When I got involved with Marc, I knew there were unknowns ahead. That he was always going to be an activist who would get into trouble. But I’ve never planned out my life. I take what comes, and I’ve been kind of enjoying it. I don’t have hobbies or friends or a social circle. And before I met Marc, I never dated or had a boyfriend. I’ve always just been focused on issues.

Q: You recently announced your intention to seek the federal Liberal nomination in Vancouver East. The party reaction was kind of cool. Have you filed the papers yet?

JE: I’ve sent an online request for them. I understand why they’re nervous. But with marijuana being such a big issue, I think I could be a really good spokesperson to defend Justin Trudeau from all the attacks.

Q: Marc, you’ve said that you want to seek some “political revenge” when you get back. How?

ME: I’ll be campaigning against the Conservative government in any way I can. I’m going on a campus tour in January and February, and I’ll be telling people to join the Liberal party and support them. In September and October next year, we’ll be touring cities on a daily basis, speaking at election rallies. I plan to be very actively engaged in the run-up to the next election in October 2015. My other big job will be earning a living. I’ve got substantial debts, so I’ll be at our [Vancouver Cannabis Culture] store, drawing customers in, adding my flair.

Q: Are you going back into the seed business?

ME: We will, but on a more limited basis. Twenty years ago, I was the only person selling seeds in Canada. Now there are dozens. And this whole ordeal has forced the closure of my beloved magazine, Cannabis Culture. I used to put my catalogue in there. So I don’t have nearly the audience I once did.

Q: There’s also been talk of a reality TV show . . .

ME: The reality TV producers turned us down after analyzing it. They said there wasn’t enough conflict. They have a formula—a lot of fighting and arguing and drama.

JE: We’re more serious.




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The Interview: Marijuana activists Marc and Jodie Emery

  1. Oh, as soon as I get home. But I only want to smoke the worst, weakest marijuana, and not much of it at all, because I need to be able to do interviews, stay upright for speaking and meet all my well-wishers.

    And here I thought Marc was always telling us that marijuana was harmless and barely affects people. Yet here’s he’s saying that while on it he’d be unable to stand upright or speak to people. Which is it Marc?

    • Like your beer, Bill….it depends how much you use.

  2. This is what happens to grandstanding egomaniacs , no pity for a clown like you Marc!

    • Emery is already part of history. He stood up against Sunday Shopping laws, censorship in music and the criminalization of cannabis users. He will stand up against anybody who tries to limit individual freedom. That makes him a hero in my book.

      • Not much of a hero if you ask me.
        If you’re into egomaniacs, then knock yourself out.

  3. Well isnt that just peachy eh..?
    The fairy tale version is it?

    In the old days of what was called journalism reporters would actually be prepared and not just sound like they are from entertainment tonight

    Today we obviously only have repeaters and no reporters I see

    So for the record it appears emery for all his twisting of facts is here admitting he didn’t pay a cent in taxes from 1994 until as I have always said the canadian government tried to shut him down over taxes as tax evasion carries a higher sentence then mere seed peddling I am sure and we are again only given parts of the story and of course I have always said emery never ever would have copied all he did from Amsterdam nor taken over that mans seed store in Vancouver originally doing the seed pimping nor sold one seed if he had ever realized the USA would ever really come get him
    And it will I guess just be omitted his 5 years begging cash saying he would be a marytar and stand up for our issue and not make a deal and state it was all a mistake as he did eh?

    And I need remind some emery never gave a dime of his own money if one actually thinks for a second what he did do was give crumbs of proceeds of crime money others .mostly americans sent to get seeds my friends actually grew and sometimes were never paid for them as emery screamed go call the cops

    And we shall just pretend it wasn’t just the 5 to 10 % of what it took in reality and pretend it only happened because he sent the crumbs eh?
    Sorry I cant buy that tripe

    And as the idea and the seed strains all came from amsterdam as I say and he just basically mass produced the few he bought illegally and could because if it was a normal product he would have just been sued of course

    And yes while taking $ 800,000 a year for himself and his wives and hiding behind the issue by doling out small bits as a cover acting like god and like it was actually his earned money and not just Proceeds of Crime money anyone with a brain would see if he did not

    Had he robbed banks and given a few pennies on the dollar back some would get the point I suppose but we need fairy tales these days don’t we eh

    And as I too gave money to the colorado initiative although it was actually earned legally with my own ideas blood sweat and tears maybe I will also maybe pretend my money became the nucleus and catalyst for the whole effort in colorado as I know no one ever divided up which dollars from the thousands who send some in were responsible for what and the movie in emerys head alone sure is much more supportive of his efforts than what I think and what the heck eh the people who actually did the walking talking and all the heavy lifting to see it happen were like the other 78 candidates up here in our elections as the bc marijuana party just window dressing and irelevaent eh emery ? nice you goof
    It also appears as I suspect that the emerys them selves attempted to sell themselves as a reality tv show and thankfully were turned down although based on the explanation it is plain to see the producers were obviously like so many others were just barred from seeing all the drama and arguments by the group emery excluded by hiding all the topics at his dead ragazine and in reality merely a seed catalogue holder he calls a magazine isn’t that right??
    As let me tell you as they sure white washed it all preparing for the great illusion we see now…it existed and thank fully some of us saved such wonderful selections from it like tales of group sex and his mrs and homosexual experiences mark had and the actual truth about how mark actually felt about the medical users and as its turned now 180 degrees for the sake of medical users I am sure mr emery would love for them to learn how his thoughts evolved after being busted and his need for more to hide behind yes we plan to help share many fond memories I am quite sure the self appointed royal jelly one would sooner forget yes indeedee I have absolutely no doubt

    The tentative title is The Pimp of Pot or more aptly the Pimples of Pot and we just cant decide

    Now rest assured emery is far from the only parasite on cannabis users as the creator and actual founder of the Marijuana Party Mr st maurice was himself just lambasted by myself at the ottawa liberal convention in 2011 for trying to talk the liberals out of legalization and to instead just go for Decrim yes that invented word that in reality changes absolutely nothing as it does not address supply and is the buzz word of police who these days under harpers orders are pasting it around in an attempt to bamboozle like emery merely to let some of the air out of the liberal party massacre of the conservative party set for 2015 what with them knowing heck people like shavluk also a bc marijuana party founding candidate and one who actually paid his own bills in this 2001 election emery thinks he soley paid for and actually made most of the flyers for all the candidates with his connections thereby contradicting fairy tale statements above as well as also on the last day going and getting more candidate to create this full slate we had Yes and of course buying marijuana from him too
    Any way mr st Maurice yes will of course need adding what with him just like emery now making so much money just because of cannabis’s illegality that he some how changed his mind and thinks Decrim is the correct answer he to must be added to the book
    Also mr dana larsen a multiple come cash in at store or as he calls them “”compassionate clubs””” so much compassion is shown as the buy cannabis at 3 dollars a gram and resell it hiding behind the guise of helping sick people and like emery hiding behind a fake political party to forgo any business license yet when called to task for emery writing about his $800,000 dollars a year as you can see at pottalk(dot)ning(dot)com the current wife demands we respect his superior skills in business and his rights to live the high life for this business

    I had said to him many many times you know if one was actually serious about that fake slogan saying “overgrow the government” would it not work far better if one was the cheapest seed pimp on the planet and not the most expensive?
    I mean what with him copying the hundreds and hundreds of other around the world already selling them how is it that no one else has bothered to say as I did above?

    Oh well at least this fable has no reindeers or grinchs although I am sure jody emery would say different having said I am the worst person she knows and as I am called shrek maybe ogre would be more appropriate but I always point out when that comes up that if one were an educated critic instead of just a cartoon educated type one would know that the true definition of an ogre is not one who eats humans although some days I would rather but the old north European definition where it actually originated that defines it as .. “ one who exposes liars”….

    As some one who put my life on hold for over 20 years and who is the only person I know of elected to positions with in the ndp the greens and the liberal party of Canada and the one person period involved in the cannabis resolutions in all three when others failed for over 40 years in even just one all while fighting attacks every day including some from this emery himself and making and spending over a hundred grand with absolutely nothing but my bare hands and not even a real job never breaking the law nor ever exploiting my fellow cannabis user and even writing and presenting and getting the approval to present them at convention in two of the three and we can argue being instrumental in the liberal one as well once one knows the actual story including the so called black mail of the at the time not even yet leader so yes I in my view certainly have earned my say I do think and as I don’t think this will see the light of day in your publication because of past censorship by you and your penchant for fibs and fables instead as I do say mark emery is a fraud and a charlatan and Just like what we call media in this country….it sadly seems
    I will of course just go ahead and place it in multiple locations as usual

    Thank you all the same

    john shavluk
    delta bc

    BC Marijuana Party co/founding candidate 2001
    6 Federal election fights over 12 years
    4 with in party’s and 2 ” Independent ” Federal balloted runs
    4 Provincial elections in a row 2001 2005 2009 and 2013
    bc green leader election attempt 2007
    ndp presidential election attempt 2006 (quebec city)
    civic election 1983
    spoke at the 2002 Senate Hearing and the 2009 Justice Hearings
    elected to positions within the ndp …the greens ..and the liberals….and so much much more..in fact

  4. Marc Emery and Jodie are not true activists. Profiteers, yes. They can’t see past their own reflections in the mirror. You better believe they would have jumped on being on a reality show. What would that have anything to do with ending prohibition? Absolutely nothing. These two are great at one thing: getting press. That is ALL. They are not great at changing lives for the better, or being in it for the common good. Jodie is not running for office to help the Liberal Party. She’s in it to make more of a name for herself. She fully admitted to seeking out Marc because he’s so successful.

    She admits to having no friends. I think that’s hilarious. She may not have any friends but she’s made a few enemies along the way with her snotty arrogance. She has done Marc Emery’s reputation no favours whilst he’s been incarcerated. Plus she doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at winning for the Libs. They aren’t staying away from the Emerys because of the marijuana issue- they are staying away from the Emerys because they know they are toxic with too much negative baggage. (Marc’s anti-Semitic comments don’t help either!) They present such a sparkling image to the press. Time for you, the reporters, to wake up and dig deeper because we the public seem to know a lot more than you about them.

  5. So sick of this self-absorbed and narcissistic “couple” getting way too much attention.
    Their marriage is much less than idyllic but the reporters don’t want to tell you that.
    Jodie Emery is NOT a politician. She’s a WANNABE- huge difference. Just because you run for office does not make you a politician. Same goes for her husband. But at least he’s done some work behind his name. She only hides behind his.
    Thank God Trudeau and his support team want nothing to do with these people! They aren’t going to energize the base. They are only energizing their own egoes!

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