The prodigal pothead returns


Stoners say the darnedest things. Take Marc Emery, for example. He’s Canada’s “Prince of Pot”, just released from a four-and-a-half-year long American hoosegow, courtesy of the state of Mississippi.

“Everywhere I go there have been well-wishers, even people who I don’t think agree with marijuana legalization think that maybe it’s a bit rough to have someone go away for five years over seeds,” the activist, who was sent up the river for running a mail-order marijuana seed company, told a reporter for the Toronto Sun last week.

Still, that was mild in comparison to other things he has said. Just ask Margaret Wente, the Globe and Mail’s delightfully irascible current affairs columnist. In one of her commentaries last week, she wrote, “Despite the public adulation, Mr. Emery is among the most obnoxious jerks in Canadian public life,” she wrote. “And I say this as someone who thinks it’s past time to relax the laws on weed.

“He’s a relentless self-promoter who’s compared himself to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He insists that the persecution of people who smoke pot is the moral equivalent of the persecution of the Jews.

“In his most despicable, he called Irwin Cotler, the former federal justice minister, a ‘Nazi-Jew’ for allowing the United States to extradite him. Mr. Cotler is a Liberal who campaigns passionately against anti-Semitism.”

Well, gee, Peggy, why not try saying what’s on your mind for a change?

Methinks, however, her larger point is that because Mr. Emery is so objectionable  (at least to her), his support for legalizing pot undermines the principle, itself. This is a neat trick of tortured logic that some of us in the screed-making game make from time to time (me included).

Much has changed since Mr. Emery went to prison. Colorado and Washington has legalized marijuana for recreational use. President Barack Obama has openly joked about his yputhful adventures with weed, apparently to no ill effect on his standing in public opinion pools, which, in any case, couldn’t get much worse. And federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is calling to make the stuff legit.

And why not? Actual experts on this subject generally reject the proposition that the billions of dollars governments in Canada and the United States have spent fighting the so-called drug war over the past 30-or-more years have been worthy investments.

According to the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy last year, its “researchers reviewed two decades of global drug surveillance data, finding that the supply of major illegal drugs has increased, as measured through a decline in the price, while there has been a corresponding general increase in the purity of illegal drugs.”

This moved the Centre’s Scientific Chair Dr. Evan Wood (a co-author of the study) to state: “These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the war on drugs has failed. We should look to implement policies that place community health and safety at the forefront of our efforts, and consider drug use a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. With the recognition that efforts to reduce drug supply are unlikely to be successful, there is a clear need to scale up addiction treatment and other strategies that can effectively reduce drug-related harm.”

In fact, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, agreed when he stated: “In response to a study like this, policymakers often say ‘drugs are harmful so they must be kept illegal’. What they fail to consider is, as this and other research suggests, that drugs are more harmful – to society, individuals, and the taxpayer – precisely because they are illegal. Some European countries have taken steps to decriminalize various drugs, and these types of policies should be explored in Latin and North America as well.”

Already, a sizable chunk of Canadians support decriminalizing pot, if not actually legalizing it.

All of which is to say that Mr. Emery can yak on about anything that fancies him. That’s what a man on a mission (a.k.a. media hound) does, stoned or not. It won’t affect  the ultimate outcome.

On this issue, if with few others, the momentum of the age is with common sense.

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