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Jodie Emery on pot and progressive politics

Jodie Emery, referred to as the “Princess of Pot” by some, discusses marijuana legalization—and the politics around it—with The Cascade.

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By Joe Johnson (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 7, 2012

Jodie Emery, referred to as the “Princess of Pot” by some, discussed marijuana legalization—and the politics around it—with The Cascade. While her imprisoned husband Marc Emery, founder of the Cannabis Culture magazine and President of the BC Marijuana party, serves a five-year sentence for the sale of Marijuana seeds across the border, Jodie has taken up a full-time activist role for legalization. While most recently she travelled to Boston, and along the American east coast, to speak to legalization issues, she has in the past been politically active and ran for the Green party in the 2009 provincial election. She has her own weekly series online called “The Jodie Emery Show” where she discusses current issues, and is a consummate promoter of the website www.FreeMarc.ca. She is also now the publisher of the Cannabis Culture magazine.

Recently, four former BC Attorney Generals came forward to call on the NDP’s Adrian Dix and Premier Christy Clark to take a stand on the legalization of pot, as well as four former Vancouver mayors having also come forward to announce their support – with current Mayor Gregor Robertson joining in. Of course, there was also the federal Liberal party who passed a motion to stand for legalization. Those are people from mainstream political parties who have had a major hand in leading us at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. How have we not seen legalization come to pass yet? It has to be a strong sentiment running through our leaders.

Well because of the special interests involved in it. There’s always police who are lobbying to continue prohibition and politicians who are willing to enable that to happen. So, there is a lot of monetary interest at stake. And that’s why you find the only people who campaign to keep prohibition in place are the police, and the police have guns, and they can take down any politician they want by arresting them for anything that they want to set up. So, we know that police do have that interest, and there are other interests at stake, too; big money, prisons, all sorts of unions that are involved.  That’s why it seems to continue, I mean everybody in Canada, public opinion, politicians: we all know prohibition is a failure, but somebody awfully powerful is keeping it in place. And the only ones who want to continue prohibition are the gangsters, the police, and the politicians who support it. So, that’s what we’re up against, and they have all the weapons.

The federal Conservatives appear to be importing an American-style criminal and incarceration system with their ‘Safe Streets and Communities Act’, Bill C-10. We’ve seen what that can lead to in the US now, but what will it mean to Canadians?

Well it would mean many thousands more Canadians going to prison, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per prisoner per year. That means less money for education, for healthcare, and it means the implementation of a private prison industry that would ensure Canadians continue to go to prison, even if the crime rate drops. Then they lobby for laws like the mandatory minimums to ensure that people are going to be in prison. It’s proven in the US to do that, and it’s happening in Canada. Private prison groups are already meeting with the government. So, that means that a lot of Canadians are going to be going to prison, a lot of families are going to be destroyed, and millions of dollars will be spent on it, wasted, going after an endless war.

Can you expand on, maybe, the prison lobbyists meeting with the government?

Yeah, there’s Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America, are some private prison companies. Geo Group is an international [private prison company], and they have been meeting with the Canadian government. There’s a blog out there that’s documented that, and more people are looking into it, too. It’s not in the news yet, but there’s some evidence.

While they do have their prison system, some American states actually are now turning around and are being seen as more progressive than we are on the legalization issue. Why has it been so difficult in a country like Canada to take a real stance?

Because, the Conservatives have a majority government. They don’t listen to public opinion; they don’t listen to the experts, or the evidence, or the reports, or anything at all except the interest groups that they’re interested in. They’re ideological driven, and pretty much like a dictator, Harper says what he wants no matter what. And if anybody opposes him from within—or without—his party, he criticizes and attacks them. I mean, that’s what we’re up against, it’s really tough.

Do you believe any other political party, for instance the Liberals, would bring in legalization?

They voted on it in their last convention. So, they do support it now as part of their official party policy. The Liberals were the ones who were bringing in decriminalization with Jean Chrétien, and that was supposed to go forward before the US said, “You can’t.” So, the Liberal party has been pushing for legalization or “decrim” in their history, so you know that they’re on board. The NDP also supports it, the Bloc supports it; it’s only the Conservatives who don’t.

Would you consider getting back into politics?

I prefer the idea of being able to support any candidate from any party if they choose the right issues. You know, if they stand for our cause or whatever’s just and fair. I don’t want to align myself to any particular political party but who knows what opportunities might come up. I’ve been asked to run at different levels of government.  I’ve been asked to run federally, provincially, and on city-wide politics in Vancouver. But I’ve only run provincially because it’s a big time commitment and I’m not so much for pushing for a certain party as I am for pushing for our cause.

When you did run, why did you choose the Green party as opposed to the Marijuana party?

Well, they asked me to run. When that election was happening, Marc had always said that the Marijuana party would support any other party that championed our issue. And so, when the Green party made it their policy to end prohibition and made sure that every candidate would agree to end prohibition, Marc said that he wanted to support the Greens. And so, the Green party met with us and said that they would like me to run as a candidate, and I agreed to that, and that’s how I got involved.

Do you think that the Green party receives the same respect as the major parties?

No, I don’t think they do, unfortunately because they are seen as an environmental party and don’t have the financial support or voter support… They’re also pushed out because of our system. You know, we don’t have proper representation. Our first-past-the-post system doesn’t really give them the chance that they need. I mean, the Bloc had a lot of seats in the House of Commons, federally for example, whereas the Green party got the same percentage of the vote across the country but they didn’t even get one seat – until Elizabeth May won her seat in the last federal election. Other than that, we just don’t have a fair system. That’s why the Green party has always been kind of frozen out.

Do you think that we will ever see a provincial leader take up legalization as a cause?

I think that they should, but they won’t. Christy Clark is onboard with Stephen Harper and his crime bill, C-10. She used to say that prohibition is wrong but now that she is in office, as everybody is when they’re in office—including the four former mayors and the four former Attorney Generals—they don’t say it when they’re in office because there’s some sort of reason, you know, that they aren’t going to get money from certain people, or that they’re not going have the support of the party, or who knows exactly? But they’re not willing to speak out while they’re in office, and so Christy Clark and Adrian Dix of the NDP, he doesn’t care about this issue at all. They just both cop out and say it’s a federal issue, and that’s really unfair to the citizens of BC because they’re supposed to represent our needs and desires, and they’re not because British Columbians do want legalization. In big numbers they want it, and so it’s really a struggle.

Economically, doesn’t it make sense to legalize, regulate, and tax it? British Columbians are being hit on all fronts by the government in terms of costs.

Of course it does. It would save millions of dollars in law enforcement, court costs, police work, prison costs, and it would bring a lot of money into the legitimate economy: millions of dollars, billions even.

I believe you’ve touched on the environmental impact of the Conservatives before, care to elaborate on that?

The Conservatives don’t care for the environment. They’re dismantling environmental protection groups. They’re muzzling federal scientists. Federal scientists aren’t allowed to talk about any of the work that they’re doing anymore without approval from the Prime Minister’s office, itself… The tar sands are a big example, at the size of all of England is a gaping hole up in Alberta that’s just devastating. Native populations in the area are getting very sick… there are so many problems… But Harper doesn’t care because he puts immediate monetary benefits ahead of long term protection.

Are there any cons of legalizing it?

No. It depends who you are, for the police; yeah it’s negative because they’ll lose their budget. The private prison industry, they state in their annual financial report that they need to make sure the drug laws stay in place so that they can keep up the prison population. So yeah, the losers will be the gangsters, government, and police and the winners are always going to be the tax payers. Right now, we’re the losers. But no, there’s no other negative towards legalizing it at all, whatsoever.

Would you be satisfied with decriminalization?

Yes, because any step towards stopping people from going to prison, or having to interact with courts or arrests, is positive. We’ll take steps towards full legalization, I’m fine with that.

What do you say to people who see societal values as not including marijuana, and would rather try to eliminate it as opposed to control it?

Well, you’re never going to be able to get rid of it because as we’ve seen, prohibition doesn’t work. There’s more marijuana than ever before, more people use it more than ever before. So, they can’t ever win.

After being arrested for selling seeds by mail into the US, how is Marc doing down in an American prison?

He’s fine considering the circumstances. He’s keeping busy, he reads a lot, writes a lot, walks around the track, tries to stay healthy, tries to eat healthy as much as he can in prison, he’s learning bass guitar. He’s got a band and that’s been keeping his time going, and he always tries to make the most of wherever he’s at, and whatever situation he’s in. So, he just tries to remain optimistic because he has a lot of support, we have each other, and we have just a couple more years to go.

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