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'Prince Of Pot' Plea Deal Delayed

Rocky Balboa

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VANCOUVER -- Marijuana crusader Marc Emery is blaming a clash of judicial cultures for delays in a plea bargain that would send him to prison briefly in the United States before serving several years in Canada. The so-called Prince of Pot's extradition case was put over yesterday until April 9 at the request of his lawyer and a federal prosecutor representing the U.S. Justice Department.

No reason was given but Mr. Emery said outside B.C. Supreme Court that there's a disagreement about the legality of the deal in Canada.

Mr. Emery said that in the U.S. system a non-violent first-time offender like him would normally be released in about 20 months, but American authorities refuse to accept that.

He said the U.S. wants a Canadian judge to be bound by the agreement for a minimum prison sentence, he said.

"What's at stake is the Canadian prosecutorial service doesn't think that it's possible to make a deal where a Canadian judge is compelled to do something specific, like put me in jail for a minimum length of time or set some kind of parole date," he said.

"The Canadian government says that's not legal in Canada and that's what they've told the U.S. prosecution and so the Justice Department in the United States is saying that our deal's not possible - that they have to actually put in writing - because the Canadians aren't playing ball, so to speak."

The Vancouver-based pot-legalization advocate and co-accused Greg Williams and Michelle Rainey are charged in the U.S. with selling marijuana seeds over the Internet.

A plea bargain was in the works that would see charges dropped against Mr. Williams and Ms. Rainey, while Mr. Emery would plead guilty and receive a prison sentence.

Mr. Emery said if negotiations can't produce an agreement that would put him in prison for about five years - with only a few months to be served in U.S. custody - then an extradition hearing would likely go ahead in the fall.

He said his lawyers have advised him that a joint submission is almost always accepted by a judge and could include a set parole date.

"That would satisfy the Americans' need to have an in-custody incarceration for up to five years," he said.

The deal being negotiated would see him convicted on both sides of the border, Mr. Emery said. He would serve three to six months in a U.S. prison before being transferred to a Canadian institution for the balance of his sentence.

Mr. Emery said he finds the whole process odd.

"The Canadian government could just have me charged and that would lay the matter to rest and they wouldn't have to be concerned because some judge would come to a determination as to whether I should be incarcerated," he said.

"This to me is more like collaboration with the United States. It's like outsourcing our justice system to the United States.

"I don't consider I should have to go to jail at all. I'm doing this to save my two co-accused and to somewhat resolve the matter."

Mr. Emery has been a thorn in the side of Canadian authorities for years, holding highly publicized pot "smoke-ins" in a drive to legalize the drug.

U.S. authorities started the extradition process three years ago when a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Emery on conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds into the United States over the Internet.

Source: Globe and Mail
Author: Steve Mertl, Canadian Press
Copyright: 2008, The Globe and Mail Company
Website: globeandmail.com: Canada's National Newspaper
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