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Seeds Of Rebel's U.s. Pot Fight Grew In Canada

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To anyone who has followed the principled opposition of London, Ont. native Marc Emery to everything from a ban on Sunday shopping and potty mouthed rap videos to draconian laws against marijuana possession, his current status as drug martyr facing a possible life sentence in a dank U.S. prison can hardly come as a surprise.

I still remember Emery as the loquacious proprietor of the downtown indie book store, City Lights, during my mid-'80s tenure as a student at the University of Western Ontario.

As pop culture geeks like myself skipped classes to dig through treasure troves of vintage vinyl, the bespectacled rebel -- a few years older than us -- would stand behind the counter debating in intense but measured terms the unique brand of Libertarian social philosophy lifted almost intact from the dozens of Ayn Rand novels festooned around his store.

Individual freedom and capitalism were key, he argued with an air of tweedy intelligence, and government should commit itself to defending individual freedoms -- not restricting them.

I don't know if I ever had an actual conversation with him -- he was anything but pushy -- but as I dug through racks of scuffed up 45s and beat-up novels, I remember being impressed by the loyalty he commanded from the dozens of local characters who stopped by to chat and, not infrequently, challenge his opinions.

Twenty five years later, we learn in the tenaciously insightful TV doc The Prince of Pot: The U.S. Vs. Marc Emery ( 10 p.m. on CBC Newsworld ), the provocative upstart has taken his fight for freedom to the next level and, if he loses his high stakes showdown with the U.S. government, it may well be his last.

"Finally, now I've got the big David and Goliath battle I've always been seeking!" notes the unrepentant iconoclast, relocated to Vancouver in the '90s.

"I must have been goading them subconsciously all along to do this -- go ahead, I dare ya!"

The current faceoff -- with a possible life sentence hanging in the balance -- is over the mail order marijuana seeds the 49-year-old maverick has been illegally distributing over the Internet since '95 while U.S. authorities twisted themselves in knots of rage.

"You don't put a stick in Superman's eye," advises Sen. Larry Campbell, a former Vancouver mayor turned Emery sympathizer who describes the current U.S. drug czar as "a complete and total idiot." "They're not gonna execute him but 'life' would be pretty brutal. They'll bury him so deep they'll be sending him sunshine in a tin can!"

It doesn't faze Emery or his legion of activist supporters, who openly taunt U.S. officials and argue that a soft drug like marijuana - -- which until recently, was on the verge of legalization in Canada - -- should be classed differently than addictive hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.

"People are unjustly being put in prison and having their lives destroyed for choosing a substance that's somewhere between coffee and beer!" decries Emery accomplice Greg Williams.

No matter. U.S. officials -- like John Wayne facing down a gang of cattle rustlers -- are taciturn, severe and dogged in their quest for vengeance.

Drugs are drugs, they insist, and rigorously intellectual Emery has been classified -- along with hard drug hellions like the Hells Angels -- as one of the world's top 46 worst drug traffickers ( he's No. 1 in Canada ).

"I am never going to retreat," vows the unruffled pariah. "Each culture has to have it heroes willing to give their lives for that movement and dying might be inevitable."

Ironic pause: "And if I don't die in jail, I'm gonna come back to triumph and they're gonna elect me justice minister and then I'll make pot legal and it'll be a fairytale ending!"

Older, paunchier than I remember but with the same feisty, idealistic spirit, Emery looks at the camera and smiles.

He may be going down, but it won't be without a fight.

Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Record
Contact: letters@therecord.com
Website: Waterloo Region News - Latest Daily Breaking News Stories | TheRecord.com
 
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