VANCOUVER – When the poster child for marijuana legalization is released from a U.S. prison later this week, he’ll be re-entering a world where many of his ideas have taken root and in some places have sprouted right up.
Marc Emery, Canada’s self-styled “Prince of Pot,” concludes a five-year sentence on Wednesday and will emerge into a lucrative marijuana landscape, where two U.S. states are now issuing recreational pot licences, medical growers are reaping profits and investors aren’t hedging on potential opportunities.
The 56-year-old Vancouver resident was extradited to Seattle in May 2010, when he pleaded guilty to selling marijuana seeds from Canada to American customers before serving his time in several U.S. corrections’ facilities.
When he was first arrested almost a decade ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency heralded his seizure as a “significant blow” to the legalization movement.
On Monday, Washington state distributed for the first time licences to 24 shopkeepers who will hawk legal marijuana, while New York simultaneously became the 23rd U.S. state to authorize pot as medicinal treatment.
“I wish he hadn’t gone to prison,” said his wife Jodie Emery in an interview, just before boarding a flight at a Mississippi airport after her final visit to the Yazoo City institution. “But it’s almost fitting that he had to go down into the belly of the beast of America where the drug war begins, and where it has pressure in Canada, and spend his time in the United States to oversee all the success from his work.”
She lauded her husband for spurring much of the shift in legal regulations and social consciousness while he’s been locked away.
“Marc (can take) a lot of credit for everything happening in the United States. And of course it’s a wonderful feeling to see that his mission has been accomplished,” said the 29-year-old, who’s assumed much of the advocacy work and has been managing their marijuana paraphernalia store. “He was successful, even though he had to pay the price for it.”
Marc Emery started selling pot seeds in 1994 to raise money to support activist groups, lobbyists, court cases and ballot initiatives.
In the years leading up to his arrest and extradition an entire “Free Marc Emery” movement replete with posters and T-shirts sprang up. However, it could still be weeks before the high-profile activist’s diverse contingent of followers can finally celebrate his release.
The Canadian man will be transported on Thursday to a private deportation facility in Louisiana, where paperwork must be completed and a flight booked to Detroit. His estimated return is between August 10 and 25.
Jodie Emery said she’ll encourage a crowd to greet him in Windsor and then Toronto, before the pair visits his siblings in London and Newmarket, Ont. They may even spend a weekend alone.
But all the while they’ll be plotting their next moves, because the laws in Canada still lag far behind the United States, Jodie Emery said. Recreational marijuana remains illegal.
In the works is a 30-city, cross-Canada advocacy tour, as well as speaking engagements and meetings with officials in Spain, Austria, Ireland and Uruguay.
When the dust settles, Jodie Emery expects her husband to go back to work at the Cannabis Culture store in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She said his seed business is long-gone, while everyone else in the industry is leaps and bounds ahead.
“Marc’s going to have to walk by a weed shop to and from work, and he won’t even be doing it himself,” she laughed. “Or, maybe, maybe we will become associated with one of the new licensed providers and try and change the whole system to allow everybody to grow. Our activism won’t end.”
In his final blog post from prison, Marc Emery wrote that he expects to “marvel at all the changes in Vancouver,” including hundreds of new buildings and 35 medical marijuana dispensaries that have opened.
“Jodie and I appreciate everything you’ve done for both us and the movement at large in my absence,” he wrote on June 30. “I can’t wait to get home to thank you all in person in the weeks and months ahead, and resume the unfinished battle to finish off marijuana prohibition with renewed vigour.”
Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter