As high-profile lawyers line up to represent Marc Emery at his upcoming extradition hearing, and as marijuana activists pressure Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to step into the fray, we can't help but note that this entire affair need never have happened had the government and police done their jobs.
Emery now stands accused by the United States of selling marijuana seeds, conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and money-laundering. Cotler has given the authority to proceed with the extradition hearing and Emery faces life in a U.S. prison should he be extradited and convicted of the offences.
Under the terms of the Treaty on Extradition Between Canada and the United States and Canada's Extradition Act, Cotler told The Vancouver Sun editorial board he had no choice but to grant that authority.
Nevertheless, there are two conditions in the treaty and the act that could have rendered it impossible for the attorney-general to proceed. First, the laws state that people in Canada are only extraditable if the offence with which they are charged in the U.S. is also an offence in Canada.
So if marijuana-related activities were not crimes in Canada -- that is, if marijuana were legalized -- Emery would not be facing extradition (he could, of course, be extradited for other offences). While this newspaper has argued in favour of legalizing the possession and sale of marijuana, it's clear that Ottawa has no intention of going down that road.
The Liberal government has introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, but Cotler has taken pains to assure Canadians that the possession and sale of marijuana (including viable cannabis seeds) will remain illegal.
That means Emery will still face extradition, but it also leads directly to the second condition that could have prevented Emery's extradition hearing: The treaty prohibits extradition of people who are being prosecuted in Canada for the same offences they're charged with in the U.S. So if Canada had charged Emery with selling seeds and related offences, he would not be facing extradition.
That leads to the question: Why has Emery not been charged in Canada? Since police were working with U.S. drug enforcement agents, it seems they would have access to sufficient evidence to recommend charges.
It might well be the case that the police and the Canadian public don't think it worthwhile to charge people for selling cannabis seeds. Certainly, there is a strong movement for legalizing pot, but the police can't abdicate their duty to enforce the criminal law just because some people don't like it.
In fact, shortly after the owners of the Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop began allegedly selling marijuana last year, police raided the store and charged several people. Why is it that those who brag about selling cannabis get charged while those who boast of trading in cannabis seeds are free to go about their business? Both activities are equally illegal and police ought to treat them the same.
It would, of course, be inappropriate to charge Emery simply to avoid his extradition. But the fact remains that this legal circus would have been avoided had authorities done their jobs. It's time for Canadian law enforcement officials to take a consistent and coherent approach to marijuana, and they can begin by either enforcing the laws or repealing them.Edited by: Cure20