an interesting editorial from a paper I've been surprised to find myself agreeing with lately
Guns and drugs
On July 29, the US war on drugs came north of the border when the RCMP arrested entrepreneur and political activist Marc Emery at the request of the US Department of Justice. Emery -- leader of the BC Marijuana Party, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and owner of a store that sells pot paraphernalia and marijuana seeds from a storefront and over the internet -- now faces extradition to the United States where he could get life in prison if he's convicted on charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana seeds and conspiracy to money launder.
It's worth noting, while our cops are doing the bidding of the American reefer patrol, that what Emery is accused of doing isn't, in any real sense, against the law in Canada. He's been selling pot seeds here for more than a decade without a second glance from our cops, and his lawyer points out that Health Canada has referred patients who require medical marijuana to his website to purchase seeds. Our titular law against selling seeds is a technicality waiting to be struck down, sitting unenforced on the books since 1969.
Yet the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) takes a sterner view of Emery's dealings, calling him a major cross-border "drug lord." Last year, they ran a sting operation, getting Emery to sell them thousands of dollars worth of seeds and (gasp!) soliciting advice about how to turn them into pot plants. This evidence could lock him up for a long time if they can get him into an American courtroom.
And while some authorities in the US have insisted that Emery's persecution is criminal rather than political, the candid comments of DEA Czar Karen Tandy, quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, show that they're aiming higher than just cutting off the supply of seeds.
"Today's arrest of Mark (sic) Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the US and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement," Tandy says.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channelled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."
So now it's up to Canadian extradition courts and Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler to determine whether they want to send Emery to the States to be jailed for running his mostly legal and mostly harmless business in Canada. And to decide if, in so doing, they want to join the American drive to shut down the legalization movement as an arm of the ever-more-fruitless war on drugs.
Meanwhile, a very different kind of war is being waged on the streets of Toronto. Seven people have been killed in more than 20 shootings in the last two weeks in what police characterize as a gang war. It kind of takes the shine off Statistics Canada's report last month that Toronto has the lowest crime rate of any large city in the country and that levels of crime in all categories in Toronto have continued to drop consistently for the past decade.
And there's no consolation in the old saw that these are just bad people taking care of each other and thereby making our cops' jobs easier when innocent bystanders are being caught in the crossfire, including a four-year-old boy and, apparently, two murdered clubgoers just a few blocks from the eye office on Monday morning.
What does the one news item have to do with the other? Well, it seems the combatants turning our city into a battleground are getting their weaponry from south of the border. According to Toronto Police, half of all guns used in crimes in Toronto come from the US, and "most" of the 2,470 illegal guns seized in Toronto this year have been smuggled here from the States. This prompted Mayor David Miller to begin pleading with Paul Martin to do something at the border to stem the flow of firearms into the hands of Canadian criminals.
Of course, in the US, buying and selling guns is not only legal but qualifies in some places as a constitutionally endorsed national pastime. Still, if there's one thing the Emery case is showing us, it's that good buddy nations like us and them don't let little things like local laws get in the way of some extradition. So maybe Canadian cops should run a sting operation on gun shops in border states and have the Americans send all those guys up here so we can apply Canadian laws about gun possession and sales to them.
Or maybe, recognizing that neither country has any business reaching across the border to apply its own mores to people obeying the law in their own jurisdictions, we should take a different approach. We could, Americans and Canadians alike, realize that we've got a problem at our border. They get more Canadian drugs than they'd like and we get more American guns than we'd like. (We tend to think our concern is greater, since their exports kill Canadians while our exports just give Americans the munchies, but who are we to say?)
And then both sides could work together to stop the smuggling both ways. No?
Everybody's got border issues.
In the meantime, pass the cheesies. eye