Last week, a federal judge in Seattle sentenced prominent Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery to five years in U.S. prison, after Emery pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. For years, Emery ran a marijuana seed-selling business, the profits from which he donated almost entirely to marijuana policy reform efforts. For that reason, his prosecution by U.S. law enforcement has been viewed by many as purely political, a charge officials have since denied.
But in 2005, then DEA-head Karen Tandy touted Emery’s arrest as “a significant blow” to the movement to end marijuana prohibition, saying “hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.” Such a statement should provide some insight into why U.S. officials have spent so many resources targeting (even extraditing) Emery over the years.
But of course that's old news, and not surprising. Instead, what really raised some eyebrows was this op-ed written earlier this month by John McKay, the former U.S. attorney who first indicted Emery in 2005. Writing in the Seattle Times, McKay now says that marijuana prohibition is a failure, is based on “false medical assumptions,” and that a new, science-based approach toward marijuana policy is desperately needed:
As Emery's prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I'm not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety. [...] We should give serious consideration to heavy regulation and taxation of the marijuana industry.
How's that for evidence of the changing political atmosphere surrounding marijuana policy?