Fri, January 6, 2006

He says staying drug counts clears the way for the pot activist's possible extradition. deck

VANCOUVER -- A lawyer for pot activist Marc Emery says the federal government's decision not to proceed with drug charges against his client clears the way for his possible extradition to the United States and means the federal government is kowtowing to the Americans.

Kirk Tousaw was commenting on the stay of three conspiracy charges filed against Emery by a private citizen to thwart U.S. efforts to extradite the former Londoner to that country for distributing marijuana seeds to Americans by mail.

David McCann filed the charges last September, saying it would be hypocritical of Canada to participate in U.S. officials' efforts to prosecute Emery for activities condoned here for years.

Tousaw said the extradition wouldn't have gone ahead if Emery, along with his co-accused, Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek and Greg Keith Williams, were prosecuted in Canada.

"I'm concerned when our government acts as an arm of the U.S. drug war and has an opportunity to reassert Canadian sovereignty but refused to do so," Tousaw said. "I think all Canadians should be concerned about that."

McCann said he doesn't understand why the federal government would participate in an extradition request by the United States when it largely ignored Emery's activities and Health Canada even referred people needing medicinal marijuana to him.

Emery and his associates were arrested last July after police raided Emery's pot paraphernalia store after an 18-month investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Emery, dubbed the Prince of Pot by the media, is set to return to B.C. Supreme Court next month to set a date for an extradition hearing.

A judge can only recommend whether someone should be extradited. The final decision rests with the federal justice minister.

Emery, originally from London, said he only met McCann recently and thanked him for his efforts to allow Canadian jurors to hear the evidence against him. "I thought that what happened would happen," he said of the charges being stayed. "But I'm still a little crestfallen."

A Crown prosecutor was not available to say why the government stayed the drug charges.

Tousaw said Justice Minister Irwin Cotler had the opportunity to block the extradition by allowing the private prosecution to go forward. "Doing so would have made extradition impossible. I suppose it would be reasonable to assume that there was pressure brought to bear on the justice minister not to do anything other than stay the prosecution."