Once again, friends of mine have been arrested for providing cannabis to adults who want it. This time, it’s Canada’s Marc and Jodie Emery, the so-called Prince and Princess of Pot.
“This is my first time being arrested and detained and forced to strip naked in a very degrading fashion,” Jodie Emery said outside Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse on Friday evening.[They and 3 others] were ordered to surrender their passports, banned from having weapons and told they cannot consume controlled substances unless they have legitimate prescriptions. They are all due back in court on April 21.
The Emerys said that their bail conditions mean they cannot run their stores, nor can they work on their magazine Cannabis Culture.
(April 21, really? Forbidden from consuming cannabis up through 4/20? And a court date the next day?)
By the letter of the law, what Marc and Jodie have been up to is illegal. By the will of the people, however, how can they be considered criminals?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran a campaign that boldly promised the legalization of cannabis in Canada. His win signified that Canadians are ready to follow the lead of Uruguay and eight US states in taxing and regulating the production and sale of cannabis to adults.
A summer poll by CTV News found that almost 7-in-10 Canadians support cannabis legalization. That same poll, however, found that almost 6-in-10 Canadians believe the current prohibition should be enforced until the laws are changed.
Why? Why continue to enforce a law the people clearly disagree with?
In the worst-case scenario, Marc and Jodie are negligibly harming adult cannabis consumers who are voluntarily choosing to purchase and ingest a product without the government’s seal of approval. But that’s something those adults have been doing ever since they started using cannabis under prohibition, so there’s really no net harm to the consumer.
In the best-case scenario, they are creating jobs, generating economic activity, and bringing adults into a secure location for transactions they’d otherwise be making in the streets with actual criminals who trade in other drugs and maintain their market share through violence.
Sixty-nine percent of Canadians think the latter scenario is how cannabis should be handled. So, what’s the point of arresting, cuffing, stripping, prodding, fining, grounding, and banning the Emerys for providing cannabis to adults in a manner that approximates how cannabis will be provided to adults after Trudeau’s legalization plan passes?
Because it’s against the law? Like fifty-nine percent of Canadians think?
Maybe I’m in the minority because I don’t see the use of cannabis by adults as an issue of the government regulating commerce. I see it as the government restricting civil liberties. What I put into my body and how I construct my mind is my business alone. From the skin in, I am sovereign or I am not free.
What Marc and Jodie and others who push the envelope on this issue are doing is maintaining the civil disobedience necessary to create the irritation needed to spur otherwise recalcitrant politicians into action.
In the United States in the early 1960s, before passage of the Civil Rights Act, opinion polls showed a dichotomy similar to this poll from Canada showing public approval for change, but public disapproval for the civil disobedience.
Over 7-in-10 Americans back then agreed that Dr. Martin Luther King “is moving at the right speed… in working for equal rights for negroes,” and said that they would take part in “a peaceful parade, march or picketing here in this (town) (area) in favor of equal rights for negroes.”
But when those same Americans were asked “Do you approve or disapprove of what the ‘Freedom Riders’ are doing?” and “Do you think ‘sit-ins’ at lunch counters, ‘freedom buses,’ and other demonstrations by Negroes will hurt or help the Negro’s chances of being integrated in the South?” and “Do you think mass demonstrations by negroes are more likely to help or more likely to hurt the negro’s cause for racial equality?” – about 6-in-10 American in the early 1960s disapproved of the civil disobedience.
LBJ would not have powered the Civil Rights Act through Congress without the constant irritation MLK provided through marches and demonstrations and strikes.
Justin Trudeau and Parliament aren’t going to move quickly on cannabis legalization without a similar constant irritation provided by the growers, sellers, and buyers of cannabis who refuse to wait until the convenient time to recognize our rights.
Arrests won’t stop this. The US arrested Marc, and in doing so, they shaped Jodie into a powerhouse activist. Now, Canada is arresting them both, and in doing so, they’re forging more activists. We’re like hydra; cut one of our heads and two will grow back.