Marc Emery’s downtown office looks exactly the way you’d imagine it would -- adorned with bongs, weed art and a visiting cat. No other work setting would be appropriate for an activist who has dedicated his life to libertarianism and drug legalization.
Over the past twenty years, Emery has firmly established himself as local celebrity and an international symbol for the legalization of marijuana. After spending just over four years in various US federal prisons for selling marijuana seeds across the border, Emery is now campaigning for the Liberal Party’s success in the upcoming elections. Headed by Justin Trudeau, the party has taken an explicitly pro-legalization standpoint.
“This election is unlike any other in that legalization is on the ballot, essentially. You get a chance to legalize pot, and we can pull this off or not pull this off … this is not the time to wait and see. This election could be on us at any time,” said Emery.
Emery’s movement is nothing new to the city of Vancouver. In 1995, Emery held the first-ever 4/20 celebration in Victory Square, a now global event which rallies smokers together and encourages legalization. Additionally, in 2001, he founded the British Columbia Marijuana Party in retaliation to the lack of representation of the issue of marijuana legalization in mainstream politics.
“If no one listens to you, you run in an election and try and get people to listen to you. And that’s what we did ... because nobody was listening to us, we decided ... we’re not going to support these other parties, we’re going to get our own party. And we’ll run,” said Emery.
Although Vancouver is now a world Mecca for cannabis culture, the city wasn’t always as politically active in the issue of legalization. Massive growth in the industry within the past decade has led to the rise of marijuana enterprises and capitalist-minded stoners who are reaping the benefits of said growth.
There are now over 60 dispensaries in Vancouver, which serve to meet the high demand for cannabis consumption, in addition to the already abundant black market.
“What I’m most proud of is turning the pot people into good capitalists. But now it’s gone to a bit of the other extreme, in that money dominates every aspect of cannabis. Think about why they’re legalizing it. They’re not legalizing it because it’s our human right to put something in our bodies. They’re legalizing it because they want to get tax revenue,” said Emery.
For Emery, the legalization of drugs represents a greater philosophical and political issue.
“The government has violated all sorts of sanctions against our body, daily, in every possible way -- from in our food, to in our water, to in our septic system, to in the plastic water bottles we consume. We should tell them that they can go fuck themselves and that pot should be legal, as should any other drug, because we have that right as human beings to choose autonomously what to put in our body, and what to do with our body, for that matter.”
Emery will be speaking at UBC, SFU and UVic on his small university tour. Small, because the university population doesn’t prove to be the most engaging demographic when it comes to the issue of legalization. He argues that despite the fact that many students do smoke pot, the student population tends to come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and in turn, the disadvantages associated with the criminalization of marijuana don’t affect students as greatly as the mainstream pot smoking community.
Marc also commented on the lack of activism and passion among the student population, and how this is related to student’s vision of their future.
“You’ll find that university students can compartmentalize very efficiently, what goes on in their university time. They think it’s all just transition anyway. Plus, they’re thinking opportunistically. All university students want to graduate, they want to go somewhere. Do they want to be seen advocating legalization of drugs?”
Emery will be speaking at UBC on January 27 in the Frederick Wood Theatre.