A pro-legalization event Wednesday in Vancouver featured a bizarre pairing at the head table of two important figures in the self-styled Prince of Pot’s life – his wife, Jodie Emery, and his prosecutor, John McKay.
“Nearly one million people every year are imprisoned for simple marijuana possession,” said McKay, who believes none of those criminals should be serving time.
The former U.S. Attorney, free to lobby for legal changes since he left his job in 2007, said the push for pot changes in America reminds him of the long campaign that led to the eventual legalization of alcohol.
“The Prohibition era provided huge illegal profits for the Mafia and terrible violence,” said McKay, pointing to today’s ultraviolent Mexican drug cartels. “If that sounds familiar, it should.”
McKay noted that both Washington and Colorado will vote soon to legalize small quantities of pot for adults, with another 14 states at various stages in a move to decriminalize pot, essentially issuing the equivalent of a traffic ticket for simple possession.
But McKay made no apologies for Emery’s imprisonment.
Emery should have lobbied to change the law, he said, not broken the law in order to get it changed.
“If that was his purpose – to change policy – I think he took the wrong route,” said McKay, who put Emery in prison in 2010 for selling marijuana seeds to U.S. customers from his Vancouver headquarters.
“He made a decision that would have given every juvenile in the United States access to marijuana, which I think is wrong.”
Emery and McKay sat side by side, extolling the virtues of pot legalization, and afterward The Province asked how they could get along so well, considering McKay sent Emery’s husband to jail.
“I think Jodie is a gracious person,” said McKay.
“I have no animosity toward her husband at all. I just think he made a mistake.”
Jodie Emery was delighted to have someone of McKay’s reputation on board.
“It’s one thing for a hippie to say he thinks marijuana should be legalized,” she said.
“To have someone who’s on the front lines, who’s seen what’s happening, say he thinks marijuana should be legalized, that gives us credibility.”
It goes by the innocuous name Washington Initiative 502, but it could be a radical game-changer for B.C.’s $8-billion marijuana industry.
In November, Washington state residents will vote on I-502, which would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and over.
As happened in B.C. with the anti-HST movement, petitioners south of the border were first required to sign up huge numbers of proponents – 241,153 to be exact – who signed on the dotted line in a bid to change the state’s marijuana laws.
As with the harmonized sales tax, legislation to legalize pot could have been introduced, but – as in B.C.- the state government instead chose to put it to a referendum vote, coinciding with this fall’s general election.
B.C. has, at least until now, been seen as more liberal than its U.S. neighbours when it comes to drug laws.
But a successful initiative south of the border would in one fell swoop make Washington state the more lenient jurisdiction for possession of pot – with wide-ranging implications for everyone involved on both sides of the border.