Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It does not matter if he broke a law

One of the most widely held views in favour of extraditing Marc Emery and the rest of the Vancouver Three is that they broke US laws and have to face the consequences. Indeed, there is a lot of strength to this argument. Just look at Dr. Jack Kevorkian. I remember watching 60 Minutes when they showed him injecting a sick person with poison. I remember turning to my parents and saying, "Gee, I thought that was illegal". I also remember when he was convicted and sent to jail. I thought then and still think now that what he did was stupid because he was bound to end up in jail. That does not mean that I think he deserves to be in jail. Just that he should have expected nothing else.

The situation for Marc Emery seems to be similar. He knew he was breaking an American law. He did it in public. Indeed, he flouted the law for the specific purpose of challenging its validity. As a result, I do not blame people for thinking that he was stupid and bound to end up in jail. However, that does not mean that he deserves to be in jail.

My other site is dedicated to the theory that Emery is a political prisoner. Many respond that he broke a law and should be treated like everybody else who does so. Why should he be treated differently because he is a politician? Well, how many political prisoners have been sent to jail without breaking laws? Do people think that Nelson Mandella did not break an Apartheid law? Do people think that Chinese dissidents have not broken Chinese laws? Do people think that Alexander Solzhenitzyn did not break censorship laws in the USSR? The fact that a person has broken a law does not disqualify that person from being a political prisoner.

The question then becomes, how do you distinguish political prisoners from those who deserve to be thrown in jail. You can start with the easy ones - people who murder, rape, steal, etc... are doing something that harms others. They are not political prisoners. On the other extreme you have people arrested for non-violent opinions, dissent and fundraising. They are obviously political prisoners. In the middle, you have the questionable people like those who sell illegal guns, pot and preach hatred. The fact of the matter is that on that middle ground you are forced to make a personal decision - do you believe that the person is being punished for a fair and just reason? There might be a right and a wrong, but there is no way to prove it. The answer to this sort of question will always be debatable.

Every person reading this has to consider what they think of the actions for which Marc Emery is being punished. The question is not whether he would be arrested in the US. The question is not whether you agree with me on gun control. Indeed, the question is not even whether you want the Americans to enforce gun laws. The only relevant question is whether you believe that Marc Emery has been arrested for a just crime. Should pot be illegal? Should it be illegal to sell seeds for a plant? Should law enforcement be selective? Should anybody go to jail for life for selling something that people must chose to use themselves? These are just some ideas of what might lead you to an answer. However, there is one question that will never tell you whether a person is a political prisoner: Did he break a law?

6 Comments:

Blogger Night Clerk said...

Jason:

I can't bring up your other site. Is it down?

Wanted to lend my support to this effort and say I'm incredibly incensed at my government for what they are doing to Marc Emery.

I have a column at rabble.ca and it was the subject of my latest:

http://www.rabble.ca/columnists_full.shtml?x=40726

keep up the good work!

Keith

7:24 PM  
Blogger Brother Waxwell said...

That’s all well and good that you don’t think it matters that he broke the law. I guess then what this comes down to is the question would you prefer a nation of Men or a nation of Laws?
The former being arbitrary and anarchistic the latter being deliberate but sometimes harsh.
It DOES matter that the law was broken and seeing as both countries legal systems rely on precedent. How this is legally dealt with will have far reaching ramifications.

Mr. Emery had no right to flaunt the law. That he didn’t care for it isn’t any excuse.
That he was able to blatantly violate it for ten years wont surprise many down here. It seems that during the 90's all sort of criminal enterprise was ignored or allowed to flourish by an administration that obviously had more important things to do. That he's being dealt with only now has more to do with the negligence of the prior administration than anything else. He got away with it for ten years because for 6 or 7 of em the people who should have been on the case were not. There has been no change in policy as it pertains to what Emery was doing.. Just a willingness to enforce the law.

And while I don’t find the law in question useful or effective. As it is the law, I'm bound to it until the day the law changes. And that comes about, at least in this country, through the sometimes slow, always contentious legislative process. Not by wanton disregard.

Mr. Emery WILL have the question "does it matter that he broke the law?" answered.
By a jury - And not by a mob.

As it should be.

M

5:22 AM  
Blogger Margaret Romao Toigo said...

Most political prisoners become such because they break laws they feel are unjust.

Were it not for the courage of the many people who broke the old segregation laws and became politcal prisoners here in the US, we'd still have such things as "white's only" restrooms and drinking fountains in our Southeastern states.

And make no mistakes here, DEA administrator Karen Tandy already admitted that Mr. Emery is a political prisoner:

"Today’s arrest of Mark (sic) Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement."

"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."

Source.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

My site should be working.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Meaghan Champion said...

"Mr. Emery had no right to flaunt the law"

Shorter Brother Maxwell: Obey! At All Costs.. You Must Obey! It's The Law! Sit Citizen! Roll Over Citizen! Play Dead Citizen! Fire Up The Crematorium Citizen! March Into The Ovens Citizen! It's the Law and you must obey! As for Marc Emery... Mooove along comrades. Nothing to see here.

2:07 AM  
Blogger tittadigirolamo said...

I also have a blog about cannabis marijuana seeds, not as beautiful as your, but I love cannabis marijuana seeds the same

6:41 AM  

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