Newshawk: CMAP http://www.mapinc.org/cmap
Pubdate: Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Author: Ian Mulgrew
Canadian sovereignty at issue in war on pot growers
Domestic prosecution of Quebec seed producer raises questions about extradition case of B.C.'s prince of pot
The RCMP have launched an offensive against Canadian marijuana growers and seed producers that has sent shock waves over the Internet and across B.C., which is home to at least 40 companies that sell seeds and cuttings via mail order.
The Mounties announced Tuesday that members of the newly formed Marihuana Grow Operations Enforcement Team concluded their first major operation, shutting down a Montreal-based, cannabis seed-selling company.
They revealed there were seven such teams across the country, established in
2004 to target pot growers and halt the burgeoning domestic production, the annual harvest of which is said to be larger than wheat.
Locally the B.C. Marijuana Party and pot activists were outraged, but mostly they seemed scared -- Canada hasn't targeted seed sellers before and these offences can carry 10-year prison terms.
What galls them though is that the Montreal group is charged with exactly the same crime for which Marc Emery and two of his employees are battling extradition to the U.S.
Prince of pot Emery and his employees operated openly in Canada for a decade and were not charged by local cops but now face American charges that carry much stiffer sentences.
Kirk Tousaw, lawyer for the party and a member of the legal team involved in the extradition fight, said he wanted to know why the Mounties were prepared to domestically prosecute a Quebec-based seed producer but stepped aside so the U.S. could indict Emery.
"Why on earth are Montreal-based seed sales any different from Vancouver-based seed sales?" he asked.
"Yet, in one case, the accused face extradition to the U.S. and, in the other, the prosecution will occur in Canada under Canadian laws."
Emery also wanted to know why he was not charged under our laws and is being forced to face Uncle Sam.
"In Vancouver, the police are a tool of the Americans while in Quebec, international marijuana seed sales are apparently a matter for Canadian justice, not extradition," he said.
"What happened to Canadian sovereignty?"
Emery said newly installed Conservative Justice Minister Vic Toews should "immediately begin criminal proceedings against the B.C. Three in Vancouver and to prosecute us here. No other course of action preserves Canadian sovereignty."
One of his co-accused, Michelle Rainey, vice-president of the B.C. Marijuana Party and a registered legal medical marijuana user, also questioned the motivation behind these prosecutions.
"As political activists, we are being subjected to extradition and the over-zealousness of the U.S drug war, yet people who are not politically active and who are accused of doing virtually the same thing in Quebec are entitled to Canadian justice," she pointed out.
"It makes no sense and is completely unfair."
Rainey also thought the timing of the arrests was suspicious -- the day before the anniversary of the four tragic RCMP deaths in Alberta, killings the RCMP tried to link to marijuana although the murderer was a long-term, well-known psychopath.
"It seems like a political decision and part of their ongoing campaign to prejudice Canadians against marijuana policy reform," she fumed.
Hard to disagree.
The Montreal operation culminated in the seizure of 200,000 cannabis seeds and the arrest of seven persons.
Richard Hratch Baghdadlian, 38, is named ringleader -- he operated Heaven's Stairway, a mail-order company supplying North American and European customers with top-quality marijuana seeds.
Like Emery, Baghdadlian was using the Internet.
The police allege Heaven's Stairway was processing dozens of orders a day, each averaging about $100 a pop between March 12, 1998, and Jan. 31, 2006.
In the raids, they seized the seeds, more than $183,362 US and $14,000 Cdn in cash and postal money orders, three one-kilogram gold bricks, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a Mazda RX8.
But not only were the RCMP out to bust the principals involved in the seed-selling, they also targeted customers.
The RCMP said in their press release that at least 272 orders have been intercepted and those who have purchased seeds should expect a visit by the local constabulary.
At a time when the country is debating changing these laws, I think the RCMP ramping up enforcement like this is a blatant attempt to influence public policy that should be denounced.
Police are to enforce public policy, not forge it.
And let's get real here, there is no source of good quality marijuana seeds for this country's medical exemptees except these grey-market pot seed producers. If they want to grow their own, as the government says they can, where else can they go?
In Canada, selling marijuana seeds has been rarely prosecuted and the Crown refused to approve charges against Emery although he was openly retailing pot seeds from his Hastings Street office. In fact, the government was directing medical patients to Emery's website. It will be interesting to see how this is all viewed by the U.S. television news magazine 60 Minutes -- Emery and his extradition fight are featured this Sunday.
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