Cannabis crusader calls on Whitehorse

Marc Emery smokes a lot of pot. And he has a lot of beliefs that some might consider… wacky. You’re a safer driver if you’re…

Marc Emery smokes a lot of pot.

And he has a lot of beliefs that some might consider… wacky.

You’re a safer driver if you’re high.

Smoking pot during pregnancy cures morning sickness and makes your children more creative.

Pot smokers will never get lung cancer.

And marijuana helps grow new brain cells.

The Prince of Pot admits these claims sound a little radical.

“But sometimes the truth appears radical,” said Emery.

“It does make for better drivers and healthier children.”

But the marijuana activist didn’t bring any weed to the Yukon.

“Typically I let the locals smoke me up,” said the 50-year-old leader of BC’s Marijuana Party.

“That way, I can experience what you’re smoking here.”

It’s Emery’s first time championing cannabis in the territory.

And Whitehorse RCMP is worried.

Known for smoking big reefers in front of police stations across the country, Emery is a self-described “crusader for freedom.”

When local RCMP heard Emery was coming, they called up organizer Chris Gilbert and asked why he was bringing him north.

“They asked why I didn’t just watch him on TV,” said Gilbert.

“Then they told me, ‘If there’s illegal activity, and you’re part of the event, you’re responsible.’”

According to Emery, the RCMP also called the owner of Doc’s Deli, the venue where Emery was speaking on Thursday night, and gave him a similar warning.

“They said they were going to have a uniformed officer here tonight,” said Emery.

“But they can’t do that — what we have here is a police state.”

However deli owner Dave Locke never heard officially from the RCMP. And there were no uniformed officers at Thursday’s event.

“I got about 20 calls inquiring whether the talk was here,” said Locke.

“And one of them could have been the RCMP, but no one identified themselves as RCMP.”

When he first offered the restaurant to Gilbert, Locke had no idea who Emery was.

“I thought it was going to be poems,” he said.

“I didn’t know what was going on.”

However, now that he’s done a bit of research, Locke doesn’t regret his offer.

“Freedom of speech — I’m all for it,” he said.

“As long as there’s nothing illegal going on, and they assured me there wouldn’t be.”

There were rumours Emery would be throwing hash into the crowd, and there’d be a big smoke-up at the end of the night, said Gilberts.

“But the worst you’re going to get is an expression of free speech.”

Before Emery, who’s running for mayor of Vancouver, got involved with the Marijuana Party, the right to freedom drove his actions.

In 1991, he spent time in jail for challenging Ontario’s closed-on-Sunday laws by keeping his store open.

Six months later, the law changed.

And from 1987 to 1995, he fought a Canadian censorship law, which banned any books discussing marijuana.

“The maximum fine for processing such a book was $100,000,” said Emery.

“While the maximum fine for processing pot was only $2,000.

“So the law wasn’t about banning the plant, it was about banning the truth.”

The law was overturned in ‘95, two years after Emery’s pot paraphernalia store opened in BC.

But in ’96 police raided his store and, two years later, seized all his stock.

 “I’ve been arrested in eight out of 10 provinces,” said Emery.

Over the course of his cannabis career, he’s been arrested 23 times, been jailed 17 of them and been busted in six raids.

“In 18 cities I’ve smoked a bong or a joint in front of the police station,” he said.

Pot improves the world, said Emery, who smokes it almost every day.

“Most of the great contributors to the world today are pot people,” he said.

“Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, reggae and rock musicians, the guys who design video games — all pot smokers.

“Film directors … I’ve never met an author who didn’t smoke pot — it’s a creative, inspirational plant.

“Pierre Berton smoked pot for 40 years.

“Much Music creator Moses Znaimer smokes pot and CNN’s Ted Turner smokes a big bomber everyday.”

Big bombers are pricey in the Yukon, added Emery.

“I heard it’s $300 an ounce up here.”

“We should have brought more with us,” said Dana Larsen with a laugh.

Larsen, a federal New Democrat candidate running in BC for the next election, was editor of Emery’s Cannabis Culture magazine for 10 years.

Now, he’s breaking new ground as the first Canadian politician to admit he still smokes pot.

“It’s really the last frontier,” he said.

“It used to be gay politicians.

“Politicians have admitted to smoking pot in the past, but none have come out and said they still smoke it,” said Larsen.

“Jack Layton said he’s never exhaled,” added Emery with a laugh.

The federal NDP Leader, who met with Emery in 2003 and even did an interview for his internet site, PotTV, supports the decriminalization of marijuana within certain parameters.

Yukon NDP Leader Todd Hardy refused comment.

The NDP doesn’t want to see Emery extradited either, said Emery.

In 2005, Emery was arrested by Vancouver police and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The DEA is calling me the largest marijuana producer in the history of the US justice system,” said Emery.

But he’s never sold pot.

Instead, Emery was selling 530 different varieties of marijuana seeds. The catalogue took up 12 pages of each Cannabis Culture issue.

“The US is attributing all the pot people grew with my seed to me,” he said.

“If I end up in the US, I’ll be in jail for 300 years.

“I’ll come back reincarnated as a frog and they’ll have me — ‘Hey, you, frog, get in there.’”

The best seed for Yukon growers is ruderalis, added Emery. It flowers automatically and doesn’t need to have 12 hours of darkness.

“Pot is a wonderful plant to grow,” he said.

“In school, I didn’t care about botany, but now I know all about it.

“The government is talking about protecting the environment and plants and here they are trying to eradicate pot and poppies and coca.”

Emery sells coca plants at his Vancouver cannabis store, as well as marijuana seeds and pot-smoking paraphernalia.

He also has a big building where supporters meet and smoke together.

There are five groups who oppose pot, said Emery.

“They are parents, teachers, politicians, police and priests.

“And all of them require unquestioned obedience, so they don’t like pot because it makes you question authority.”

Emery’s wife Jodie used to be “all anti-drugs” in high school.

“I was basically the teacher’s bitch,” she said.

Then one fateful day, she tried the stuff.

“And I realized I was being lied to,” she said.

“I started smoking pot and asking questions.”

Parents say, “My kid started smoking pot and now he’s not going to school,” said Emery.

“But the reason they’re not going to school is that pot lets them see the hypocrisy of the school system.”

And pot doesn’t make you lazy, added Emery.

“It’s just, if you’re lazy and sitting around, you might as well smoke up.”

Everybody wants to alter their consciousness, he said.

“And whether you alter it through religion, raves, drugs or meditation — some work better for some than others.”

Emery’s claim that getting high makes drivers slow down and become more aware is unsubstantiated, said the Yukon’s medical officer of health.

While there are no definitive studies analyzing marijuana’s effect on driving, there is “strong evidence to suggest it’s behind a lot of injuries and car crashes,” said Brendan Hanley.

“If you look for it, you find it.”

And the suggestion that smoking up makes pregnant moms healthier and their babies more creative is way off the mark, he added.

Emery claims the only danger of smoking pot during pregnancy is the possibility of it showing up in blood tests and then officials could take away the baby.

But there is increasing evidence that smoking pot while pregnant could cause psychosis in the youngster, or later in the child’s life, said Hanley.

“There is some evidence of a causal relationship, although sometimes these studies are mixed.”

Emery also claimed pot smokers will never get lung cancer.

“The smoke actually protects the lungs,” he said.

Marijuana smoke is full of carcinogens, said Hanley.

“And it likely increases the risk of lung cancer and bladder cancer.

“We know the carcinogens in the smoke cause tissue damage and molecular changes.”

And Emery’s notion that pot actually helps grow new brain cells is “kind of crazy,” said Hanley.

“It is impossible to grow new brain cells — you get what you’re born with.”

There is no evidence that pot kills brain cells, he added.

“We don’t know.

“People are free to promote what they think is good,” said Hanley.

“But it’s up to people to look at what evidence shows us and it’s important to balance this kind of promotion with real data.”

Emery and Larsen will be speaking at Lizard’s Lounge Friday and Saturday. The shows, which feature a lineup of bands, including Dennis Fentie and the Kung-Fu Aliens, Uncle Jah’s Great Green Ganja Band, the Whitehorse Jazz Band and the Rough Sea.

Friday’s show starts at 8 p.m. and Saturday’s starts at 4:20 p.m. It’s $3 at the door.