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Friday, June 5, 2009

Vancouver pot activist Marc Emery to plead guilty to U.S. drug charge

No hope of avoiding extradition, plea deal made

Marc Emery is facing extradition on three drug charges for selling marijuana seeds by mail order to customers in the U.S.Marc Emery is facing extradition on three drug charges for selling marijuana seeds by mail order to customers in the U.S. (CBC)

Marijuana activist Marc Emery says he plans to drop his fight against extradition to the U.S. and plead guilty to one charge of drug distribution in a Seattle courtroom next month.

Emery's extradition hearing in Vancouver was adjourned on Wednesday so his lawyer could negotiate a deal with the U.S. district attorney in which Emery could spend up to eight years in jail for one charge, while two other more serious charges are dropped, he said.

"I will be making a guilty plea to one count of marijuana distribution this summer, and then when I'm sentenced the U.S. district attorney is going to be asking for five to eight years in a federal U.S. penitentiary," he told CBC News on Wednesday.

After the guilty plea, Emery expects he will be sentenced in August or September and is hoping he will eventually be transferred to a Canadian jail.

Joint U.S.-Canada bust

This is not the first time the marijuana activist has said his lawyers are cutting a deal with U.S. prosecutors. In July 2008, Emery said he had made a deal in which he would serve a minimum of five years in jail, but he later blamed Canadian authorities when the deal fell through.

The marijuana activist is facing drug charges for selling pot seeds to U.S. customers, after his Vancouver-based mail order business was busted in a joint operation involving both U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies in 2005.

He's been fighting extradition ever since, but on Wednesday he said he now realizes it's a fight he's not going to win.

"Ultimately my lawyer is convinced that the Canadian government has never refused an extradition request from the United States and it's not going to start now," he said.

"Sometimes you have to face up to the reality of what's going to happen, and under this scenario I may be free out of prison in two or three or four years," he said.

Without the deal, Emery said, he would be facing much more time in jail.

"This is a preferential arrangement to the not-so-good-arrangement that would see me spend 10, 20, 30 years in a U.S. federal penitentiary, foreseeably the rest of my life, and that doesn't give a person a lot of hope," he said.

Prepared to do time

"The DA wants to paint me as a large player providing a lot of marijuana to people, and we'll bring up that it was only seeds and it was totally transparent. It was done in Canada out in the open for 10 or 12 years," he told CBC News during an interview at the busy downtown Vancouver hemp store he still operates.

"I didn't keep any of the money — $4 million. I gave it all away to activist groups around the world, so my motives are unusual, so that does mitigate in sentencing," said Emery, who frequently ran in provincial and federal elections as the leader of the Marijuana Party.

But the man who once spent more than two months in a Canadian prison for passing a joint to an undercover officer is now preparing for a much longer stay in a U.S. prison.

"You've got to keep busy in jail. You've got to be reading, in my case writing. I'll be learning Spanish, French. You've got to have projects," he said.