The pro-pot movement may have been freaked by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) nabbing of Canuck marijuana seed entrepreneur Marc Emery, but inhale deeply - the worst may be yet to come. What exactly is the DEA busy with here? The DEA denies it, but suspicious pot activists suggest it's planning a mass roundup of Emery's buyers.
Some of Emery's customers were stunned recently to receive a letter purportedly seeking support money for Emery's defence fund. "Smoke for freedom of choice! Smoke for our leader! Overgrow the government!" reads the notice, which asks for an additional $50 to fill seed orders and stipulates that donations be sent via money order through Wal-Mart or Western Union - both of which require I.D. It's from info given at the money-order stage that pot activists contend the DEA is amassing its hit list.
According to Emery, notices have turned up in 16 U.S. states, seven provinces and territories, as well as New Zealand and Australia.
The notice's request for cash to fill orders is curious given the fact that Emery's seed business has been shut down and the DEA has confiscated all his inventory.
Emery, who swears he has never kept a client list, in order to protect the privacy of his clients, insists this suspicious missive was not sent by him or anyone he knows.
He has posted the oddly worded flyer on his Cannabis Culture website, warning recipients not to respond to it.
Emery's sure it's the work of the DEA. He says info the DEA has so far disclosed to his lawyer, John Conroy, indicates that its agents scanned both the incoming and outgoing mail for his seed operation in the weeks prior to his arrest on July 29. Emery says more than 60 people have notified him that they got the letter in the mail starting August 5.
"They want to get us all," Emery says.
Josh Williams, a quadriplegic from London, Ontario, received seeds from Emery based on his Health Canada exemption. Then came the mysterious notice.
"It would have been the Wednesday after the arrest," Williams says. "I just thought it was odd. I didn't pay for the seeds, and it was asking for money to get them. This seemed weird and suspicious."
Williams goes on: "The writing - 'Smoke for our leader' - that's nothing Marc or someone who writes for him would say. It doesn't sound like Emery at all. 'Use code names. Go to Wal-Mart. Use Western Union.' That's not Marc either.
"I'm worried that someone has my address now and they know what I do. It's an invasion of privacy."
Spokespeople with neither the DEA nor the U.S. Department of Justice in Seattle, Washington, could - or would - shed any light on this caper.
Ditto for RCMP spokesperson Paul Marsh, who refers all questions on the matter to Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, which did not return calls.
Seattle-based prosecutor Todd Greenberg is a little more forthcoming.
"They're trying to make people angry against their government and the U.S. government," he says of the alleged DEA sting, before saying there could be further arrests.
Ian Hillman at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, suggests just how large the Emery probe has become, saying, "This nearly involves every state. There are aspects of the investigation where it's not in our interest to reveal how many people are working on it. [But] I understand it involves dozens of people on both sides of the border."
By most accounts, it looks like Emery and two others indicted with him by a Seattle grand jury on May 26 for marijuana seed distribution, marijuana distribution and money laundering are in for an extended judicial adventure.
"This case raises a plethora of unique defences," say prominent Philadelphia lawyer Theodore Simon.
A favourite as a talking head on intricate international cases on Court TV, Simon declares that "it is the law of the requested country [Canada] that prevails in all extradition cases, not the requesting country's [U.S.].
"Does Canada extradite if the action is wholly lawful there? It's the governing laws of Canada that will decide."
In a case similar to the Prince of Pot's, the noted lawyer used a lack-of-knowledge defence to win after Canada sought to extradite an American who sold furniture using a "going out of business sale" gimmick.
Simon says, "Canada has strict laws governing that type of activity [false going-out-of-biz marketing], while it's much looser in the U.S. The law of the U.S. governed his action, and the fellow was unaware that the law is strict in Canada. We prevailed."
He asks, "How will the courts of Canada determine whether Emery knew where [his product] was going? With that type of defence, a person may be protected from extradition."
A court would have to determine, he says, what the conversation was like between the Drug Enforcement Administration agents posing as customers and Emery. "If they said they wanted to buy seeds and bring them back to Arkansas and he engaged them by saying, 'Do it, Little Rock,' then that's evidence that he or his staff knew the seeds were going to the U.S."
The American lawyer is amazed that Emery continues with his defiant admission that he sold south.
Says Emery, with deliberation but quieter than usual: "I've made plenty of American seeds sales and given them away to California med growers and in all the med users' states.
"The last ad Marc Emery Seeds Direct took out was in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The ad ran June 22 advertising our med pack. Very affordable. Our ad is next to an ad for free med grass consultations. There are 150 seed sellers in California alone."
But U.S. National Association of Criminal Lawyers spokesperson Jack King thinks the DEA may have jurisdictional issues to contend with once the matter gets to court.
"Where does the DEA get jurisdiction to operate in Canada? Under the piracy clause in the U.S. Constitution? That's for the high seas. Last I looked, BC was known for its soil.
"In one respect," he adds, "this is just another trade dispute with Canada."