Marijuana activists gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square yesterday to celebrate Emery's release from prison.
Local marijuana activists and enthusiasts were in good spirits today as they waited at Yonge-Dundas Square to welcome Marc Emery back to Canada and freedom.
Emery, known as the “Prince of Pot,” spent the last five years in prison in the United States on drug distribution charges related to his seed-selling business. He was released from jail and re-entered Canada on Wednesday, and is doing a welcome-home tour across the country before he settles back into his old life in Vancouver.
Roughly 100 people showed up at the afternoon event in Toronto, most of whom were either from the media or were obvious Emery fans—there seemed to be few, if any, random observers. Several people carried large Canada flags featuring pot leafs in place of the standard maple leaf, while others smoked pipes and joints; one young woman even wore bright-green pot-leaf leggings.
Many attendees cared not just about the issues Emery champions, but about the man himself. Jim Brydges, a founder of the Toronto Compassion Centre, which describes itself as a “medical marijuana resource facility,” credited both Emery and cannabis with saving his life.
Brydges cited Emery’s donations of seeds and plants to the B.C. Compassion Club Society as instrumental in keeping that organization—which provides a safe space for seriously and terminally ill people to access medical marijuana—running.
The warmth people feel for Emery may be partly due to his optimism. When he visited Toronto, Emery had been out of jail for less than 48 hours—but he said his prison experience was already fading from memory. He went on to list the many victories he saw from prison: legalization in Washington and Colorado, the first licensed providers in Canada, and a battle for legalization gaining traction in Alaska.
“I will say this,” he told reporters and onlookers. “A lot was accomplished while I was gone. I watched some wonderful things from jail.”
Emery’s post-prison plans include turning the 2015 federal election into a referendum on pot. He and his wife, Jodie, also a prominent pro-legalization activist, will back the Liberals due to Justin Trudeau’s stance on legalizing pot use. Their strategy relies on the assumption that many voters who support legalization don’t bother to vote, and the slogan he’s come up with addresses that, requesting voters to “just show up” on October 18, 2015.
The Conservative Party has already begun to use Emery’s support for Trudeau against him, though with a majority of Canadians supporting at least a relaxation of marijuana laws, it’s hard to say if that strategy will be successful.
“Right or wrong,” Brydges said, “whether people believe Marc Emery has done a good job helping Canadians, sick or otherwise, his donations have kept people alive. And I think that’s the most important thing.”
Photo by Tannara Yelland/Torontoist.